John Hillcoat’s ‘THE ROAD’ Is Dystopia For The Art House Set — THE ANTI-MONITOR PODCAST
By Matt Fleming and Jarrod Jones. This is the ANTI-MONITOR podcast, where it’s foolish to ask for luxuries in times like these. This week, Jarrod & Birdy assess the Cormac McCarthy/John Hillcoat post-apocalyptic moper, ‘The Road’. But first, the boys discuss their favorite Academy Award snubs, unworthy winners, and also-rans of the 21st Century.
As always, be wary for spoilers throughout, and please enjoy.
ANTI-MONITOR: MATT — When Australian filmmaker John Hillcoat adapted Cormac McCarthy’s late-career masterwork The Road, all the pieces seemed in place for an instant classic: heart-rending source material, an unbelievably great cast, and a capable (if somewhat untested) director. The end result is an underappreciated end-times drama that just failed to connect with audiences. It would seem that filmgoers these days need their post-apocalyptic flicks to have less subtext and more zombies.
However, The Road eschews such trite trappings in favor of beautifully-decayed atmosphere and a narrative that cares more about emotion than action. Occasionally, The Road swerves into moments that either belie the story’s intent or play a bit too melodramatic for the sake of just making something, anything, happen. It didn’t help that the film’s marketing focused on the dystopia, while the film is really about a father trying to ensure his son’s future. That’s the tale that transcends place and time, and The Road may have underestimated its audience. For those who dare to take the trip, The Road provides quite a worthwhile journey into the resilience of those who wish to carry the fire.
ANTI-MONITOR: JARROD — It’s a story about perseverance. About stubbornness. About acceptance. It’s about understanding that the world would do just fine without you.
John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road came after No Country For Old Men knocked the Academy Awards on its ass and took the Best Picture of 2008 statue for all time. The Road, like The Coen Bros’ No Country, claimed to have no serious ambitions to reap acclaim, and yet its pedigree — which includes Viggo Mortensen, a career-launching performance by Kodi Smit-McPhee, Robert Duvall, and Kenneth Michael Williams — hinted at otherwise. The Road may have doubled down on its dire, impenetrable themes by embracing the grim, dead world it inhabits, but it visibly flinched once it approached the abyss.
Sentimentality and guardian angels are the audience-friendly salvation of The Road, which makes this reviewer curious as to whether such things existed in the original McCarthy novel. I’ll definitely be giving it a read this winter, when the world outside more closely resembles that of The Road. (What, you don’t live in Chicago?) For right now, this is one movie that remains watchable only when your opinions of the world are at a low.
CONSENSUS: Hopeless and grim, but only when it serves the story, The Road is dystopia for the arthouse set. 7 out of 10
Before: “‘THE TOXIC AVENGER’ Is Still Vital Independent Cinema,” here.
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