Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Sunset Limited

HBO's adaptation of McCarthy's The Sunset Limited was everything I had hoped it would be.

Back in January, when I watched the film trailer for the very first time, I posted this to the blog, praying to the movie gods out there that Jackson and Jones steal the show and run circles around the less-than-great play on which it was based.

And those prayers have been answered. Pairing up Tommy Lee Jones as the suicidal White, aka "Professor", and Samuel L. Jackson as the religious Black, aka "Reverend" was absolute movie magic. White's depressive, introverted demeanor played amazingly well against Black's positive, expressive personality.

The visual effects were subtle but constant, which were extremely necessary due to the fact that the viewer spends the entire hour and 50 minutes in one room with these two men bantering back and forth over God and religion, life and death:

  • The contrast of colors within the room were stunning - olive walls, dark red couch, mustard yellow fridge.
  • Black drinking from white mug and glass while White drinks from the darker mug and glass.
  • At times the men position themselves adversarially - across from one another at the table, while another time they are positioned as therapist and patient - White stretched out on the couch, Black behind him in the armchair.
Their fluid movements and repositioning kept the eyes moving while the ears remained intently focused on their conversation.

I remember wondering, while reading McCarthy's play, whether White was not in some sort of purgatory. The play and the film both begin at the same moment, with White already sitting across the kitchen table from Black, in Black's apartment, with almost no recollection of having gotten there, and with the faint sense that he is being held there against his will.

I had originally thought that White went through with the suicide and this room he found himself in was his limbo land, his in-between place, the place where the Christian religion believes that you are sent to in order to work off your sins, or cleanse your soul, before being reunited with God. I remember thinking this because each time White asked to leave, Black would beg him to wait a little longer, finally telling White "you don't know what is out there".

I am still unsure if McCarthy means for us to read deeper into the words he wrote, and the words that Jackson and Jones speak, but I love how it is all left open for interpretation... because, after all, isn't that what religion is all about? Interpretation?

Look out Grumpy Old Men! There's a new odd couple in town! If I reviewed films (which I don't) this one would get 5 golden stars for a flawless, passionate take on a preachy, rather dry original play.


  1. I agree! It was a great flick! Stunning! Tommy Lee Jones and Samuel L. Jackson were magnificent. :)

    Great review, Lori.

  2. Glad you enjoyed it too. You haven't read Cormac's play, though, have you? It came off much more preachy than the film - I didn't enjoy it nearly as much.

  3. No, I haven't read the play...and now, I don't think I probably will. Thanks for the head's up. I enjoy philosophical discussions, but I do not enjoy proselytizing. Was it your least favorite of McCarthy's?