Screening Log: Revolutionary Road (Sam Mendes, 2008), and the Single Worst Scene of 2008

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01/06/2009 11:30 AM |

This for instance would be an example of a movie that is too faithful to its source material. As in, it is a pretty much literal Historical Reenactment of the Richard Yates novel — but, naturally, being a two-hour movie, a compression, replicating the surface textures (dialogue, gestures, images) without any of the interior monologue, memories, and so on that give it depth, texture, force. This happens all the time, it never works, it’s perplexing that natural selection hasn’t done something about it.

How faithful is this movie to the book? It gets professional grotesques Kathy Bates and Michael Shannon to play the shit out of Yates’s most thematically overdetermined, one-dimensional characters. (The version of the book that Mendes and screenwriter Justin Haythe are being faithful to, incidentally, seems to be the document of masculinity in crisis described by James Wood in his recent New Yorker piece on Yates; since Shannon is playing a crazy person who speaks mouths-of-crazypeople truth, or at least subtext, the few liberties Mendes and Haythe take with Yates’ dialogue are mostly in the range of giving Shannon a few more lines to make sure that theme gets across.)

So now let’s talk about the worst scene in a movie last year! (Spoilers, I guess.)

One of the few changes Mendes and Hayhe make to the book is in showing more of housewife April Wheeler/Kate Winslet administering the dangerously late abortion that kills her.

We see Kate, standing in her Perfect Suburban Living Room, on her Perfect Suburban White Carpet, in a Perfect Suburban Housewife’s White Nightgown. And then, naturally, she starts to bleed, a droplet of red staining the carpet, and then a few more.

We cut to a wide shot. Kate is standing in front of her Perfect Suburban Picture Window, above the red stain. Watching this scene, seeing her stand in front of the window, atop the bloodstain that’s the one element of color in the otherwise washed-out shot (like in Sin City!), I thought to myself: “I bet when she walks out of the frame she’s not going to drip blood anywhere else on the carpet.” And then she didn’t.

Previously in the print and online L Magazine: Michael Joshua Rowin and Henry Stewart also strongly dislike this bad movie.

4 Comment

  • Nice. My single worst scene of the year, with a spoiler warning, was in Azazel Jacob’s “Momma’s Man”, when the guy does the dive down the stairs in the suicide attempt. Just took me out of the world of the movie, you know, that moment in the movie when you say to yourself this is bullshit? Otherwise good movie, and I think that theme should be explored more, the theme of parent – child relationship as everyone is getting older and sadder and depressed.

  • I remember that scene — and liked that movie, you’re right that it sorta prefigured the national mood, especially among young people finding it difficult to get a toehold in the professional (adult) world. I read it a bit differently, I guess I thought he was desperate enough to want to do something — like hurt himself falling down the stairs — but barely active enough to follow through on it, so eventually it was this stifled cough of a grand gesture. Good movie, you should all see it.

  • Beyond the sadistic schadenfraude I feel for those who saw the film to see the handsome “Titanic” couple reunited, and the sheer excess of Johnny Walker Red and cigarettes, yes, the film is useless. Seeing “Bigger Than Life,” a film so alive and acute, this morning particularly put things into perspective. Not that it needed to, as “Revolutionary Road” may be eager to depress it’s audience, but not before indicting–and then congratulating–all of its puerile characters and its exhausted audience.

  • yeah, going back to Momma’s Man, I should add this movie won the Off Camera Indie Film Fest in Krakow last year, over Lance Hammer’s Ballast among others. I got to ask Azazel a few questions in the post screening qna, genuine nice humble funny guy.