Happy New Year to you all!
I know a lot of people did end-of-year posts, but: (a) I’m totally too late for that, and (b) my year can be summed up in one sentence: Had a baby, other good stuff happened, and happier and more in love with my husband and kids than ever. So, there’s that.
My one disappointment was my failure to execute my Master Plan for 2009: To spend a year doing something vaguely offbeat, and then writing what will undoubtedly be a bestselling memoir about my experience. I feel like every damn book I see lately is the charming and whimsical tale of author X doing X for 365 days, writing about it and landing atop the New York Times Bestseller List, and I want in. How hard could it be? Alas, I couldn’t figure out what to write about, and I'm already a day behind on this can't-miss plan, so the first person who provides me with some damn inspiration will get a cut of my (sure-to-be-massive) book earnings.
In other news, my New Year’s Eve was quite eventful. It began with my plan to get my eyebrows threaded at my trusted salon. Alas, New Year’s is apparently a Big Eyebrow Night, because my threader (threadist? Threadmaster?) was booked solid. And so, I did what any normal person would do in the same situation: I got a haircut, complete with thick bangs to cover up my bushy eyebrows. OF COURSE. I needed a haircut anyway, and really, if you think about it, it kind of makes sense. Right? RIGHT?
We then met friends for dinner at Solo, the restaurant where former Top Chef winner Hung (my very favorite!) serves as executive chef. I OBVIOUSLY had all manner of plans to get to meet him (admittedly cribbed from that episode of Friends where Richard gets into Monica’s restaurant kitchen, ostensibly to give his compliments to the chef, but really to PROFESS HIS LOVE SHUT UP YOU TOTALLY REMEMBER THE EPISODE TOO). I didn’t need to do anything, however, since at one point, I glanced up and…there he was, chatting with one of the servers right next to us. Alas, he disappeared too quickly for me to harass him, but it was still kind of exciting. Oh, and the food (WHISKEY MOUSSE, OMG) was fantastic.
After dinner, we all proceeded to the movies to see Revolutionary Road. While in line buying snacks, we were stopped cold mid-conversation by the middle-aged man directly in front of us letting rip one of the loudest, most brain-meltingly offensive farts in recorded history. Naturally, because I am five, I lost it, but my reason for pointing this out is that it was the highlight of our moviegoing experience that night. Because people, I cannot remember seeing a worse movie than Revolutionary Road.
Before I begin, I’m aware that my penchant for fart humor/movies such as Step Up may detract from my credibility, but the truth is, I do watch a number of critically acclaimed, well-regarded films. Those just aren’t as much fun to review. Nonetheless, Revolutionary Road is generating a ton of Oscar buzz, and I think it is largely undeserved. THERE, I SAID IT.
Without giving anything away (that’s not in the previews), this movie is a piece of shit, frankly, and a prime example of lazy, clichéd filmmaking by an ordinarily talented director. For starters, I think Sam Mendes already took on (and ROCKED) the whole "suburban ennui/things aren’t what they seem" topic with American Beauty. Why do a retread with what seems to be an easy mark? (MY GOD, WE GET IT. THE FIFTIES AND SIXTIES WERE STIFLING. BLAHHHHH. I know it’s based upon a novel, but still.) Coupled with that is the issue of watching unlikable characters be not only unlikable but needlessly mean to each other for an ass-numbingly long amount of time. I keep seeing reviews lavishing the old “brilliantly acted!” on both Kate and Leo, and…yeah, no.
From the very beginning, it’s made clear that Kate’s character- April, a failed actress- is bitter at her lot: Being a married mother in Connecticut. Her husband, Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio), while bored, is not openly cruel to her in any way. Sure, he says and does certain inappropriate things during the course of the film, but my point is that, at least to her, he shows support: He goes to her plays, he comes home every night, he doesn’t beat her…he appears to be a fairly reliable partner. All the same, she lashes out, harpy-like, at the slightest provocation. The "subtext" (in quotes because all of it is as subtle as a hammer to the forebrain) is that she’s pissed off at never making it as an actress, and is stuck in suburban Connecticut in her gorgeous home with her husband and two adorable children. I mean, BOO FUCKING HOO, LADY.
The trouble is, I understand how that can at least conceptually be the start of a compelling drama. The trouble is that there is almost NO BACKSTORY to this tale, except for a two-minute sequence where Frank and April meet at a party years before. That's it. We have no evidence of her being a gifted actress, and so we can’t mourn her lost dreams as she does—We just stand there watching her shrieking, being generally insane, and throwing furniture without truly understanding the source of her anger and frustration. Even fucking Center Stage 2 (which, yes, I have seen) sets up the story better than that.
Don’t misunderstand me-- I think Kate Winslet is a fabulous actress who has been criminally overlooked for some great work in the past, and in my mind, it sucks that she’ll likely get the Oscar for this, where she painfully overacts. I felt like every scene was so HEAVY with “here I go! Over here! Purposefully strolling to the counter! I! Am! ACTING!” type stuff, and it rapidly became hard to watch.
As for Leo, well, he and I go wayyyy back, and I still secretly love him to bits, despite his present doughy physique. But in this film, he gave us no reason to truly care about the character of Frank, or the future of his marriage to April. He’s all, “Oh, I’m special! I’m meant for more than this pedestrian, workaday world!” Yet, he doesn’t know what IT is that he wants to do. He just knows he wants out. Again, undeveloped backstory and an unlikable character plague him, but another strike against Frank’s character will be the fact that most people today are going to find it hard to sympathize for the unthinkable plight of the upper middle class guy with a steady, well-paying job.
The thing is, I guess, that I have no problem rooting for the jerk, or the bad guy, but the filmmaker has to give me a reason to CARE about the character's life; their success or failure. Here, bad things happened and I felt nothing. That said, when those bad things did happen, there was no shock, as every single “surprise” was telegraphed scenes before. Furthermore, the roles in general were so clichéd (Intrusive Neighbor! Crazy Guy as the ONLY ONE WHO SPEAKS THE TRUTH! Repressed Housewives! Collect them all!) that I actually fell asleep at one point, woke up, turned to my friend, guessed what I’d missed, and turned out to be 100% correct. Even stylistically, the movie had no flow; it was just like vignettes of Asshattery on Parade with Occasional Throwing of Chairs.
There were some positive things, like the costumes, the camerawork, and the return of Vinnie Delpino from…wherever it is that former childhood stars go. But overall, I think this film is incredibly overrated. As many have pointed out, one hour of Mad Men is a much more compelling take of the late 50’s/early 60’s life.
There, I just saved you $15. YOU'RE WELCOME.
(I kid, of course. I know this is not a popular opinion at all, but I really don't understand the hype. I solemnly promise to spare you my Ebert-like stylings going forward.)
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If you're still reeling from the New Year's Effect (i.e., CHAMPAGNE OVERLOAD), check out my five tips for looking better after a hangover.