Review by Jack Foley
LEONARDO DiCaprio has said that his on-screen reunion with Titanic co-star Kate Winslet had to be different thematically from their last movie. So, as opposed to star-crossed lovers attempting to negotiate the impossible, they play a man and a woman trapped in a failing marriage and desperate for escape.
Revolutionary Road is therefore a frequently gruelling experience that ultimately depresses more than it inspires. As with his Oscar-winning breakthrough American Beauty, director Sam Mendes takes a look at the erosion of the American dream.
It’s 1955 and young married couple Frank (DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) Wheeler have become suffocated by their hum-drum suburban life. Frank is trapped in a job he hates, April is struggling to be the good mother and wife at home, and they argue frequently.
Redemption, of sorts, lies in the fulfilment of the Wheelers’ dream move to Paris, which represents the chance of a new start for them, but as friends, neighbours and work colleagues express doubt, the Wheelers find themselves facing a make or break decision.
Based on the acclaimed novel by Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road is a supremely well made and well acted affair that’s somehow still difficult to completely like.
While certainly interesting characters whose flaws are all too real, Frank and April are a painful, often spiteful couple to be around. Their problems, too, may resonate a little too closely with some viewers.
Hence, audiences in search of another sweeping romance featuring Leo and Kate may find themselves utterly depressed by the final outcome.
If, however, you’re a fan of Yates’ novel, then you can’t help but admire the way Justin Haythe has faithfully adapted the screenplay, while Mendes draws awards-calibre performances from just about everyone involved.
Most eyes will be on DiCaprio and Winslet, who dutifully step up to the challenge of making Frank and April a doomed couple we can still vaguely root for in places. Their pain and frustration is abundantly clear throughout the film, occasionally erupting in several volatile exchanges.
But strong, too, are the likes of Kathy Bates, as a nosy, opinionated neighbour, and an Oscar nominated Michael Shannon, as her mentally unstable son.
Mendes’ direction evokes the spirit of the period well, yet is predominantly unshowy and more about letting the actors perform. He refrains from employing the sarcastic wit of American Beauty, thereby making this latest glimpse into the fading American dream appear all the more real.
Given the chilling repercussions of its outcome, it means the film will stay with you for some time afterwards… even though it may leave you feeling emotionally cold.
Revolutionary Road, for all its star power, is a film to be appreciated more than enjoyed.
Running time: 119mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: June 29, 2009
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Leonardo DiCaprio interview
- Kate Winslet interview
- Revolutionary Road - UK Premiere Gallery
- Read our preview