Cormac McCarthy doesn't dabble in lightweight yarns. For almost fifty years, he's devoted himself to depicting crime and punishment, exploring darkness in humanity through layers of existential unrest. His name is practically synonymous with "grim." So upon watching the above trailer for Child of God, you may be less than surprised to learn that the story originates from McCarthy's library of published works. His fingerprints are seen all over the footage, in its backwoods setting, its somber overtones, and its liberal use of violence.
More of a shock is that James Franco, king of the class clowns, has adapted the novel himself, which puts him a nautical mile outside his typical milieu. Child of God isn't Franco's first go-round at the helm of production; he's actually dabbled in the role dating all the way back to 2005, though between As I Lay Dying, Interior. Leather Bar, Sal, and 2015's The Sound and the Fury, he's clearly become more compelled toward the director's chair of late.
Maybe Child of God offers Franco a necessary refresher from starring in Seth Rogen comedies like This is the End and The Interview. Whatever the case may be, there may be no better way to step outside one's comfort zone than translating McCarthy's prose into cinema. Child of God in particular poses a challenge; it's fluid, dreamlike, and replete with ugliness that outpaces all but the harshest of the author's efforts. It's discomfiting literature, and not for the faint of heart.
It's also more of a character study than a straight up thriller, which is exactly what this new trailer and its previous teaser package it as. Perhaps that's how Franco approached the material - by filtering the tale of dispossessed sociopath Lester Ballard (Scott Haze) through a genre lens. Lester attempts to live his life beyond the boundaries of society; as the book progresses, the further he isolates himself from any sense of community, and the more inhuman he becomes.
Franco's film appears to follow the same tract, but there's a sense that he's rearranged Child of God's parts into a more straightforward narrative, but that's just what happens when you tune McCarthy for a visual medium. The difference between other adapted McCarthy works from page to screen - Oscar winner No Country For Old Men and The Road - is immense, in part because McCarthy's writing style doesn't easily lend itself to use in other mediums. (Even his screenplays feel more literary than cinematic; see The Counselor for proof.)
Does Franco have the right handle on this Southern Gothic tale? He certainly has a strong cast (not just Haze, but Tim Blake Nelson as well), and the movie looks appropriately flat and dour. We'll see how successful he is with his McCarthy treatment in just over a month.
Child of God hits theaters on August 1st, 2014.
Source: Yahoo! Movies
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