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November 18, 2008


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Since finishing the novel, I've been anxiously anticipating this film. The right actors could do wonders in these roles. Among the pre-viewing criticisms I've heard of this film that the public hasn't seen yet from fans of the novel are: they'll never keep the novel's ending; and Leonard DiCaprio is all wrong for Frank Wheeler.

While keeping the ending does not ensure that the film will be any good, I never had any doubt that Mendes would do so, because these days, with this sort of prestige film adaptations of classic novels, they ALWAYS keep the endings intact. Really, there was never any chance of them changing it.

And, yes, DiCaprio is a young man. I think that's where the criticism of his casting comes from. Him being young, and all. He's a terrific actor, and he's the right age for Wheeler, so those people should probably put a sock in it, too.

So, yes, I have high hopes (I loved "Road to Perdition", haven't seen "Jarhead", and initially overrated "American Beauty", along with almost everyone else, and have since cooled on it considerably). I thought Yates's novel was brilliantly written, fascinating, and not quite the condescending "evils-of-the-suburbs" cliche' I'd been expecting. Okay, it IS that, a little bit, but I thought it turned that notion on its ear on occasion, as well.

Dan Callahan

Can't wait to see this. Just read the novel, and I've been haunted by it---you've allayed some of my fears about this adaptation. How about that nifty trailer with Nina Simone's version of "Wild is the Wind" on the track?

I'm going to have to hunt down Yates' "The Easter Parade" next. I'm sure it's a barrel of laughs....

Ryland Walker Knight

This makes me happy. Having taken your suggestion to read the book, I got more and more nervous (as I speed-read to the end) about the film's prospects; especially after seeing the trailer. When we saw _Synecdoche_ they had this as the second-to-last trailer and I leaned over to my friend, Jen, and said, "Best Picture; I'm calling it now." I dunno if that'll hold, but, well, there it is in your final, whaddya call it, graf. I haven't watched _Mad Men_ but for its pilot, which did nothing for me, and as far as I understand, this film may eclipse that show in zeitgeisty terms (please?) and, yes, push this thing into some kind of _Titanic 2_ territory. Didn't you write a post about that a lil while ago?

As for _Jarhead_: really? I kinda dig it. I think, again, he gets such good work from his cast, and Walter Murch's editing is so precise, that its interest not in Iraq/oil but adolescence is what makes it so cool. And, yea, Deakins' always-excellent lensing. I kinda dig the memoir, too; it felt very NY'er short story "excellent" (that is, a lot of it inspires "Well, okay...") but I dug his desire to lay bare all that stuff. The navigation of the first person is so tricky...

Tony Dayoub

Sounds promising. One of the films I look forward to.

Regarding American Beauty? Isn't it funny, but I overrated it, too, as I hear countless others have. Could the reason be the endless amount of similarly styled movies or TV shows it spawned soon thereafter? Initially, Alan Ball's Six Feet Under seemed to be cut from the same cloth.

An analogy would be the way Pulp Fiction has been diminished by the countless crime indies that "paid homage" to it afterwards. I'm thinking along the lines of Things to Do in Denver... (which I think totally blows).

Since I agree with Glenn on Mendes' obvious talent (Road to Perdition is the man's calling card as far as I'm concerned), I'm interested in hearing any of you guys opine on this.

Kevin Aulind

You sound kind of bitter, Bill.


Do I? Please accept my apology.

Glenn Kenny

How I do love a civil comments thread.

@bill—having seen the picture, I can pretty confidently state the pre-emptive naysayers are wrong on both counts, although once the movie's out, and enough visitors here have seen it, it'll be interesting to discuss one very slight tonal shift...and here I must demure.

@RWK—Your appreciation for the acting and formal aspects of Jarhead tempts me to check it out again.

@Kevin Aulind—Whatchootalkinbout?

Steve Potter

Hope they've done justice to this fantastic novel and that it creates some more interest in one of America's finest and most under-appreciated fiction writers.


This tonal shift you mention intrigues me, especially since it doesn't seem to have hurt the film in your estimation. I really hope I get a chance to see this opening weekend. I'm not sure the wife'll be up for it, but I could probably sneak out...

Rodrigo Rothschild

Wow, I didn't know American Beauty was one of your first reviews for Premiere. I started buying the magazine in 1999 and I remember your review clearly, as well as a tiny bit you wrote about the film's great discovery: Wes Bently, who over the years amounted to pretty much nothing... The thing is, I've followed you since then and I have to say it has been more gratifying than following Sam Mendes.

... a Preacher adaptation might change that though.

Stephen Bowie

Meh. Shoulda been filmed in the 60s with Redford and Natalie Wood. And Jack Nicholson (or Bruce Dern) as John Givings.

I'll see it, of course, but my dread is exponentially greater than Glenn's, I fear. Particularly since I'm unconvinced by any of DiCaprio's "complex" performances.


I never got the mass adoration over American Beauty. There was some good lines in the script and it was beautifully photographed but something was missing for me. The Insider was a far superior picture IMO.

Herman Scobie

Looking forward to Revolutionary Road because of Kate and Leo, though I found the novel overrated the one time I read it almost forty years ago, perhaps because it's not a young man's novel.

I continue to be amazed whenever American Beauty appears in IMDb's daily polls and the love flows forth from the masses. Nothing works in it for me except for Conrad Hall's cinematography and Thora Birch's breasts.


Herman, I do think Spacey is pretty good in the film, and I think what initially sold me on "American Beauty" was the last few lines, but that's really not enough, is it? Even with Thora Birch's breasts.

Glenn Kenny

I can't quite explain it, but all of a sudden my interest in seeing a Blu-ray version of "American Beauty" is way up...

James Rocchi

I think that while Rev Road is well-shot and well-acted, I did walk out of it thinking, "Well, that really blew the lid off of angst in the Eisenhower age." Yates' book was looking back 6 years; This novel, looking back 50-plus, is so far back from the time it depicts that the slap it intends to have hit strikes with no force. It's well acted, and gorgeously shot, but I don't think it exists for any reason than to be well-acted and gorgeously shot.

Also, as a side note, the use of the word "fail" in civilized discourse is like an ominous harbinger of NewSpeak.


On the 'then-unknown' Daniel Craig thing, do you mean this was his introduction to a US audience?

After all he had put in some amazing performances in Love Is The Devil and Some Voices before Road To Perdition, as well as appearing in Elizabeth in a small role and taking the love interest opposite Angelina Jolie in the first Tomb Raider film the year before.


James, I haven't seen the film, but by your rationale it would seem there's no point in reading the novel anymore, either. The relevance of the story's "point" isn't the most important thing, is it?


It is just if we are talking about Daniel Craig's "introduction to a broad US audience who would react with name recognition" I don't think that properly happened until Casino Royale!

Glenn Kenny

@colinr, yes, I was talking of his profile with American audiences, his presence in the "Tomb Raider" film notwithstanding. Aside from Jolie, do ANY of the actors in those pictures ever register?

I don't think "Love Is The Devil" actually made it to these shores until after "Perdition."

I have to be more careful about this sort of thing. I sometimes forget it's the "World Wide" web...

Owain Wilson

Glenn, speaking as someone who has not read the novel, I found myself skipping whole paragraphs of your review to avoid finding out too much about this film. You seemed to describe an awful lot of it.

Just saying, like.


I think for British audiences he got his name recognition probably for his role in the ensemble cast of the highly acclaimed BBC series Our Friends In The North, shown in 1996 and well worth checking out.

Christopher Eccleston was probably the big name of the show at that time (this was the year after he was in Shallow Grave), though Gina McKee also had a presence.

The supporting cast, coming and going throughout the episodes, helped to support to the relative newcomers though - Malcolm McDowell appeared but also Alun Armstrong and Terence Rigby (who were both in the original Get Carter), Donald Sumpter (Bleak Moments and Sunday, Bloody Sunday), Peter Vaughan (perhaps best known as Tom Hedden from Straw Dogs!), and even writer of Gosford Park Julian Fellowes doing an acting turn!


On Tomb Raider I thought the original film admirably fleshed out Croft's companions with the techno-geek played by Noah Taylor and the butler perfectly cast in Chris Barrie, but they only really registered for me due to the apt casting of the actors playing them, just as in the game itself only Lara Croft is important - the love interest played by Craig is even more redundant than the above.

Ironically he's really playing the 'Bond girl' of the Tomb Raider series, incredibly important for the one film but obviously not going to be the one for our heroine, as definitively shown by the replacement with Gerard Butler for the truly bad sequel!

While you are right that nothing really matters in the films except Angelina Jolie, I'd argue that even then only her chest is REALLY important! (which makes it sadder that this is probably the perfect and most 'iconic' role she'll ever have, especially if she follows through with her promise to quit acting)


"This novel, looking back 50-plus, is so far back from the time it depicts that the slap it intends to have hit strikes with no force."

I believe you mean to say this movie, correct? I haven't seen the movie, but that's precisely a considerable worry I have about it. Yates' book is extraordinarily hard hitting on it's historical moment - it's a radical and total critique of life at the time. Almost nothing doesn't get blasted.

You simply won't get at that if you have too many nifty 50s cars, or are marveling at Winslet in 50s hairdos - it distances you from the impact of Yates' story. American suburbia hasn't changed much (if at all), actually, so if it had been left up to me, I would have switched it to an entirely contemporary setting. (There's really not much to necessarily change - Frank even works at a computer company, for example). The point of the novel is to literally beat it's readers up - a movie will have a tougher time doing that if it's your parents or grandparents (instead of you) it's beating up.

Herman Scobie

Will see Kate and Sam talk about the film at the Times Center on Dec. 1. If you're there, I'll be the bald geezer with the dirty mac in his lap.


Count me as one of the folks wo couldn't care less for the book. I liked it well enough but I just don't see what makes it so great, and I have a Masters in english, not that that matters when it comes to taste. I'll see the pic becaue I like who's in it, but I hope it takes off from the source material.

On a better note, I re-watched "Le Cercle rouge" today. Damn.


"Le Cercle Rouge"...the billiards scene. It doesn't get much better than that.


Kate Winslet is a very talented actress and by far this is the best Sam Mendes film I have seen.

Amanda Crowe

It was hardly the revolutionary movie that I had hoped for. Given all the excitement that surrounds the movie, I was far from excited when it ended. I was just glad that I was done watching it. Kate and Leo are brilliant actors, very believable in their roles. But I must say as much as the show was awesome by worldly standards, it was a spiritually and emotionally tormenting watch.

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