Starring Kate Winslet, Patrick Wilson, Jennifer Connelly
Written By: Todd Field, Tom Perrotta
Directed By: Todd Field
After reading Tom Perrotta’s book of the same name, I was curious to see its filmic adaptation. And while I was not disappointed, it was about as literal and straightforward a translation I could have imagined, and really captured everything about the book in film form. That said, the performances and casting were close to perfect, and director Todd Field managed to capture the moody and bizarre tone of Perrotta’s work.
The film follows a number of characters in a small Massachusetts suburb where a convicted pedophile has returned to live with his mother. While his presence pushes the film, at the center of it is bored housewife Sarah (Kate Winslet) and equally bored househusband Brad (Patrick Wilson, in a star-turning performance) who bond over their confusion and loneliness and find warmth in infidelity. Brad, who is nicknamed the Prom King’ by neighboring housewives, is married to knockout Kathy (Jennifer Connelly) and has failed the bar exam twice partly because he doesn’t really want to pass it. Sarah is a homely and overly intelligent woman married to an older man with a porn addiction. They bond when their young children give them excuses to spend time together. Meanwhile, Brad befriends a former cop who continues to harass the local pedophile Ronnie, a man who cannot escape his own sexual deviancies.
In all, it is much like Todd Solondz’ Happiness without that director’s utter abhorrence for his characters. Field treats his characters with exactly the type of peculiar seriousness that they seem to give to their own lives; at times it is a satire on suburbia, but it is much more than that in its character-driven exploration of its focal characters. The film never drifts into melodrama and maintains a somewhat minimalist approach to its aesthetic, allowing the performances to shine through. Winslet, as usual, proves that she is one of the best actresses of her generation, and given the role Perrotta creates, is absolutely perfect. Wilson as well personifies everything about his character. Perhaps the most powerful performance is that of Jackie Earle Haley, who plays Ronnie with a wonderful delicacy and honesty.
I guess for me having read the book ruined a lot of the film for me, since it stays so utterly faithful, with just a few tweaks and a more conclusive ending. But the story is anything but predictable, shying away from being too romantic or too dramatic; it doesn’t get overly philosophical or poignant like American Beauty, but still shares a lot of the same feelings about the suburbs. I mean, it sure as hell makes me want to avoid suburbia.
Bottom Line: Solid, faithful adaptation of Perrottas book, with some powerful performances.
Favorite Scenes: the opening playground scene, Jennifer Connellys ass, and the thunderstorm scene.
Running Time: 130 minutes