Runtime: 1 hr 58 min
MPAA Rating: R
Director: Sam Mendes
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Michael Shannon, Zoe Kazan, David Harbour, Kathryn Hahn
"Revolutionary Road" packs a powerful punch.
Review by: MiamiMovieCritic
Added: 8 years ago
"What terrible tragedies realism inflicts on people."
I saw Sam Mendes' Revolutionary Road more than 5 months ago, and it still burns in the memory. It was not universally acclaimed - some thought Mendes' directing style was too antiseptic - but for those who were on the film's wavelength, this was an unforgettable viewing experience made powerful by the fearlessness of its performances and the devastating implications of its plot.
Based on the first book by Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road is set in the 1950s and concerns a young couple named Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April Wheeler (Kate Winslet). Remember that shot in the trailer where DiCaprio and Winslet are arguing outside his car? That's one of the FIRST SCENES in the movie! Mendes wastes no time pulling the wool over our eyes - he lays out, in the most graphic terms possible, the myriad ways in which marriage can be a desperate, embittered experience.
Frank works at an advertising agency (there are echoes of AMC's Mad Men throughout), while April is a stay-at-home mom who hasn't entirely given up on her dreams of becoming an actor. They live in the suburbs. By being self-aware and staying interested in things like art and culture, they think they can live above it all and avoid turning into homogenized zombies. April hatches an escape plan - they'll move to France, where she'll get a job and he'll stay at home with the kids, leaving him free to pursue his creative interests. Frank agrees at first but soon starts to question the practicality of it all, and April turns on him, becoming cold and vindictive.
This story provides the basis for two of the most amazing performances of 2008. Three, actually. I think it's a joke that Winslet won Best Actress for The Reader and wasn't even nominated for this. The Reader is not a film I consider to be Oscar material, and she's never been better than she is here. Same goes for DiCaprio. He's given great performances before (especially as the mentally handicapped Arnie in What's Eating Gilbert Grape), but he's never left himself so open and vulnerable. Reunited for the first time since Titanic, these two are so alive onscreen. And they're upstaged, in a few key scenes, by Michael Shannon, the only performer in the film to get a hugely deserved Oscar nod. Shannon plays John Givings, a mathematical genius who's spent some time in the loony bin, and who sees so deeply into Frank and April's lives he's able to willfully sow the seeds of their destruction. Shannon's scenes are the acting equivalent of a Sam Raimi horror-comedy.
With this film, Sam Mendes has returned to the movies with the force of a Category 5 hurricane. American Beauty gets a lot of love, and rightly so (it's on a number of my Facebook friends' lists of their favorite movies), but the director didn't quite live up to its promise with Road to Perdition and Jarhead (while continuing to do stellar work in the theater, of course). But he's definitely back; his upcoming film, an offbeat comedy called Away We Go, is supposed to be terrific. He's a master at wringing out stinging performances and precise images, and in Revolutionary Road he's made a film of extraordinary feeling and impact. Only until the third act do we realize we've been watching one of the greatest domestic horror movies since The Shining.