Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Michael
Shannon, Kathryn Hahn, David Harbour, Kathy Bates
RunTime: 1 hr 59 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: M18 (Some Sexual Scenes)
Official Website: http://www.revolutionaryroadmovie.com/
Soundtrack: Our Review of REVOLUTIONARY ROAD official movie soundtrack
Opening Day: 16 April 2009
Based on the celebrated novel by Richard Yates, director Sam
Mendes' "Revolutionary Road" is the story of a young
couple (Oscar nominees Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet)
trying to find fulfillment in an age of conformity. Trapped
in a world of encoded convention, they dream without faith,
as lies and self-deceptions build to explosive consequences.
Sam Mendes returns to familiar ground with his new movie, based on the critically acclaimed Richard Yates novel about 1950s conformity. Like his Oscar-winning debut American Beauty, Revolutionary Road is about the lives of people trapped in suburbia. But instead of American Beauty’s multitude of characters, there are only two in this movie.
The couple in question are Frank and April Wheeler, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet respectively. When they first meet, she is a beautiful, aspiring actress and he a suave, charismatic gentleman. They are passionate and motivated- each with their own dreams and ambitions they want to fulfil.
Fast forward seven years later and things are not as they should be. April is a struggling actress doing her act in a lousy community theatre, disappointed with her own demise. John is a pencil pusher at Knox Business Machines, the company his father worked. Flat out bored with his job, he resorts to having an affair with the new secretary. Married with two children and living in a Connecticut suburb, it seems their only connection is how suffocated they feel of their lives.
Revolutionary Road is the name of the street on which their supposedly perfect suburban existence stands- though simmering underneath is a cauldron of discontent just waiting to erupt. Slowly but surely, their marriage and their lives begin to fall apart from within. Just as American Beauty therefore, director Sam Mendes juxtaposes the seemingly perfect exterior of their existence with the reality of their internal turmoils.
And certainly, Mendes has a knack for such drama. Working from a screenplay by Justin Haythe, he fleshes out his characters’ concerns and dilemmas. Though set in a dated era, they are in fact no less real than they are today. In Frank and April, Mendes reflects on the choices that we make in our lives, the choices that force us to make sacrifices and then live with them. Through Frank and April, Mendes illuminates the consequences of discontent and disappointment with those choices.
But this would definitely have not been possible without the luminous performances of both DiCaprio and Winslet, the pair teaming up again for the first time since their record-breaking Titanic. Never mind that the couple they play are no longer in the throes of heady, passionate love, DiCaprio and Winslet still deliver powerhouse performances that also reveal the easy chemistry that they share with each other as actors.
As April, Winslet throws herself completely into her role- first as the miserable housewife cum part-time actress and then as the distressed mother who regards her imminent third pregnancy as one more shackle chaining her to the prison of boredom. While subdued at first, DiCaprio’s performance as Frank builds gradually intense when he watches his family breaking apart, a fact made all the more apparent by their blunt, slightly lunatic neighbour (Michael Shannon). And together, DiCaprio and Winslet are simply riveting to watch as they bicker, acquiesce, then bicker yet again.
That said, the movie does possess a certain sense of staginess. Much of what happens takes place in conversations and arguments at the Wheeler’s residence so one can’t help but feel that watching this is akin to watching a play. Nevertheless, Roger Deakins’ beautiful cinematography, especially his use of light and shadows in framing the scenes, manages to add some extra cinematic zest to the material.
The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer once said that the two foes of human happiness are pain and boredom. Quite unfortunately, Frank and April have both- the pain of unaccomplishment and the boredom of their present menial lives. This is their story, and it is by all counts a depressing one. But DiCaprio and Winslet are great actors, and Mendes a masterful director- together they make this journey of Frank and April’s misery a captivating one to sit through.
(DiCaprio and Winslet may have aged 10 years, but they are still as mesmerising to watch)
Review by Gabriel Chong