REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (2008)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Michael Shannon, Kathryn Hahn, David Harbour, Dylan Baker, Richard Easton, Zoe Kazan, Jay O. Sanders and Max Casella.
Screenplay by Justin Haythe.
Directed by Sam Mendes.
Distributed by Paramount Vantage. 119 minutes. Rated R.
Director Sam Mendes’ first film – the Oscar-winning Best Picture American Beauty – was a harsh look at the dashed promise and the shallow life of the dream of the American suburbs.
With his latest he also skewers the suburbs, going back to the genesis of the suburban dream – the couple of the 1950s moving from the big city to their fantasy homes on the outskirts.
Revolutionary Road is a much more serious film than Beauty – though much of that film was tragic, there was a strong and anarchic undercurrent of black humor as well. There is very little that is at all funny or light at all here.
Revolutionary Road is the story of Frank and April Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet – reunited nearly a decade after Titanic), a handsome young couple who consider themselves to be artistic free spirits. They have a long-standing fantasy of moving to Paris. However, they get married too young, April gets pregnant, they move to the suburbs for the children, and they soon find themselves stuck in the American dream.
He takes a sales job that he hates. She dabbles in acting (she had wanted to be an actress before getting married), however she hasn’t the talent nor the drive to go anywhere with it. They are growing more and more distant from each other. Even their responsibilities as parents have become a chore – they moved to the suburbs for the kids, but their children are almost never seen in the movie.
This all leads to the normal crises – unhappiness, violent arguments, smoking, alcohol abuse, affairs and blaming each other for their misery.
The film is extremely well-adapted from the 1961 cult fave novel by Richard Yates. The screenwriting is spot on and tries to be very faithful to the source material. The acting is wonderful. Still, the film seems a pale copy of the book. It is nearly impossible to capture the underlying voice and pulse of the book – and many people have tried and failed to bring this tale to the screen over the years. Therefore, the movie, while certainly doing its best, feels a little distant and sterile.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2009 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: June 22, 2009.