Never one to mince words, Rex Reed takes a moment to slam a few year-end Cuddle-Me-Elmo movies before he launches into the sort of lavish praise he only reserves for his favorite films of the year.
In a year notable mostly for its profligate tossing-around of overrated bores like Happy-Go-Lucky and pretentious, open-sewer trash like Synecdoche, New York, it comes as an act of real holiday season benevolence to bestow upon us, in rapid succession, The Reader, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Revolutionary Road. Here are three sensational movies that revive my faith in America‚Äôs greatest art form.
An ancient crone on her hospital death bed (another astonishing performance by Cate Blanchett) draws her last breaths sifting through her memories while her daughter (Julia Ormond) reads from the diaries of an old boyfriend named Benjamin Button, who narrates the events of his life like a work of literature. The contents pour out of the pages in a tableau of breathless cinematic adventures, as the story unfolds of a remarkable man who beat the odds against time and biology.
Brilliantly directed and acted, sumptuously photographed and endlessly fascinating, Button runs nearly three hours, and I never glanced at my watch one time. Unlike the exhausting Australia, it‚Äôs an epic that sprawls but never meanders. Through the decades, it changes gears as fast as Brad Pitt changes his appearance, each period of time like a new chapter in a novel you never want to end. Trust me. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is a monumental achievement‚Äînot only one of the best films of the year, but one of the greatest films ever made.
Reed’s admiration for Revolutionary Road is no less ecstatic, after the cut.
Revolutionary Road, under the detailed, sharp-eyed guidance of Sam Mendes, is a flawless, moment-to-moment autopsy of a marriage on the rocks and an indictment of the American Dream gone sour… The question posed in Richard Yates‚Äô groundbreaking 1961 novel and in Justin Haythe‚Äôs reverently adapted screenplay is deceptively simple: Once you dig the hole, how do you get out?
…It‚Äôs a film about feelings, disappointments, desperation and hollow dreams. You go away asking unavoidable questions about relationships in a changing world, like how do you pretend to enjoy the worst kind of surface happiness without betraying the dormant joy that once lit the best of your inner self? How, in life‚Äôs detours, do you stay the best of lovers and yet be the best of friends? The unflinchingly honest Winslet-DiCaprio team illuminates with clarity and precision each mood swing of two people who start out thinking they‚Äôll be special and wonderful until life gets in the way.
…Revolutionary Road, a title that symbolizes the downward slope of American idealism‚Äîfrom the grounded thinking of the 18th-century revolution to the second-rate materialism of 20th-century ‚Äúprogress‚Äù‚Äîis a profound, intelligent and deeply heartfelt work that raises the bar of filmmaking to exhilarating heights of greatness.
Whew. Could this be the beginning of an 11th hour critical surge? How anyone could still be talking about Best Picture prospects for the drab falsified re-enactment of Frost/Nixon over the depth and finesse of Revolutionary Road is a mystery I hope becomes moot over the next few weeks.