The mantra goes something like: 'Always read the book before watching the film', and that was the plan but then the reviews of the film were a little lukewarm and so the book slipped down the pile. Then 'er indoors wanted to see it and I figured that because the book was bound to be better than the film then perhaps this was exactly the right way round to do it: enjoy decent-ish film, then read masterpiece. A sound theory. And like many theories in practice it turned out to be wishful thinking. I'm sure the book is a masterpiece and I shall probably read it some day but the film was not so much decent-ish as just -ish.
Sam Mendes makes slow films. Really slow films. Thanks to Roger Deakins they have some nice cinematography in them but far too often I find myself thinking 'that's a rather clunky camera move, why is he moving the camera out here, or panning there?' Mendes was honest about his lack of experience with film-making after the success of American Beauty but with the recent release of his fifth feature he had better start showing some more mastery or those brownie points are going to lose their currency. This film has three stars written all over it but because it feels a bit long and frankly (no pun intended) a bit boring in places it left me feeling more like I wanted to give it two out of spite. Even without reading the book I can tell that Leonardo DiCaprio is miscast. He may be the right age but it's one of those films where there's an awful lot of 'not-acting' going on. What I mean by this is that DiCaprio has a few modes: the films where he's so well cast that you don't really see the acting (Basketball Diaries, Romeo and Juliet, Catch Me If You Can), the films where he's doing a character so that all you can see is the acting (Gangs Of New York) and the films where he's trying so hard to give a worthy performance that his 'not-acting' is totally conspicuous. I may not be the biggest fan of Mad Men but there are several actors in that that I completely believe in that sort of period and setting and who convey the sexual mores of the time. I just didn't get Frank Wheeler from this film.
Kate Winslet as April Wheeler is another enigma. Family life clearly wasn't working out for her (her children are almost entirely absent from the film) but I didn't ever really understand why she got so little joy or contentment from being a mother. It's a pretty good performance but I understand she's much better in Little Children. Kathy Bates looks like she's treading water as Mrs Givings and Michael Shannon as her son John gives a performance that screams Oscar nomination. God, I'm sounding a bit moany, I can't imagine where I've picked that tone up from. Oh, I know, The Wheelers.
Right, a comedy next I think.