Wednesday, June 03, 2009

He's Having a Mendes Moment

"He" being my pal Jason over at My New Plaid Pants. On the occasion of Away We Go opening (in selected cities) on Friday, plus Revolutionary Road making it way to DVD, he put a call out to his readers to talk about their favorite Sam Mendes movies (he's only made four), and rather than taking up two screens with what became a rather longwinded comment, I figured I'd post my thoughts here.

If I'm ranking the four Mendes movies:
1) Road to Perdition
2) American Beauty
3) Jarhead
4) Revolutionary Road

#s 2 and 3 could get flip-flopped at any moment, but I agree with Jason's take that Beauty has gone from overly praised to now overly hated. The ensemble is really strong. It's tough to watch it now that I've formed such a strong opinion on what I don't like about Alan Ball's work (for what I DO like about Alan Ball's work, see True Blood). (Not that I hated Six Feet Under, by any means, but my relationship with that show is ... complicated. Hopefully I'll get into that on the blog sometime.)

Anyway, Perdition is imperfect, but I remember finding it a good deal deeper than the "looks pretty, doesn't go much deeper" complaints about it. The danger in making a movie with an emotionally guarded protagonist (as Hanks's character is) is that critics will accuse you of ... not being emotional. Kind of the point.

Of course, the flip side of that coin is Jarhead, which had a similar problem with the ambivalence of the main characters. I give Mendes credit for getting that point across, but almost nothing about that movie stuck with me afterward (Jake's santa-hat follies being the lone glorious exception).

I'm not going to go into once again why I hated Revolutionary Road, but I did. I'm really hopeful for Away We Go, though. There's room at the top of this list for a movie that really knocks me out, so get to knockin', Sam!


Stephanie said...

I saw an advanced screening of Away We Go" and I was pleasantly surprised. There's some great supporting performances, though a few characters are painted too broadly (tone it down a little, Ms. Janney), but the two leads really shine. It was the first Sam Mendes movie that I've seen that I'd describe as "charming".

jessica said...

I'm really looking forward to Away We Go as well, but I loved Revolutionary Road. Effing loved it. I realize I'm probably the only one, but there you are.

JA said...

I loved it too, jessica. In fact it's one of those that's grown in esteem in hindsight. I can't wait to watch it again. Yay botched abortions!

Thanks for the linkage, Joseph.

Judi said...

Totally agree about "American Beauty" going from over praised to over hated.

And I would love to read about your complicated relationship with 6FU.

jessica said...

Well, maybe it's because I've been in that relationship where everything is suffocating and life is like a trap, but Revolutionary Road just felt so REAL to me -- a very genuine, lived-in existence that was not/is not pretty by any means but touching and heartbreaking all the same.