Tuesday, January 6, 2009

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

Posted By on Tue, Jan 6, 2009 at 11:30 AM

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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.

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