For the sakes of both fairness and my own peace-of-mind, it’s only right that I come to the defense of John Hillcoat’s The Road adaptation, in response to a post late last week that spotlit Variety’s Todd McCarthy’s scathing damnation of the film. Turns out, the overall response thus far veers more toward the positive than an all-out bash. Here, I’ve grabbed excerpts from a few of the reactions that I’ve been hoping for:
Veteran film critic Glenn Kenny, from his Some Came Running blog—–Kenny caught an early cut back in January, so there’s an unfortunate potential that the version he saw has been altered into the one that McCarthy bitch-slapped:
I was a little surprised to see the shellacking it got from Todd McCarthy in Variety the other day, beginning with his fish-in-barrel lede The Road leads nowhere.” A couple of the things about the picture he finds objectionable were things that I saw as kind of salutory: “the drama is one little genre step away from being an outright zombie movie,” McCarthy complains. It’s true, in a sense, but I don’t find that as problematic as McCarthy seems to; the scenario does in fact have some genre affinities, and it would have been disingenuous for Hillcoat to try and evade them. Elsewhere in his review though, well, I have to wonder if we’ve seen the same movie. He refers to a “preponderance” of flashback scenes featuring Charlize Theron as Mortensen’s wife; in my recollection, those scenes were but a few, and well meted-out. He says Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ score “borders on treacly;” it felt kind of spare and apt in the version I saw. Indeed, McCarthy almost lets Hillcoat off the hook early in the review when he says the films shows “clear signs of being test-screened and futzed to death,” and that may well mean that the version I saw in January now exists only in my memory. Which would be a shame.
More thumbs-up reactions, after the jump: Here’s Quint from Ain’t It Cool News, with a typically-glowing-AICN-review that I’d cringe at if it weren’t written by Quint; he’s the most dependable scribe on that staff in my book:
The movie’s fucking dark, but just like the book there’s a glimmer of hope. There’s no magic cure, no deus ex machina to come in at the end and save the world and all of God’s chillin’. There is only this reality the hope that the innate goodness in people will show itself eventually and our species won’t get snubbed out.
Hillcoat isn’t afraid to explore the darker aspects of the book, like The Man’s willingness to blow his own kid’s brains out if it looks like they’re trapped and might get captured by the rapist cannibals scavenging this wasteland. He also made the right decision in bringing on Javier Aguirresarobe (THE OTHERS) to photograph this movie, really cementing this reality.
The Road isn’t the typical studio film. It’s one of the rare epic-scale R-rated harsh films that sometimes squeak out of the studio system when all the stars align. I was very impressed with it, even as a fan of the book.
Next is Alex Billington of First Showing:
Beautifully bleak. That’s the best way to describe John Hillcoat’s The Road, which I saw yesterday evening inTelluride. Although it’s a rather depressing story overall, it’s told with such an incredible amount of vigor and passion, that it’s actually possible to enjoy. Especially because director John Hillcoat and screenwriter Joe Penhall made sure to keep the integrity of Cormac McCarthy’s novel intact and stay as true to his words as possible. It seems like a near impossible book to adapt, but they did the absolute best job they could. For as bleak as it was, I was never bored, and it was never bland at all, which is quite an accomplishment.
So, you get the point. John Hillcoat’s The Road may not be the derailment that the Variety review signaled…. Thank heavens. This has been near the tippy of my 2009 Must See List since last New Year’s. Sweat, wiped off the brow. For now.