An Open Letter to Sam Mendes

by tully
March 26, 2007 1:53 AM
47 Comments
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Dear Mr. Mendes,

Please don’t do it. I understand the temptation. Believe me, I do. But I also know that you are embarking on a doomed mission. You are going to fail. I’m certain of that, and that is why I’m writing you this letter, to help you to see the light. Though if you’ve already gotten this far, I worry that you can’t be saved. But I must try anyway.

Why on earth, in 2007, would you even attempt to bring Richard Yates’ REVOLUTIONARY ROAD to the big screen? What are you thinking? Do you realize how ridiculous and wrong this concept is? Do you realize that it isn’t just arrogant and idiotic, that it is an outright sin? I don’t even know where to begin.

Let’s begin with your casting of two of the most recognizable faces in Hollywood. In doing this, you are automatically cheapening your film’s impact. For no matter how brilliant a performance Mr. DiCaprio and Mrs. Mendes give, we will always be watching Mr. DiCaprio and Mrs. Mendes. We will NEVER be able to truly suspend our disbelief to the point where we will receive the earth-shaking stomach punch that Yates’ book delivers. At best, it will be reactions like, “Wow, Leonardo DiCaprio is doing a good impression of a troubled guy in the 1950s,” or, “Kate Winslet sure knows how to deliver a believable American accent.” There will ALWAYS be the recognition, however unconsciously, that we are watching modern movie stars playing characters set in the 1950s. And if you populate the rest of your cast with recognizable faces (Philip Seymour Hoffman as Shep Campbell, for instance), your impact will be degraded that much further. Again, I understand your temptation, for these are fine actors indeed, but I am telling you that by turning REVOLUTIONARY ROAD into a Hollywood spectacle, you are making a mockery of one of the greatest novels ever written. Can’t you see that?

I can’t fault Mr. DiCaprio, because I can see him grinning at the thought of fucking with viewers all over the world, following up “the most successful Hollywood romance ever” with The Most Depressing Hollywood Romance Ever. The thought of being so subversive is a giddy one indeed. But that’s all well and good in theory. In reality, the trick won’t work.

Mr. Mendes, I am not clairvoyant, but I mean it when I say that I have already seen your movie, and while it is ‘impeccably executed’ on a superficial level, it is missing the one thing that matters: the book’s nearly unbearable HEART and SOUL. You hired the best costume designer, the best production designer, the best cinematographer, the best composer, the best everything. You recreated post-war 1950s Connecticut (and Manhattan) as well as it could be recreated. You’ve chosen the right scenes to include, and your film will have the air of nobility and Academy-worthy professionalism. But you will not have come close to capturing the novel’s breathtaking, tragic impact. As an intelligent human being, you must realize that it is impossible to translate that impact to the big screen. It is IMPOSSIBLE. So why are you doing it, then? Oh yeah, I know why.

You are making REVOLUTIONARY ROAD to win an Oscar. That is your foremost reason for taking this suicidal plunge. It has nothing to do with respecting Mr. Yates’ momentous vision, for if you did respect that vision, you wouldn’t shamelessly rape it into an embarrassing stab at Oscar glory. How do I know this? I saw ROAD TO PERDITION, Mr. Mendes. You can’t fool me. That pointless exercise in ‘crafting an instant classic’ was the most shameless, down-on-your-knees pleading to the Academy that I have ever seen. And that’s all this movie will be, an embarrassing stab at Oscar glory, one that will fail miserably because we will be able to sense that in every single frame. Your movie will NEVER capture that feeling of true helplessness, true loss, a feeling that the biggest budget in the world cannot buy. Your movie will NOT capture even one tiny fraction of Richard Yates’ immeasurable genius. You’re good at your job, Mr. Mendes, but you’re no Richard Yates.

Another thing I don’t understand is that if you are trying to do absolute justice to REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, don’t you realize that nobody will want to see it? There’s a reason that only a select few humans have heard of REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. That’s because it is honest and unflinching in a way that most movies/books/records never are. It is a PAINFUL experience, Mr. Mendes. Audiences don’t want to see painful. They want to escape from the reality of their hopeless, tragic predicaments, and if you try to show them just how hopeless and fleeting their lives are, as Mr. Yates so relentlessly did, they will turn their heads and run far, far away. Not to mention the fact that this is a period piece, set in the 1950s. This film has everything going against it, yet your pride and ego has distorted you into thinking that these are all the attributes that will lead to sweeping success on Oscar night. Shame on you.

I won’t even find the space in my brain to consider that you might soften Yates’ vision, but suffice to say, if you do try to back off in the third act and loosen the gears instead of tightening them into a breath-swallowing noose, the next time I see you in person I will punch you in the face. This movie should have viewers alternating between waves of tears and vomit. I don’t see how it’s possible that you will be able to dig beneath the gloss of your corny Hollywood veneer to even elicit even one tiny tear.

We’re not just talking about my favorite book here, Mr. Mendes. We are talking about one of the most honest, perfect works of art of the 20th Century. Do you realize the sin you are about to commit? I don’t care what God you believe in, or even if you don’t, but the world recognizes sins, and you will be punished for yours. You aren’t going to win Best Picture, Sam. Admit that to yourself right now.

That said, I would love to be sitting here in a year-and-a-half, writing a formal letter of apology. I would love to see you prove me wrong. But you CAN’T prove me wrong. I have already seen your film, and it is a towering failure in every possible way. Some books should remain books. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is one of them. This movie will be a parody of all that is noble and decent in art. You will be putting the last nail in the coffin of true, lasting art, and for what? To win an Oscar? Look at what happened with ROAD TO PERDITION. Audiences can smell desperation. Even the Academy can smell it. You will fail, Mr. Mendes, and you will be taking Richard Yates down with you. Make another movie, please. There are still lots of stories left to tell. Just don’t tell this one.

Sincerely,

Michael Tully

One final note: For those of you who have never read REVOLUTIONARY ROAD, please, I beg of you, DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE BEFORE YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK. When you read the book, you will understand what I am talking about, and you will hopefully join me in boycotting the film. Or see it if you want, but don’t see it before you’ve read the book. That said, go out now--RIGHT NOW--and buy REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. Perhaps this whole debacle will bring Richard Yates some much-deserved attention after decades of anonymity, but if it means people seeing a crappy adaptation of his work without having read it on their own, well, that’s even worse. So do yourself a favor, read this book before it’s too late.

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47 Comments

  • Richard Yates | April 15, 2007 12:24 PMReply

    I don't mind too much. At worst it has nothing to do with the book, but I do wish I was still alive so I could enjoy the huge check and completely disassociate myself with the film.

  • Mark Rabinowitz | April 5, 2007 8:34 AMReply

    Absolutely brilliant, all of it! Except for the guy that dissed the LOTR films. Clearly a dolt. ;-)

  • tully | April 5, 2007 8:32 AMReply

    wow, i don't know what to say, other than this is very, very funny!

  • brendan | April 5, 2007 5:21 AMReply

    i never would've imagined this post would ingender so many angry commentors, and who knew there were so many sam mendes fans. if nothing else i've been reminded that i need to read revolutionary road.

  • jt | April 4, 2007 12:33 PMReply

    Not since 'tollphone' have a greater crowd of moron's been ousted..

    Kudos to Mike Weber though, couldnt have put it better myself, and that's saying something.

  • Kate Winslet | April 4, 2007 9:25 AMReply

    If my husband wants to create an Academy nod for his loving wife, and I get to remove my clothes, please give him a chance. Oh and my husband can kick your ass.


    Katie

  • Kim joon ill | April 4, 2007 8:27 AMReply

    there's only one question. Does Kim Joon Il will like the movie? Cause if he likes it, he may spare your stupid ass for another day.

  • Overmind | April 4, 2007 7:50 AMReply

    Anyone who says American Beauty is a great film is lame. It was overacted and seemed to take place in bizarro world. It was made for filmic studies people who think everything in the film industry is the most important thing that ever happened in the history of the universe and Al Gore is a god among men.

  • Andrew | April 4, 2007 7:14 AMReply

    Wow, what a fucking crybaby. Shut the ass up and let the goober make his stinkpoo movie. Everyone but me is a moron.

  • mike weber | April 4, 2007 7:01 AMReply

    "Let's see here, I could spend 40 hours reading Yates book or I could watch Sam's movie and 19 other movies. What do you think I'm gonna do, Mr. Tully?"

    Posted by Jonathan

    Why you're going to do what all the other sub-literate troglodytes like you will do and see the movies so that you don't wear out your lips reading one book.

  • mike weber | April 4, 2007 7:01 AMReply

    "Let's see here, I could spend 40 hours reading Yates book or I could watch Sam's movie and 19 other movies. What do you think I'm gonna do, Mr. Tully?"

    Posted by Jonathan

    Why you're going to do what all the other sub-literate troglodytes like you will do and see the movies so that you don't wear out your lips reading one book.

  • mike weber | April 4, 2007 7:01 AMReply

    "Let's see here, I could spend 40 hours reading Yates book or I could watch Sam's movie and 19 other movies. What do you think I'm gonna do, Mr. Tully?"

    Posted by Jonathan

    Why you're going to do what all the other sub-literate troglodytes like you will do and see the movies so that you don't wear out your lips reading one book.

  • mike weber | April 4, 2007 7:01 AMReply

    "Let's see here, I could spend 40 hours reading Yates book or I could watch Sam's movie and 19 other movies. What do you think I'm gonna do, Mr. Tully?"

    Posted by Jonathan

    Why you're going to do what all the other sub-literate troglodytes like you will do and see the movies so that you don't wear out your lips reading one book.

  • Vincent Sweeney | April 4, 2007 5:59 AMReply

    No book, ever? Did you not see A Clockwork Orange? Kubrick did the book as much justice as anyone could ever want. No, really.

  • Tim Wilson | April 4, 2007 4:33 AMReply

    Mr Tully,

    Yates, for me, was the greatest writer of the 20th Century. RR was the first book of his I read. "Disturbing the Peace" is also a masterpiece.
    I can't see Leo and Kate playing Frank and April. No way!

  • TERESA | April 4, 2007 2:23 AMReply

    I believe that many of Sam Mendez's films have been Oscar worthy with no reward. I have not read the book, but I am sure that I will now. The more I read about people boycoting this film the more I wish he would have stuck with Sweeney Todd.....

  • mike | April 4, 2007 1:44 AMReply

    There's an odd desperation in boycotting a film before it's even gone into production. Fact is you have no idea what the film will be like. Get a life.

  • martin | April 3, 2007 12:58 PMReply

    Uhmm, I don't like Sam Mendes' films, but I think there can always be interesting film adaptations made. And by adaptations I mean more like a re-interpretation for the screen. Maybe not as extreme as "The French's Liutenant's Woman" but certainly as brilliant.

    Hopefully he does well... And Tully, you are too extreme I think - it is more like frozen fear rather than genuine goodwill.

  • Jonathan | April 3, 2007 12:48 PMReply

    Let's see here, I could spend 40 hours reading Yates book or I could watch Sam's movie and 19 other movies. What do you think I'm gonna do, Mr. Tully?

  • JP | April 3, 2007 11:38 AMReply

    That's right

    Sam scored 3 out of 3

    I haven't read the book but I'll be looking forward to all his future work, and i'll decide if it's a load of horse shit or a f-ing masterpiece AFTER I've seen it

  • MikeyMikeyMikey | April 3, 2007 10:54 AMReply

    What a douchebag. Not Mendes, but the clown who wrote this. If I'm mad at Mendes for a book adaptation, it's for leaving the even less likely Kite Runner, and leaving that in the hands of Forster and the guy who wrote Troy and Stay. Mendes hasn't failed yet. He's made three terrific movies, and if he wants to make Revolutionary Road with two famous but also great actors, fantastic. Even if the book will always be better. If you want to be a big man, try picking on a filmmaker who's ever made a remotely bad movie.

  • hazah | April 3, 2007 10:37 AMReply

    OK. When a writer adapts a book he does not try to translate the book into a moving image. Though when you read a book you can see all the people and events described within in your own minds eye, it is still impossible to take a book and translate it that way into film. First of all (for most books) the film would most likely be a week long as the events decribed in a book can be very detailed and cover very long periods of time with little "editing." When a writer adapts a book to screen he tries to make a movie with the same characters and same basic story...but not always do it in the same way or with the same intention. Books create worlds with people and places that capture the imagination. The film industry is a business and that means the ideas just got to keep coming. Sometimes you take an idea from someplace and write your own story with it. Like from a book/video game/comic ect. To adapt a book is to make an attempt at borrowing the characters and ideas and setting and then tell your own story with them. Yes, a lot of the times you end up with a story that mirrors the orginal almost entirely (only missing bits and pieces for the sake of time...and yes they may end up being your favorite bits but don't worry they are still in the book), but it's the screenwriters choice how faithful he is to that original story. Surely you must have seen one movie based on a book that you didn't read till afterwards or at all. That movie has plently of appeal to you who doesn't know the material because it's new to you. Books are full of material to be adapted for the screen. I've read plently of books where the movie was entirely different and I liked each for it's own reasons. Maybe the movie was well made....great camera work and production design and acting go a long way and I can't believe you can say that the enjoyment you get from these things is superficial. That's film man. You want the story to be as well developed as a novel...read a novel. And by the way I can't imagine it being hard to portray lonliness with images just as easily as with words.

  • Insider | April 3, 2007 10:11 AMReply

    I don't get the sense you know what you're talking about honestly. You go on saying "yuurrgg! Don't cast people we recognize!" So would you rather have unknowns play these parts? Did you go see Batman Begins and say "God damn, Liam Neeson's pretending to be the bad guy! What the HELL! Where's the real bad guy??"

    Furthermore, have you read the Revolutionary Road screenplay? If not, then you can't comment on the film. Comment on the book all you want, but until you read the screenplay, you're missing half of your arguments facts.

  • Paul | April 3, 2007 9:27 AMReply

    An earnest young reporter asked James M. Cain what he thought about what Hollywood had done to his books. Cain roared with laughter and pointed to the shelf over his desk and told the reporter, "Nobody's done a thing to them. They're right there."

    I read REVOLUTIONARY ROAD many years ago and don't remember a thing about it. Maybe I need to re-read it. And if you don't want to see the film version of it, I suggest that you not see it.

  • Ana | April 3, 2007 8:27 AMReply

    Sheesh, Tully, take it easy! I'm very aware that there are far more good-book-to-bad-movie disasters out there than the other kind, but the other kind *do* exist. The one good thing about your spittle-flecked rant is that it's made me curious about this book you feel so strongly about. I probably wouldn't have read it otherwise, so thank you. Other than that, however, I must insist that you make an appointment with a therapist. Admiration of a work of art is one thing, but worship of such is not generally conducive to a healthy emotional life. Just my $.02.

  • Hazah | April 3, 2007 8:21 AMReply

    damnit...CATCH-22 is a great movie!

  • Jack | April 3, 2007 8:16 AMReply

    Great novels have always survived mediocre and bad transitions to film. Even if Mendes drops the ball with this one (a highly doubtful prospect, given his track record), the novel will still be there. Just look at THE GREAT GATSBY and CATCH-22.

  • thirdman27 | April 3, 2007 8:02 AMReply

    tully, you're a madman.

  • Mrs. Mendes | April 3, 2007 8:02 AMReply

    Two word: The Hours.

    And since when has Mendes begged for an Oscar. None of his movies reek of it, though you insist they do. And, if Revoluationary Road is as heartbreaking and unwatchable as you say it is, then it obviously won't win any Oscars and then Mendes has no plans for it to win any.

  • Hazah | April 3, 2007 7:24 AMReply

    OK...first of all if you think Sam Mendes plays to the Academy then you have not seen Jarhead...that movie did everything possible not to fit the mold of an Oscar winning war movie. Second, Road to Perdition is great. Third, American Beauty is great. Fourth, how dare you lessen the value of great acting ability with your bigotry towards stardom?...if a great actor becomes a star they are still a great actor! What an awful thing to say...you know nothing about acting. Fifth, get over it...you like the book and always will...don't watch the movie you elitist.

  • Mozz | April 3, 2007 7:19 AMReply

    those who can, do, those who can't write angry rants about those who can. I only got as far as the first paragraph to realize this guy is a loser.

  • kiskovacs | April 3, 2007 7:00 AMReply

    Uh, I think you all kick ass! I can hear the hee-haw all the way here...

  • lambman | April 3, 2007 6:54 AMReply

    um yeah, I gave up 2 paragraphs into that mess

  • JPAdmirer | April 3, 2007 6:51 AMReply

    JP you kick ass

  • JP | April 3, 2007 6:10 AMReply

    And to add a little closure

    Jarhead kicks ass too

  • JP | April 3, 2007 6:09 AMReply

    American Beauty also kicks ass...even after the 1000th viewing

  • J. | April 3, 2007 5:50 AMReply

    It's just a book. Did you forget to take your medication?

  • Adam Hackbarth | April 3, 2007 5:14 AMReply

    Sparrows are not sexy birds. I love to sew and cook, but I mostly enjoy jazz.

  • pat | April 3, 2007 4:54 AMReply

    I need to read this book. But I'll also see the movie. You're probably right about it being bad, but I feel like Sam Mendes has some potential that he could reach if only he stopped trying so hard. Unfortunately though, Road to Perdition was really a step back from his good-but-gets-worse-with-every-viewing American Beauty, and this doesn't sound like it'll be any better.

  • JP | April 3, 2007 4:19 AMReply

    Road to perdition kicks ass

  • Oscar | April 3, 2007 3:55 AMReply

    wow. I've never seen someone be both an elitist and a philistine before.

  • tully | March 30, 2007 4:53 AMReply

    you haven't read RR yet, David? get to it, son!

  • David Lowery | March 29, 2007 7:14 AMReply

    Your vehemently impassioned post did the trick; another book has now been added to m to-read list..

  • E French | March 29, 2007 2:19 AMReply

    Apparently you never saw The Bridges of Madison County...which happens to be my favorite book and,yes, my favorite movie too. When I saw it they even put syrup on my popocorn which you'll never be lucky enough to enjoy, Mr. Boredom guy.

  • Sam | March 28, 2007 9:13 AMReply

    gee, Mike- I had no idea you felt so strongly. It's just I was so inspired by Robert Townes script for 'Ask the Dust- the tragi-comedy'. If it means anything, Leo is in two minds and I'm considering Colin Farrell instead- I think subtelty is the way to go. Stay in touch,

    Sam.

  • Sam | March 28, 2007 9:12 AMReply

    gee, Mike- I had no idea you felt so strongly. It's just I was so inspired by Robert Townes script for 'Ask the Dust- the tragi-comedy'. If it means anything, Leo is in two minds and I'm considering Colin Farrell instead- I think subtelty is the way to go. Stay in touch,

    Sam.

  • phoebe | March 28, 2007 4:43 AMReply

    brilllliant....! who ever wrote Sam's response!