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Update! John Hillcoat's THE ROAD Stretching Into 2009?

Beaks here...

Here's a stunner: it sounds like John Hillcoat's big screen adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's THE ROAD is a big ol' downer. At least, that's the word over at, where the mighty Russ Fischer has posted a reader's reaction to a New York City test screening of the potential awards contender. Oh, and one more thing: the reader also says the film is "a complete fiasco on every creative level." This would indicate that Viggo Mortensen's performance as a father slogging through a barren, post-apocalyptic America with his son is somehow lacking, and I refuse to believe that until I see it. Unfortunately, I may not be seeing it until next year: according to both EW and The Hollywood Reporter, THE ROAD has vacated its November 2008 release date for a December launch at the earliest - and that's only if there's an Oscar nomination to be salvaged from it. If not, say hello to first quarter 2009! Though I wasn't a fan of John Hillcoat's relentlessly grim THE PROPOSITION, he did seem like the perfect director THE ROAD. I mean, if he nails McCarthy's book, "relentlessly grim" would be an understatement. "Soul-devouringly bleak" would be more like it. So I'm inclined to wait and see on THE ROAD, even if it goes to 2009. Call this informed speculation, but it seems like The Weinstein Company is currently in a position where they have to carefully pick their awards season battles, and that battle is apparently called THE READER (which is being rushed through post-production at Harvey's extreme behest). TWC knows how to sell a nuanced drama with a literary pedigree; McCarthy without the Coens is another feral animal entirely. In other words, this may have nothing to do with quality. If you were at this week's screening of THE ROAD, I'd love to hear your thoughts - especially if you read the book (as CHUD's correspondent had not). This movie is undeniably in a tight spot.

Update: We've got our first reader review, and it is a full-fledged rave from Mumbles Modine (went huntin' with our new-and-improved search engine, and he/she last submitted reviews back in '03 for COLD MOUNTAIN and JERSEY GIRL). Check it out...

Hey Harry, I attended the first screening of Cormac McCarthy's "The Road" last night on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. It was directed by John Hillcoat of "The Proposition" and starred Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce, Michael K. Williams and Kodi-Smit McPhee. However, Viggo and Kodi were the only two on screen for 90% of the film. And Guy Pearce showed up for all of 5 minutes at the end. For those not familiar with McCarthy's novel I highly recommend it. It was the stand-out book of last year and it stayed with me for a long time after I put it down. I believe the movie will have a similar impact on audiences. It's a faithful adaptation that stays true to the source with a few minor embellishments, mostly to beef up Charlize's role through flashbacks. The story centers on the relationship of the father and son on their quest of survival through a devastated, nuclear wasteland of dead trees, ash gray skies, blackened, burnt-out cars and a consistent misty-drizzle that permeates everything. The film is BLEAK. Let me say that again... This film is fucking DEPRESSINGLY BLEAK. The world is dead. There is no food, barely any drinkable water, and crazy "Hannibal Lecter" fuckers with rifles roam the countryside in the back of pick-up trucks looking for fresh "meat." Like the novel, the film doesn't dive into the details of how our civilization ended. That's not the point. We're thrust into this fucked-up world and a few flashbacks of a colorful, loving relationship between Viggo and Charlize are all we get of the past. The film is focused on the aftermath and how our humanity has slowly eroded and devolved to the rock bottom point of our base survival instincts. There are two main characters here: The ragged, desperate father, dying of a lung infliction, who will do anything to save his son and longs for the touch of his wife. His faith in humanity is gone. Everyone they meet is the enemy. His son is the heart of the movie. The small shining light of hope awash in a sea of blackness. He was born after the bombs were dropped and knows nothing of the comforts and luxuries of a civilized society. Yet at his core he is hopeful and feels compelled to connect with other "Good Guys." Viggo is insanely good in this role. His eyes are sunken and haunted, his hands are black with dirt, his beard is Unabomber shaggy and you can count all of his rib bones through his back. The way he stares at his son is enough to break your heart. It certainly got to me, perhaps because I'm a father now, but I'm not usually a softie when it comes to movies and I choked-up at least twice. Kodi is fine as his son. Some of the more emotional scenes seemed forced and slightly over-the-top but overall he got the job done. One other actor worth mentioning is Michael K. Williams, or Omar to folks who watch "The Wire." He had a small role, only appearing on screen for about 10 mins, but his scene is easily the most powerful of the film. The father and son's opposing view points clashed. It was Survival vs. Hope & Humanity. It will be the one scene that friends and family will debate at the end of the film. What side of the argument will you fall on? I don't want to go into all the details of the story and spoil it for everyone so I'll just end by saying that I really loved it. It got under my skin the same way the book did and I think it's easily a top contender for Picture of the Year. John Hillcoat has now made two amazing films in a row. Mumbles Out.

I followed up with Modine about the Coke scene and Nick Cave's score. Here's what I got back:

That CHUD review has it all wrong. This is an excellent film on par with The Proposition. Nick Cave's score was ok. Not much of a highlight. It reminded me off the stuff Johnny Greenwood did for "There Will Be Blood." Sort of a menacing, monotonous drone. [Beaks Note: We've since learned that Cave's score is not finished. They used a temp track for this screening.] The Coke scene was a lighthearted moment in a VERY dark film. They scavenge for scraps in nearly every scene of the movie and it was a welcomed bit of optimism when they found the hidden can of Coke. The innocence of the son really came through as he drank something besides water for the first time. What other beverage would last through a nuclear winter?

Do with that what you will.

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