Esquire’s Tom Chiarella has a lengthy piece about The Road up (“The Road Is the Most Important Movie of the Year“) which is also the first official review of the film in a major publication. Here are some snippets:
The Road is no tease. It is a brilliantly directed adaptation of a beloved novel, a delicate and anachronistically loving look at the immodest and brutish end of us all. You want them to get there, you want them to get there, you want them to get there — and yet you do not want it, any of it, to end.
You should see it for the simplest of reasons: Because it is a good story. Not because it may be important. Not because it is unforgettable, unyielding. Not because it horrifies. Not because the score is creepily spiritual. Not because it is littered with small lines of dialogue you will remember later. Not because it contains warnings against our own demise. All of that is so. Don’t see it just because you loved the book. The movie stands alone. Go see it because it’s two small people set against the ugly backdrop of the world undone. A story without guarantees. In every moment — even the last one — you’ll want to know what happens next, even if you can hardly stand to look. Because The Road is a story about the persistence of love between a father and a son, and in that way it’s more like a remake of The Godfather than some echo of I Am Legend.
Only this one is different: You won’t want to see this one twice.
The other certainty is that everyone involved in this movie is working against the predictable imperatives of perhaps the most predictable movie genre of them all: the apocalyptic thriller. The great experiment of the movie is that it hangs on nothing if not the subversion of the conventions of the genre. These people want the same thing from The Road that Busby Berkeley wanted, the same thing any artist with a sense of urgency wants. They want for people to walk out of the theater feeling it in their chest plate. They want them to say, perhaps for reasons they cannot consciously fathom, to everyone they know: You have to see it. Really.
You do. Not because it’s grim, not because it’s depressing, or even scary. The Road is all of those things, both acutely and chronically. But there was not a single stupid choice made in turning this book into this movie. No wrongheaded lyric tribute to the novel. No moment engineered simply to make you jump.
The terror of it is in a normal world made vacant. There is a surprising terror in a landscape of farmhouses full of possessions that have no function, a remarkable danger in a pile of old hammers, in the possibility of forgetting what things were once for.
The article also raises some concerns about Bob Weinstein’s marketing strategy for the film:
Weinstein acknowledges that loyal readers of Cormac McCarthy’s book, which was published in 2006, are probably worried. He’s sitting in a conference room in Manhattan, about to pop in a DVD containing two potential trailers. He seems to be figuring out how to talk about the film as he goes, fighting contrary tugs from some internal narrator, giving in only by the slenderest of degrees to the urge to mollify two, three, four different audiences.
First, he calls it a literate action movie. At one point he calls it a zombie movie. Then he starts talking about his kids. “When I had my kids, I was grateful. I was like, Now there’s something other to think about than me,” he says, and that word — me — echoes in the star chamber. “Every parent has that. You don’t have to have kids. You’re human. If you can’t relate to this story, then check your humanity somewhere. I felt this whole relationship with this father and son. Yeah. And yet it was thrilling.”
When Bob Weinstein rolls those trailers, each one assumes the predictable arc of a story compressed to its essence. There is a speed to them that the actual movie — which I saw before seeing the trailers — does not possess or seek to possess, an urgency that feels manufactured. The music is pulse-pounding and urgent, driven to create absurd expectations of action in a movie that quietly elicits worry about the relative friability of the invisible paths that exist between people and what they need. Still, every utterance, every cry for help or hand clasped across the mouth of the boy to suppress a sob, is a fair-enough emanation from the heart of the movie.
The odd thing is, the start of each trailer includes glimpses of a storm, panicky news footage, little puzzle pieces of the world before it ended. No one — not the director or the myriad producers, not the novelist or the screenwriter — had ever even hinted at how it happened, until this.
For someone who loves the book, for anyone who knows the story going in, this is a moment you hoped would never come. Why remind us of the reductive logic of cause and effect? Before the question can be asked, Weinstein stands up, offers his hand, and says, “Okay, we’re going with the first one.” He gives no rationale. And so it seems the metonymic references to the national news, to the weather, to presumed military conflicts laid in as a tonally quiet explanation of what is never known in book or movie, for now will stay in the trailer.
The Road also finally has an official release date: it’s October 16, 2009.