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Classic Recordings
Robert Altman Week

Wednesday
Mar242010

« In Which It's Awful Not To Be Able To Do What You Want To Do »

If You Don't Try At Anything You Can't Fail

by MOLLY LAMBERT

You may recall that "moving to Paris" was the old "going to travel South America," the last resort of a desperate liberal in the face of the thought of a life spent behind a desk. You may also recall that "there's no geographical solution to an emotional problem," ©Mad Men's Matthew Weiner in the final season of The Sopranos, which is a timeless song that is always appropriate. Hey hey hey, it's Revolutionary Road!

As adaptations go this is pretty hamfisted and all the shots of "men in grey flannel suits" made me roll my eyes. "The suburbs are stifling" is the second most over-explored theme in film after "what do Jewish men want?" But I liked things about it.

learn what an unspeakable prick Warren Beatty was to Natalie Wood when they dated

Sex scenes from the 50s/early 60s still feel the most transgressive because of how purposely/overly chaste most media things from that time period are. Splendor In The Grass remains legitimately shocking (and featured the first French kiss in a film) and while set it's set in the 1920s and filmed in 1961 it always seemed like the 50s movie about sex. Also William Inge is a genius. The Last Picture Show wrings every drop of sweat out of its small town fifties Texas setting. Revolutionary Road benefits from this. Why didn't anyone tell me this movie involves Sex In The Kitchen?

Is Leonardo DiCaprio a good actor? he might be! It had been so long since I heard him without a bad fake accent that I had forgotten. Also I haven't seen Catch Me If You Can but I now understand that the secret to making grown ass square faced Leo (as opposed to teenage babyface Leo) attractive is period dress. He looks fucking great in casual clothes of the fifties. Markedly less so in casual clothes of right now. Kate Winslet is a great actress. I mean yeah duh since Heavenly Creatures, thought u knew!

I talked so much shit about this movie and Sam Mendes in general, which goes to show that the more shit I prematurely talk about something, the more inclined I am to totally change my mind when I actually do see/hear/whatever it. If you know me then you know that I do this all the time time time time. I'm not saying it's my best quality.

My expectations were just so low that I was surprised that it was any good. I think I just liked the performances even if it ended in "serious actors yelling" which I find more tolerable when it's anyone besides Sean Penn. It's also a horror movie about abortion policy (timely!), reminding us that without proper birth control you're fucked.

Calling a bitch irrational is the best way to keep her down. I could write a whole goddamn book on ways to keep the patriarchy going. Some more sample chapters: "High Fashion Photography," "Pitting Women Against Each Other," "The Oscar Curse."

Doing your husband's best friend in a car is a dope neg. Does Kate Winslet have a "get fucked in a car" clause in her contract or something? Now that I think about it she gets drilled in crazy places in a lot of movies. At least she escaped Na'vi fleshlight tail sex.

Actors love smoking. They LOVE it. There is no prop an actor loves more than a cigarette (unless you consider their own faces and bodies props).

Kathy Bates is a national treasure. In my alternate feminist universe they write vehicles around her instead of making her topless in About Schmidt for a laff.

it's hard to describe any of the themes of this movie without making it sound totally terrible: people in the mental asylum might be the only sane ones! men who have problems expressing their emotions like to yell a lot! I guess it's hard to discuss the themes of realist novels without sounding like a total douchebag.

One of the innumerable differences between fiction and real life is that in fiction screaming fights between former lovers are always really intense and sexually charged, and in real life those kind of fights are just miserable and nobody feels very sexy when they are BURSTING INTO ANGRY TEARS. Nevertheless the hot fight remains a founding trope of romantic fiction, and the whole basis of screwball comedy. 

Where are the kids? Could you really be this much of an absentee parent in the fifites because if so I want to go to there. I'm sure this is not the best set-up for the kids but from the POV of a leisurely drunk adult it sounds like a delight. 

Betty Draper's bad parenting comes straight out of the Richard Yates handbook, but April Wheeler is MUCH more sympathetic than Betty Draper because Kate Winslet is a MUCH better actress than January Jones. Although a MUCH less awesome men's magazine profile taking place at an airport Chili's (obviously).

I like how in the fifties they were just like "No, of course women can't have dreams! There aren't enough dreams to go around!" Wouldn't be kool if all the omega males just stepped down and were like "have at it, girlfronds, it's dreams reparations."

Kathy Bates's husband turning off his hearing aid at the end. WHAT A STUPID ENDING TAG. Women be jabbering! I hate this cliché even though (because?) I am the jabberiest. I mean come on, like, really Tina Fey? You think porn for women would be a fake guy who pretends to listen? That really is like a Cathy cartoon. Besides, they already make pornography for women, it's called amateur porn. 

Mahnola Dargis pretty much nailed this one, in one of her great take-downs that makes movie studios afraid of letting her reviewing their "prestige" pictures, because she always sees the emperor's new clothes when it comes to Oscar bait

Don't get me wrong, this movie is just okay and the last act is a mess. Was it worth somebody's marriage? I would say no movie is worth somebody's marriage but a genuine masterpiece like Reds is worth several marriages. That one killed Warren Beatty's relationship with Diane Keaton, but nobody was betting on that horse for the long race because Warren was still all Tiger Tiger Woods y'all at that point.

The real question is would Mendes and Winslet's relationship have survived if the movie had won some Oscars? I'm going to say yes. So maybe it was just watching the movie, mostly a pretty, shouty, tinny reproduction of Yates's work with the knowledge that it probably had something to do with the demise of the lead actress's relationship with her husband who directed it that made me find some genuine sadness and regret and feeling in it. Tabloids love when A-list actresses's relationships break up because it humanizes them. Also because it sells hella magazines.

It is equally possible that the Mendes-Winslet marriage broke up due to Away We Go

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording and co-author of Lyric Fail. She tumbls here and twitters here.

"If It's The Beaches" - The Avett Brothers (mp3)

"Backwards With Time" - The Avett Brothers (mp3)

"Yardsale" - The Avett Brothers (mp3)

"When I Drink" - The Avett Brothers (mp3)

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Reader Comments (3)

I feel like I'm taking crazy pills re: the reaction to "porn for women." Jack Donaghy suggested that! To a room full of out-of-touch old white men! I thought the fact that it was ridiculous and stupid was part of the joke.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBC

Reds kinda ruined MY relationship with Diane Keaton, as did the commentary from "something's gotta give". I used to love her, but .... Also Reds turns out to be pure fiction! She didn't go back for him, she stayed in the states with a new bf. Take that Warren!

May 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterleti

Also about the ending of RevRoady, Why no return to those seedlings? They lingered on them in the first act, cutting room floor? Whoops! Come on Sam, that shit is textbook you NEED the seedlings.

May 11, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterleti

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