Posted by: zhiv | November 18, 2008

Revolutionary Road Movie: Two Reviews!-591095386&&rid=11974

One is pretty good, and the other is pretty bad.  Just reading these quickly, and looking at conversations on some other blogs, so I thought I’d put them up and take a quick hit at it and move on.

Todd McCarthy in Variety seems very mindful of the book, noting how Frank’s infidelity with Maureen has a lot more layers in the novel than it does in the movie–and the relationship between Frank and Maureen is clearly a touchstone for the ways in which Don Draper conducts his affairs in Mad Men; they’re not just quick, idle pick-ups, but are somehow expressions of longing, despair, self-destruction and self-loathing and trying to fill the emptiness inside. Too bad if Mendes doesn’t get that across. And I’m surprised at the flip mentions of Shep Campbell, because he has all sorts of layers and complexity in the novel and his fixation on April and her sexual encounter with him at the Log Cabin bar is a critical part of her self-destruction. Sounds like Shep plays a little flat, as opposed to Givens, which is just a big giant crazy man happy meal for an actor I guess.

It sounds like Honeycutt doesn’t know the book–he refers to it, but you can tell he’s missing the literary reverence that McCarthy tries to capture. It’s not a bad thing at all to have reviewers who don’t know the book, who can just be objective filmgoers, and my guess is that this may be the source of his snark. Why is this depressing story supposed to be compelling again? Readers of the book are mixed, it’s not for everybody, and that’s one reason why it was never a hit, essentially disappeared for 40 years and was never made into a movie.

Rereading Honeycutt, he makes it seem like he knows the book, but it’s hard to tell:  he could be zhiving.


Justin Haythe’s script and Sam Mendes’ direction hew closely to Richard Yates’ 1961 novel. Which means it fails to escape the novelist’s misogyny and contempt for anything suburban. The phrase seized upon in both works is “hopeless emptiness.” It’s apt.

One has to admit that there are a lot of readers of Yates who have that reaction, that it’s just “hopeless emptiness,” too depressing, and none of it very engaging.  “Fails to escape the novelist’s…” “…contempt for anything suburban” seems to be an odd phrase.  Why would it?  And why would a period (50s/60s) critique of American values and lives and marriage lose points for this, why would it want to escape critiquing suburbia?  There’s going to be a lot of writing about this film, and it’s foolish to get caught up in a troubling phrase here or there. 

The whopper though is “fails to escape the novelist’s misogyny.”  Okay.  Thanks.  I didn’t know that.  Yates is a big fat misogynist, it’s that simple.  Good to know.  That explains it.



  1. Once we see the film and the dust settles, we should compare notes on the translations of Madame Bovary and Mr/Mrs. Bridge to film. I don’t think there has ever been an effective Madame Bovary. Also although Evan Connell’s ironies need to be broadcast by new choral figures in Ruth Prawer Jhabvala’s 1990 adaptation, it is splendid adaptation of the Bridge novels.

  2. I am holding on to your sage comment, months ago, that the film would never, could never, equal the book: it will be different. Looking forward to finding out how different…..

    My fear is two-dimensionality, that Haythe’s script fails to give the depth, breadth or subtlety of Yates’s charcacters. Since those subtle dimensions are conveyed in the text by shifting perspectives, by objective correlatives, by what isn’t said or isn’t understood – the script will have a hard job to replicate Yates’s skill and will, presumably, do it differently. What will replace these things? What other ‘things’ will Haythe/Mendes add and what take away?

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