McCarthy 2, Mendes 0

I've never read Richard Yates' book, but after seeing Sam Mendes' film of Revolutionary Road, I think it will be some time before I do. The book is supposed to be excellent, so I need some time to forget the film, which I didn't enjoy greatly. At the Golden Globes (but not the Oscars) it was nominated for best film, best director, best actor and best actress, with Kate Winslet winning the latter. I therefore expected something pretty good, but, just like Mendes' debut, I found myself watching a clever film about American suburban life that talked a lot but didn't say anything (to rephrase David Byrne). As with American Beauty, Revolutionary Road was packed full of characters it was impossibly hard to care for. It's a pity Adam and Joe no longer make TV shows:

American Beautoy

In complete contrast, I thoroughly enjoyed The Station Agent and The Visitor, both by the far less-lauded writer-director Tom McCarthy. In the former, nothing much happens - a guy acquires an old station agent's depot in his friend's will, moves in and tries to live a normal life in a new town - but all the characters are naturalistic and likeable and the film moves along in an interesting and thoughtful way. People who appear extraordinary often just want to live an ordinary life, it seems.

The Visitor is more ambitious, dealing with US immigration policy and the clash of eastern and western cultures in modern America, but the integrity of McCarthy's approach remains. Every performance is excellent, the story gripping, sad, and never bombastic. Best of all, it has nothing of the earnest worthiness of Mendes' work. Rather than preaching at you, it simply tells a story and leaves you wondering about various aspects of life at its conclusion, which is what good films should do.
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