What do you get when you combine a stellar cast (Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron) with a story adapted from an American master’s finest work (Cormac McCarthy’s The Road) and a score composed by one of the legends of music (Nick Cave)? If your answer is “a watchable movie,” you are incorrect! The correct answer is: an abortion!
Ugh. Seriously, I’ve not been this bored/grossed out/get-me-out-of-here bothered by a movie in ages. And it’s not that I’m squeamish about post-apocalyptic horror stories. I’m no bitch.
I read Cormac McCarthy’s The Road before it was adapted to the screen and loved it. A master class on minimalism, it creates a visual landscape with words and captures the tenderness of dependence and love in the bleakest of surroundings.
The movie, by contrast, is a master class on heavy-handed product placement — nothing refreshes a refugee like Vitamin Water — that strips the story of any emotional core whatsoever.
To be fair, the fault probably belongs to the movie studio. Perhaps the book should never have been turned into a film. The tale is so bleak, so minimalist that it needs the subtle, staccato writing to lure you into its heart. But showing it in 112 minutes of film just feels plodding and artificial.
Also, the kid in the book is cool and broken with an emotional deadness that does the talking for him. Kodi Smit-McPhee, the actor who plays The Boy, just seems like a whining pussy the entire time. You almost want him to get raped and eaten. At least then he’d shut up.
"Papa! Papa! Wahh wahh, the world is ending. Wahh wahh, I’m scared."
The only truly compelling things in the entire movie were Viggo Mortensen’s teeth, which I couldn’t take my eyes off the entire time. Chatter, chatter. Welcome to Tales from the Crypt! It just felt like this film was screaming at me, “BE SAD!!! BE SAD!!! ISN’T THIS SAAAAAAAAAAAD??!!” And it is sad, but somehow in a way that seems entirely cartoonish and just can’t make me care.
In case you miss the endless “be sad here” cues, the Big Brother of movie scores chimes in with such absurdity, it might as well plop thought bubbles right above the characters heads:
"The apocalypse is scary!”
“I miss my mommy.”
“Starvation is unpleasant.”
Is this really the best Nick Cave can bring to the table?
And please don’t get me started on the ridiculousness of Charlize Theron’s role as The Woman. The book takes about a paragraph to explain what happened to mommy, but Hollywood demands we see the anguished lover watching his leggy blonde disapear into the mist. Vomit.
I laughed throughout the film and I’m fairly certain that’s not the intended reaction of a post-apocalyptic, scorched-earth, people-are-eating-each-other tragedy. All in all, watching The Road felt as unpleasant as what I imagine actually being in the story would be. Maybe even worse. At least the actual apocalypse will be exciting.
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