Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday Matinee Movie

This is the best movie I've seen in a long time. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are perfectly cast in this story of 1950's alienation and suburban angst. It might have been written by John Cheever. It was actually written by Richard Yates and competed against Catch 22, by Joseph Heller, and The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy for the National Book Award in 1962 . I read both those books in the 60s and was bowled over by their brilliance. I've never heard of Richard Yeats. This was his first book. It was chosen by Time as one of the 100 best English Language books written since the 1920s. I've read everything by both Percy and Heller. I'm astounded I haven't read Yates.

The move is luscious, and drab. There is this New York landscape inhabited by men in gray suits and hats carrying briefcases. At home in Connecticut there is a discontented wife with a lovely home and two lovely children. DiCaprio plays Frank Wheeler who works for the same company where his father worked unhappily all his life. Winslet, as April Wheeler, has dreams of life in France. She will work and he can "discover" himself. She has done the research. She puts this dream into action and just as they are about to leap free she is trapped by an unwanted pregnancy and her husband's need for safety, normalcy, conformity.

One of the things I remember about the 50's and mid 60s was that in most states contraception was unavailable and abortions were illegal. And mental illness was a very shameful family secret. Kathy Bates has a lovely part as a real estate agent and the mother of a man who is likely bipolar. He was a mathematician before all the shock treatments. He plays the part of the truth teller. I know that role. It doesn't make one popular.

Phillip didn't like the movie. So maybe it's great and maybe it's just another Oscar Movie. But Nick and I loved it. I think remembering the 1950s helps.

I forgot Nick told me when I got in his car that John Updike died today. He was a writer in a class with Cheever, Heller, Percy, Yates.


susan said...

The movie sounds pretty fascinating. It wasn't just here that abortions were completely illegal and I remember well the results of some illicit ones.

John Updike was a very clever writer - the Witches of Eastwick was a multi-level tale of immoral fun very much targeted at the hypocritical society he inhabited. The Rabbit books were amazing.

btw - I know you know you're tagged but I'll look forward to seeing what you find.

Utah Savage said...

I know. I've yet to wade into the photos. I'm really tired tonight and will take a look tomorrow.

giggles said...

I'm looking forward to seeing "Road".... Haven't even heard of the other one.... Is it new? Or has it been out for awhile...or on DVD?

Alexa said...

Ooh ... Looks like a riveting flick. I will watch *anything* that features Kathy Bates! :-D

Utah Savage said...

Giggles, Phillip wrote the review of Good Dick. I think it is out on DVD.

Jaila, Kathy Bates is great in this movie.

Comrade Kevin said...

Yates is fascinating study.

Richard Yates had an interesting career. Born in Yonkers, NY, raised largely by a mother who tried desperately to make a career as a sculptress, with regrettably minimal success. Enlisting in WWII, he attended college on the GI bill following the war. After college, he worked for a company much like the one portrayed in the film. He then worked for a time in the Kennedy Administration, then left when Kennedy was assassinated.

Yates spent the rest of his life writing novels and short stories, drinking himself to death, and having breakdowns due to his mostly untreated bipolar disorder.

He died in 1992 in Birmingham, Alabama, at the VA hospital downtown. He had taken a short-term position as a visiting writer at the University of Alabama, which was in the town of Tuscaloosa, fifty miles west of Birmingham. By the time it came for him to leave and return home he was too sick to travel, and by virtue of his being a WWII vet, he was transferred to VA hospital, where he died.

Read his collected stories if you're the least bit interested. They are excellent.

Linda-Sama said...

I saw RR over the weekend.

yeah, I got it -- how mindless conformity can kill the soul, especially a woman's. how Kathy Bates' son was the only one who saw and told the truth. I got all of it. and I knew by the middle of the movie that Winslet was going to kill herself. what other ending could there be?

I acknowledge it was a good movie, but a damn depressing one. Slumdog, for all the poverty and filth of India, was a a "feel good" movie compared to RR.