Counselor, The


Ridley Scott


An interesting thing happened while I was reading the last novel in my recent month-long Border Trilogy McCarthy bender: I stumbled across the somewhat notorious 2013 film “The Counselor,” written by McCarthy, directed by Ridley Scott, and starring the likes of Fassbender, Diaz, Bardem, Cruz, and Pitt.

It’s actually unjustly maligned — while undoubtedly problematic it is competently made and well-acted (but for Cameron Diaz who has to be one of the most overrated living actors). The problems that critics had with it being too (esoterically) talky and grim are basically them blaming it for being written by Cormac McCarthy; it´s as close as I can imagine to seeing a McCarthy novel on the screen, about a thousand times more representative than the terrible “All The Pretty Horses” adaptation. I would venture that most of the critics who called the film terrible have not read more than a couple McCarthy novels.

But at the same time seeing a McCarthy-novel-as-movie highlights the main problems I have with McCarthy as a writer: first of all his near-manic obsession with death and our world’s apathy toward us humans; and secondly that for all the realism of his dialogue (and most of his small talk is simply the best and most authentic I’ve ever seen), he undermines this realism by having literally ALL of his characters, even the unlikeliest, expound philosophically at some point or another on his specific brand of fatalistic amoralism — from the highest cartel boss to the sleaziest of drug middlemen to the lowliest of Mexican diner owners. They all talk like they just walked out of a weekend seminar on nihilism.

After a while with McCarthy, whether in book or on screen, you can’t not notice this and it takes me out of the story every time. I know in a lot of ways that’s kind of McCarthy’s point but in a lot of ways also it’s pretentious as hell, especially when you’ve read/watched enough of it that it begins to sound like he’s just stringing a bunch of weighty and obscure words together without much intention but for their rhythm or lyricism, and that he’s not really saying anything at all. (Having those heavy and apparently meaningless words come out of the clearly overmatched Diaz’s mouth adds a whole extra layer of distraction.)

So yeah: see this if you’re a McCarthy fan or as a curiosity for film-buffs.  A general audience can safely skip.


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