Nine times out of ten, I will say that a book is better than the movie that it inspires. I’m planning on reversing this trend when I write a novelization of Roadhouse which will be, unbelievably, even more awesome than the movie. Picture that. But in the case of the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, the difference between the film and the novel is different in every way that matters to me. This is hard to explain if you haven’t read any of McCarthy’s books–love him or hate him, I find his book utterly unlike anything else, even though it does not investigate any new themes that I can think of–seriously, are there any?–or explore a new scenario.
And that’s my main trouble with the movie. It’s definitely got style, the score is beautiful, and the acting by Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-Mcphee is wonderful. Charlize Theron is also great in her few scenes. But–this is not a movie that needed a Cormac McCarthy novel behind it. Without his name attached to it it would have been just another “End of the world” film for me.
I’m not saying I didn’t like it. I didn’t enjoy the movie, but what is there to enjoy in a film about a father and son walking along a road in an apocalyptic America where the sun never comes out and finding an apple is cause for joy? Toss in some of the most melancholy scenery of all time and a spare piano soundtrack that deserves the word “haunting” if any piece of music ever has, and–well, no, it’s not really enjoyable. It’s beautifully made, definitely had a big budget, and I can’t find any flaws in the craftsmanship. That said, it’s replay value for me is zero. Unlike, the book, which I suspect I’ll read 20 more times in my life.
I’m trying to have it both ways, but if Cormac McCarthy can take an idea as common as the aftermath of a global disaster and make a dystopian novel out of it that feels unlike any other, part of me wants the filmmakers to make a film that feels just as unique, or to leave it alone. And I know Hillcoat (the Director) is capable of this very thing. His wonderful Australian western The Proposition was an unique a piece of cinema as I’ve ever seen. Although, throwing Nick Cave into the mix as the writer certainly rules out any chances of sameness.
For the most part, the events from the book are all in place in the film. The only time I got sucked out of the movie was when Robert Duvall showed up and all I could think of was “There’s Robert Duvall!” No, there were two times, because Omar from The Wire also had a cameo.
The book was bleak and unforgettable when I closed it. The movie merely depressed me and made me vaguely wish that I had watched something else that night.
I suppose I’m saying that I don’t think anyone could have done the movie any better. I’m just wondering if anyone has any business adapting McCarthy’s books for the screen, No Country For Old Men being a welcome exception. I loved that film and it certainly didn’t feel like any other movie I can think of. And now Blood Meridian is being adapted, a book which creates a mood and atmosphere that I think a film is totally incapable of replicating.
I’ll leave it at that. Did anyone watch The Road and just love it?