The Road

In 2006 Cormac McCarthy wrote the finest contemporary novel I have read to date: The Road. It is the simple story of a father and son walking to a better place in the colds of a nuclear winter, after a vaguely defined apocalypse. It is bleak, uncompromising and utterly transcendent.

I should point out that I knew little about The Road when I picked it up. It had just won the Pullitzer Prize for Fiction, which is not always indicative of a good read (The Shipping News anyone?). But by page 5 I could not put it down. Literally. I read it while I was walking, cooking, eating, pissing. I read it in a day and then I turned back to page 1 and immediately read it again.

The prose has a beautifully stark, rhythmic poetry emphasizing the monotonous cycle of foot travel, shelter seeking, hiding from danger and foraging for food that the father and son must endure. Nothing grows in this grey landscape incessantly blanketed by cloud. Food is limited to the occasional scattering of unopened tinned food and the flesh of other people. Surviviors have mostly been reduced to warring tribes of cannibals.

It could have been an interminably cliched apocalyptic thriller, like a literary adaptation of Mad Max 2 – The Road Warrior, minus the action and mohawks. Instead, its a spiritually uplifting parable of love and the reason we live; to protect and provide a better life for our children.

The film rights were optioned before publication in 2006. Aussie John Hillcoat was later attached to direct. While by no means perfect, his Nick Cave scripted The Proposition explored the animal tendency for human brutality in a beautifully lensed blasted landscape. Viggo Mortenson, who unequivocally proved top notch acting chops in David Cronenberg’s A History of Violence and Eastern Promises, is starring as the father.

The stars seemed to be aligned until the release date was pushed from November 2008 (typical of an award season hopeful) to later this year. Often a bad sign when a studio takes the trouble to change marketing tack and piss off distributors. But according to Esquire, it sounds like a prudent move on Harvey Weinstein’s part. This is the master of the Awards campaign, whose Miramax went from tiny indie studio to mini-major off the back of awards favorites like The English Patient and Pulp Fiction.

Awards campaigns are a subtle marketing strategy, targeting audiences, influential industry players and Academy voters. Audience buzz is built around the importance of a movie, careful to avoid trivializing or over-saturating the public consciousness, which may be why Brokeback Mountain lost best picture to Crash (a terrible film IMHO). The Brokeback Mountain parodies were so frequent it became impossible to take the movie seriously.

I’m looking forward to Harvey Weinstein’s awards campaign nearly as much as the film itself. While the demographic may not be receptive, a social media campaign could bolster audience attendance. It worked like gangbusters for Cloverfield, Twilight and Star Trek. Academy voters are generally an older demographic, but it may not be long before the invitation “for your consideration” is made online.

Any thoughts marketing mavens and film fanatics?

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One Response to “The Road”

  1. The trailer is up and, typical of Hollywood film marketing, doesn’t paint a clear picture of the story. A lot of people expecting a post-apocalyptic action thriller will be very disappointed.

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