365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Revolutionary Road (2008)

Leonardo DiCaprio (Gangs of New York, The Departed) and Kate Winslet (The Reader, Little Children) reunite for the first time since they smashed the box office record as Jack and Rose in 1997's Titanic. Revolutionary Road too is a love story, but it's a story about a couple falling out of love rather than falling in love. Both are superb in this movie. It is easy to identify with each of their characters. And while Winslet and especially DiCaprio are at the top of there game, they are overshadowed by two scene stealing scenes involving Michael Shannon, (Before the Devil Knows Your Dead, Take Shelter) the mentally unstable son of their real estate agent and friend Helen (Kathy Bates - Misery, Dolores Claiborne) and her husband. Michael has no filter between his brain and his mouth and thus tells anyone and everyone exactly what is thinking at any given moment. This is not a good thing as Michael's outlook on life and people in general is as pessimistic as one can be. This creates moments of intensified drama resulting in unfiltered anger. Rightfully so, Shannon was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award (the award went to Heath Ledger for his role as The Joker in The Dark Knight), even though he was on the screen for a total time of less than 15 minutes.

Based on Richard Yates's novel of the same name, Sam Mendes's (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) movie depicts DiCaprio and Winslet are Frank and April Wheeler, an outwardly happy couple living in Connecticut during the 1950's. They seemingly have everything. They are young. They are both good looking. They have two kids. A boy and a girl. They live in a beautiful house that their neighbors envy. He has a well paying job. She is pursuing a career in acting. They are friends with everyone and seem to have the best life. Inwardly, however, they are both miserable. Frank hates everything about his job. April has realized her acting career is a lost cause after the film's opening scene, a play at the town theater that not only turns out to be a complete flop, but it was so bad that every single person in the audience as well as on stage knows it. But as dissatisfied they are with their jobs, they are even more dissatisfied with each other. They loathe each other. They loathe each other in different ways and for different reasons. There are two flashback scenes in the movie. One is of Frank and April meeting for the first time (this is actually the first scene of the movie more than it is a flashback) and the second of the married being shown the house on Revolutionary Road for the first time). But the time strapped Mendes took a chance by not showing the joy Frank and April once shared or the progression of the couple's dissatisfaction with one another. Rather he drops us right into their miserable lives and hopes that we will be captivated by it. And boy are we.

Revolutionary Road doesn't hold back in trying to show Mendes's vision of the emptiness of suburban life. Though they treat their two young children well, we never get the feeling that neither parent really loves the children the way a parent should love their children. The actual use of the son and daughter in the movie was quite interesting. They are rarely on screen and don't really seem to be a cause of their dissension. Frank chooses to deal with his lack of intimacy by having an affair with a younger woman at his work. April deals with it by dreaming. She has a plan for the family to change their lives completely and move to Paris. While Frank laughs at the idea at first, she eventually wins him over by telling him that she would be able to work while he tries to find a career that he is passionate about. The thought of living a life that allows him to to escape his dreadful job has Frank hopeful for the first time in a long time. April's persuasive speech that includes that quote  “Don’t you know? You’re the most beautiful and wonderful thing in the world! You’re a man!” wins Frank over and soon he's telling his colleagues he is quitting. He drafts a message to his boss's boss who interprets the meaning differently than how it was intended and offers Frank a promotion in the company along with a speech about life. This, coupled with April's unplanned pregnancy, soon crushes the Wheeler's dream of moving to France. Or does it? April tells Frank she would much rather have an abortion in still move away than continue living her mundane, melancholy life. Frank is left with a decision to make. Should he take the job and raise the child as he is expected to do or continue to believe in April's idealistic/foolish dream of trying to carve out a piece of happiness.

Revolutionary Road doesn't offer the dark humor that American Beauty offers. Including attempts at humor would not only damper, but wreck, the painfully unsettling mood created by the full throttle shouting matches and the softer, more horrific despair. The only time when we are less comfortable than when Frank and April are raging the most disparaging words at one another is the awkward silence and molasses like tension that exists between them when they are halfheartedly trying to reconcile. This is not the feel-good movie of the year. It is ominous and nerve-wrecking at the same time. As the movie approaches its climax, you know it's not going to end well. Your thoughts turn from how is it going to end for Frank and April to how badly is it going to end for Frank and April.

Plot 10/10
Character Development 9/10
Character Chemistry 9.5/10
Acting 9.5/10
Screenplay 9/10
Directing  10/10
Cinematography 9/10
Sound 9/10
Hook and Reel 9/10
Universal Relevance 9/10 (some believe life in the 1950's to best decade in our country's history to raise a family. This movie proves that it wasn't as great as many in our generation believe)



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