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Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Road

Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, The Road is the story of a man and his son and their struggle to survive. There has been a cataclysmic event which has sunk the Earth into conditions similar to nuclear winter. All we know about the event is that "The clocks stopped at one seventeen one morning. There was a long shear of bright light, then a series of low concussions." No one appears to have any deformities, so it doesn't seem like the event actually was nuclear, but that is really immaterial to the movie.

The man and his son are traveling south, trying to find someplace warmer, some place with food, some place safe. As they go, they encounter resistance in the forms of difficulties, obstacles, and bad people. But it's not all darkness, they have good moments along the road, too, finding a bomb shelter full of food, a house where they can bathe, a grandfatherly man who travels with them for a bit. Through it all, flashback sequences show us the time before the catastrophe, and the early days of the boy's life. Those memories give the film a bit of a time frame, the viewer knows, roughly, that the world has been in distress for the boy's entire life, which helps explain the amount of desolation and despair.

So, The Road came out in limited release back in November, it finally came to NC last week and landed in only 2 area theaters - both of them art houses. We expected good things. We didn't get them. Sure, Viggo Mortensen is a great actor, there are many other good performances in the film, the cinematographer obviously went to a lot of effort to get the stark, startling shots. But the movie is just flat, imho. So, they need to go south - why'd it take them 10 years to make up their minds to do so? What are they really going to find when they get there? Do they really think it will make a difference? And why are we supposed to care?

The movie unfolds exactly the way you'd expect it to, you really don't have to think about it. I spent most of my time wondering why nobody just went into town and knocked off a Payless store - I have about a dozen pairs of shoes in my closet right now, I gotta think they would last me 10 years (some of them already have!), I wouldn't be wearing bags on my feet like the characters were, I don't think. When you have time to think about crazy stuff like that, something is not succeeding in the film. While I suspect there is a strong message about environmental consciousness and man's inhumanity to man, it didn't translate from the book to the screen.

Also, definitely not a Moms Movie.

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