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Revolutionary Road (2009)

How do you break free without breaking apart?

Directed by:

Sam Mendes

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 119 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 15

Country: United States

I liked pretending while I was watching Revolutionary Road that Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio were really playing out what would have happened in Titanic if it hadn’t been for that pesky iceberg. Maybe that exposes me as a cynical girl, but here’s the thing—I didn’t necessarily enjoy this film, but I watched it with interest, almost like a horrible car crash. You just know nothing good can come of it, yet you watch to see just how awful it’s going to get.

To all their friends and colleagues, April and Frank Wheeler (Winslet and DiCaprio) are the ideal couple—but behind closed doors, nothing is as it seems. Once passionate and idealistic, now they’re in their early 30s, with Frank locked into a successful but unfulfilling career and April stuck at home raising two kids. But April has an idea—ditch the stifling suburbia that surrounds them and run off to Paris to find their passion again. Thrilled by the prospect at first, reality soon hits, and as the Wheelers’ see their dreams slipping away, they become increasingly desperate to hold on to them any way they can.

Now, when I said “awful” before, I didn’t mean to imply the film is awful—it’s actually quite good. The awful I’m talking about is the awful that becomes of the Wheelers’ lives. Kate and Leo are obviously very comfortable with each other, and all that chemistry they had during that big boat flick is still evident here, only in a reverse Bizarro way—Winslet is getting a lot of well-earned praise, but DiCaprio brings something to Frank that lends him an unexpected sympathy. Their fights are mean and hateful and way melodramatic, which is exactly what you expect from self-absorbed thirtysomethings with dreams of grandeur and nothing to back those dreams up. It takes a special sort of delusion to believe that, though you’re not sure what your talent really IS, somehow you are unique for the simple fact that you KNOW you’re above the droning masses. Characters this focused on themselves are generally hard to relate to, but there’s a familiar desperation that keeps us watching, even when we feel intrusive. Credit goes to director Sam Mendes as well, who harkens back to his classic of family dysfunction, American Beauty, without actually making this a redux (also, as a side note, this movie looks spectacular and should win some sort of Art Direction award). And Michael Shannon, as neighbor home from the loony bin John, may only have less than ten minutes of screen time, but I’d watch him in anything, and his scathing last lines encapsulate the entire film. This isn’t a feel good movie, it’s not a romance, and I have my doubts that the characters ever loved each other even in the beginning, but it’s real and raw.

It's Got: Real fights, Michael Shannon, Great sets.

It Needs: To have gotten the accolades that seem to have gone to The Reader, Not to be seen by unhappy couples.

Summary

It doesn’t leave you feeling particularly optimistic about love, but Revolutionary Road is well acted and directed, and it’s good to see Winslet and DiCaprio together again, even like this.

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2 Comments

  1. Sherri
    Posted August 15, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Kate Winslett’s character’s name was April Wheeler, not Alice.

  2. admin
    Posted August 16, 2009 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Thanks. Corrected accordingly!

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