Tuesday, September 22, 2009

“Revolutionary Road”

Of all the adjectives used to describe “Revolutionary Road,” I’ve probably heard “depressing” more than any other. But “true” is a far more accurate label. And truth is what makes Sam Mendes's portrait of a promising young couple who sell out their dreams for the conventional life so depressing. And it’s not just in the mid-1950s world of this film. How many men toil away today at unfulfilling jobs just to "pay the mortgage?" How many women continue to suppress their ambitions to support their husbands’ careers?

When we first meet Frank and April Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) at the party where they meet, she's an aspiring actress and he's a young man with more attitude than ambition. In the next scene, they're married and she's just performed in a particularly bad local theatre production. This leads to an argument that stirs up all the disappointment, anger and resentment that are at the core of this film. Eventually, the Wheelers decide to chuck it all and move to Paris, where they hope to recapture that spark. But complications come in the way, one in the form of a huge promotion for Frank. This leads to yet more conflict for the Wheelers with tragic results.

“Revolutionary Road” has a built-in sense of foreboding. The haunting soundtrack sets the mood so that even when things appear to be going well, you know they're not. This is also a great testament to the actors. I've never been a Leonardo DiCaprio fan. But as he's gotten older, he seems to be growing into hls roles. As Frank, his ready smile can’t hide the pain of being resigned to a joyless life. And Kate Winslet is amazing to watch. Even the way she holds her cigarette makes her look like a woman on the verge.

Another character of note is John Givings, the adult son of one of the Wheeler’s friends who’s suffered a nervous breakdown. He seems to be the only person who agrees with the Wheeler’s Paris scheme for happiness and then explodes when he learns they’ve given them up. Not only is Michael Shannon’s portrayal powerful, his character is perhaps the only one who’s being completely honest about his feelings and opinions. Which just may make you wonder which people should be wearing the straight jackets.

My tweet: Revolutionary Road-Leonardo DiCaprlo & Kate Winslet live in quiet desperation in the 50s suburbs. And they seemed so happy on the Titanic. 8 (out of 10)

“Revolutionary Road”

Released: 2008

Rating: R

Length: 119 minutes

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates, David Harbour

Director: Sam Mendes

Genre(s): Drama, Adaptation, Period

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