Sunday, August 10, 2008

Phew. Atonement is the most inept adaptation of a novel I've seen in years. What a relief to avoid dwelling much on the competition. The Dunkirk scenes are the wrong kind of showy; from the way Joe Wright stages them we could be watching Keira Knightley pouting in an English garden again. It's not as if I haven't wondered whether the Ian McEwan novel is overpraised (I prefer him when he writes tony porn and ersatz social commentary), but this kind of farrago makes me question whether I'd been conned into liking the book in the first place. Casting actors like Knightley and James McAvoy would seem to be Wright's aces; if there's one thing McEwan does well, it's suggest carnality between lovers, young and old. Knightley acts like she hasn't been introduced to the rest of the cast, much less McAvoy (when she smokes she could be chewing on a piece of licorice). Wright's use of a clacking typewriter on the soundtrack is the kind of portent used by third-raters with no confidence in their material or in the audience's ability to figure things out (where's Jessica Fletcher?). Nevertheless, Vanessa Redgrave, voice strong and clear, pulls off a miracle: in the film's last ten minutes she creates a woman who understands the movie's title, who's been fucked and fucked over, who might herself have written better novels than Atonement itself.


sooz said...

Leave my delicious masochist fantasy ALONE!

theon said...

i haven't seen the movie but it's funny to hear everyone talking about the dunkirk scenes being "the wrong kind of showy" because the dunkirk scene was a colossal mistake IN THE BOOK and no way of filming it would have fixed this. suddenly mcewan drops a cardboard cutout of a war into his little music box, and it proceeds as prettily as everything else. the only good thing i've read by this guy is on chesil beach.