Thursday, 29 January 2009

Revolutionary Road: Movie Review

Revolutionary Road: Movie Review

Rating 7/10
Cast: Kate Winslet, Leonardo di Caprio, Kathy Bates, Michael Shannon
Director: Sam Mendes
1955 American suburbia.
Winslet and di Caprio are the April and Frank Wheeler; married and apparently happy within Revolutionary Road and middle America.
The pair have chosen a life away from the city and are living in the Conneticut suburbs raising two children and conforming to the norms of what's expected of the time.
April is a home maker, who aspires to be an actress despite what some of her peers think of her acting; Frank heads to the city everyday, joining the rest of the cattle commute, to work and provide for his family.
One day, April realizes enough is enough and she tells Frank they need to get away to Paris (the one place he says he's always loved) to feel like they're living again.
However, while Frank's initially in favour of the idea, he changes his mind after his workplace recognizes his talents and promotes him&..
Can the couple pull together and pursue their dream - or will the reality of escaping crush them for good?
We've all seen this façade of suburban happiness before - specifically it's de rigeur in TV2's Desperate Housewives (returning soon).
But Revolutionary Road, as well as seeing the first pairing of di Caprio and Winslet since Titanic, is a bit more than that.
Director Sam Mendes sets up a view of life which is too perfect by far - but right from the get go, there's always this hint that underneath the suburban façade, there lies a bubbling simmering tension which borders on resentment.
The first time we see April and Frank, it's cut between their initial meeting and an argument over whether April can act - for every moment of happiness, there's a psychotic outburst awaiting around the corner. Each of them is engaged in some kind of affair - and neither is happy all of the time - or indeed any of the time.
And that's one of the problems of adapting this 1961 novel by Richard Yates - most of the time it borders on kitchen sink melodrama, albeit of the darkest kind.
There are some nice touches - Michael Shannon's character John Givings, while having less than 15 minutes in total of the 2 hour running time, makes an immediate impact on the story.
His institutionalised character is brought under the Wheeler's wing by April's friend (and realtor) Helen (Kathy Bates) as she looks to them for guidance and because they appear the perfect happy couple.
However, John is the only one who can see exactly what is going on in the Wheeler's marriage and how they're falling apart - the scene when he comes round for dinner is electrifying as everyone tries to keep a grip on reality.
Ultimately, Revolutionary Road is a dark piece about the point at which the reality of a dream sets in and at what point does the panic of pursuing that dream - when the Wheelers announce to friends what their plans are, they're scorned and almost ostracised as they've expressed something different to what's expected.
Winslet gives a terrific and tragic performance as April; di Caprio at times simply appears to have tantrums like a spoilt teenager when handling angry outbursts.

Revolutionary Road is a dark, sullen and moody piece and one which it's easy to see why Winslet got a Golden Globe for her thanks to her subtle characterization.

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