Sam Mendes, the director of American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, is a Hollywood parlor radical who makes meretricious films that stroke the vanities of less exalted parlor radicals, who then congratulate him on his courage—a daisy-chain of flattery, a mutual-admiration society for the un-admirable. Playing the edgy outsider is one of the all-time great moneymaking schemes in American life, right up there with multilevel marketing and patent-medicine sales, and one must admire the skill and verve which Mr. Mendes has brought to the role: Such an edgy outsider is he that Her Majesty made him a Commander of the British Empire, providing him with an excellent perch from which to condescend to the suburban plebes he has made his fortune despising. In his spare time he works in Serious Theater, having served as the director of London’s Donmar Warehouse and New York’s Bridge Project, for...


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