Revolutionary Road

"OK"

Revolutionary Road Review


Everyone's cage looks different. April Wheeler's is a plain, white Cape Cod with blood-red shudders that nests atop a manicured lawn in the suburbs. It's not just the house that's holding April down, though. She also feels constrained by her dissatisfied husband, their needy children, and the unfulfilled dreams she left in her wake.

Welcome to Revolutionary Road, the feel-miserable movie of 2008. For their post-Titanic reunion, Kate Winslet and Leonardo Dicaprio have teamed with American Beauty director Sam Mendes (also Winslet's husband) on a dour, shrill adaptation of Richard Yates' respected novel about an unhappy couple steadily sinking in the quicksand of their discontent.

Road takes place in the mid-1950s, where newlyweds Frank (DiCaprio) and April (Winslet) have moved to a prototypical suburban abode on the street of the title. There are multiple meanings to the moniker, of course. Frank and April only agree on the move after promising each other they'll avoid the suburb's trappings. Their cavalier attitude and disdain for societal norms firmly plants them in the free-spirited 1960s, ahead of the curve. Frank even angrily dismisses what he calls this little "trap" in the first of several arguments with April, though he could be referring to suburbia, their marriage, their chosen lifestyle or, most likely, all of the above.

Frank and April are unhappy at the start of Road, and things don't improve. She's a struggling stage actress. At least she has aspirations. Frank has no defined path. He listlessly mopes through workdays at the same faceless company that employed his father for decades. It's heartbreaking how Frank feels so dead at the age of 30. And DiCaprio hangs resentment and defeat on choice lines, as when Frank admits, "Who ever said I was meant to be a big deal, anyway?"

But April suggests a ray of hope. She convinces Frank to pick up and move to Paris with dreams of starting over. April agrees to work so she can support the couple while Frank discovers his "calling." Is this the helping hand Road needs to pull it from its crippling funk?

Mendes would almost have us believe it. One of the director's earliest shots continues to resonate with me weeks after having seen the film. It's Frank, standing in New York's Grand Central Station on the afternoon he has decided to quit his meaningless desk job. As the commuters steadily stream by him, Frank stands still and stares. Freedom dances across DiCaprio's face, and we can almost see an emotional weight being lifted from his shoulders as he realizes, "Their lifestyle, it's not for me."

Foolishly, I believed him -- and the film. I viewed this sequence as an exit sign beckoning Frank, a means to a better end. But Road chooses bitter over better. Before they can escape their straightjacket of a life, Frank is tempted with a promotion, April gets pregnant with their third child, and these distractions become hooks that sink into their flesh and ground them in their sad reality. The film sheds happiness in favor of a cynical, treacherous slog toward anger, resentment, fear, loathing, and death (in both literal and figurative senses).

Appealing to a melancholic crowd isn't a problem. Many choose to see films that make them feel empty and sad, and Revolutionary Road scorches with the intensity of malaise, and the resentment that entrapment can trigger.

But like so many awards-baiters this year -- from Milk to Doubt -- it is an acting showcase that suffers from narrative shortcomings. Plus, I never once forgot that DiCaprio and Winslet were acting (with a capital "A") in these discontented roles. Still, it's not often you see someone call DiCaprio out, going toe-to-toe with the versatile performer and often winning the upper hand. No, not Winslet. I'm talking about Michael Shannon, who decimates scenery as the brutally honest and off-his-rocker son of a local realtor played by Kathy Bates. Shannon is the mirror that turns the miserable truth of Frank and April's existence back on them, and he's a bright spot in this otherwise turgid, depressing drama.

On a side note, Road does offer a brief insight into the ups-and-downs of a film critic's daily cycle. Those of us who watch films thrive on anticipation. We obsess over trailers, absorb almost every preview, and comment on projects both pending and playing. But the cycle can be vicious. Sometimes we have such high hopes. And it hurts when those expectations aren't met. Sadly, Road reminds me how, in 120 minutes, a picture can go from "I can not wait to see that" to "I never want to see that again."

You say you want a revolution? Well I want breakfast.



Revolutionary Road

Facts and Figures

Run time: 119 mins

In Theaters: Friday 23rd January 2009

Box Office USA: $22.9M

Box Office Worldwide: $75.2M

Budget: $35M

Distributed by: Paramount Vantage

Production compaines: DreamWorks SKG, Scott Rudin Productions, BBC Films, Neal Street Productions, Evamere Entertainment, Goldcrest Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Fresh: 138 Rotten: 66

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Producer: David M. Thompson, , Henry Fernaine

Starring: as Frank Wheeler, as April Wheeler, as John Givings, as Shep Campbell, as Milly Campbell, as Mrs. Helen Givings, as Maureen Grube, as Jack Ordway, Jay O. Sanders as Bart Pollock, as Jennifer Wheeler, as Michael Wheeler, as Ed Small, as Howard Givings

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.