Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, Now a Movie

What rock have I been living under?

On the way to the Charleston airport yesterday to drop off a good friend who'd had business in town, we stopped at Barnes & Noble for him to purchase a book for the trip. Walking the center aisle, I came upon a stand of books bearing this image

and promising that the film, starring Viggo Mortensen (that's him on the cover), will be out in November. I didn't even know they were making one.

And, according to most of the press on it thus far, making it well. For a really good read about the movie, the actors, the process of filming it, a NY Times article from this past May is about the best thing I've found out there.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about that article is the high praise is lavishes on the young actor, Kodi Smit-McPhee, who plays the son. "Lavishes" may be the wrong word. More accurately, it simply reports the near awe with which the rest of the cast and crew came to view Kodi,

an 11-year-old Australian who plays the son and bowled everyone over when he tested for the part, greatly reducing the anxiety filmmakers feel when casting a child. Some of the crew privately referred to him as the Alien because of the uncanny, almost freakish way that on a moment’s notice he switched accents and turned himself from a child into a movie star. Days after the filming of a climactic, emotional scene, people on the set were still marveling at Kodi’s performance. A couple said they had puddled up just from watching the monitor and needed to sneak a tear-dabbing finger behind their sunglasses.
With luck, this movie may prove as rewarding an experience as No Country for Old Men did. It will be interesting, though, to see what nods go to the screenwriter on this one. The Cohens won an Oscar for Best Adaptation of McCarthy's novel. I thought that particularly ironic, given that McCarthy originally wrote No Country for Old Men as a screenplay, nearly three decades ago. One can't help but wonder just how much "adaptation" they had to do. This time around, Penhall likely faced a more significant task.

The script for “The Road,” by Joe Penhall, is for the most part extremely faithful to Mr. McCarthy’s story of a father and son traveling alone through this blighted landscape and trying to keep alive the idea of goodness and civilization — the fire, they call it. The script does enlarge and develop in flashback the role of the man’s wife (played by Charlize Theron), who disappears quite early from the novel, choosing suicide rather than what she imagines will be starvation or worse. And of course the script lacks Mr. McCarthy’s heightened, almost biblical narrative style.

Some of that could be suggested by the look of the film, Mr. Hillcoat said, but mostly the nature of the bond between the man and the son, who in the script, as in the book, speak to each other in brief, freighted moments, would have to come out in the performances.

There are few movies I care enough about to attend on opening night. But this may be one.

Provided, of course, I get out from under my rock often enough to know it's happening.