Richard Yates’ new film Revolutionary Road might be called a suburban distopia, which follows the deterioration of a young couple’s once-enviable relationship. The fifties were a unique time in American history because so many of us think of that era as the time in our country’s history when we were the most morally superior country in the world. The man would go off to work to be the sole bread-winner for his household, and the woman would stay at home all day and raise the kids and do all the chores around the house. It is refreshing when a film comes along and completely shatters the glass around that perception. Todd Haynes’ 2002 film “Far From Heaven” did it and now Sam Mendes’ filmed version of author Richard Yates book Revolutionary Road has come along and done the same thing.
The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as April and Frank Wheeler, a young married couple whose marriage is on the rocks. They are on the verge of a controversial divorce and their love life is always being put in the hands of their respective lovers. Frank works in New York City at an advertising firm, a job that he hates. He dreams of moving away to Paris to start a new life as something better than what he has in suburban America. April is the wife who is willing to do anything to save their marriage. She even indulges Frank’s fantasy of moving away to a foreign country. She goes as far as to consider terminating the pregnancy that she discovers in the middle of the film. As the film continues on, their marriage proceeds to spiral out of control until the final climactic scene where one final argument leads to tragedy. The acting in this film by the two main leads is absolutely outstanding and it begs to question why it wasn’t recognized more by the Academy this year.
Kate Winslet was nominated for “The Reader” this year in the best actress category as opposed to her work in this film which shocked many people. While I’m sure her work in “the Reader” is quite good I find it hard to accept that her work in this film was completely overlooked, but I’m not a member of the academy. The rest of the cast is dynamite as well.
One thing that really gets overlooked by many viewers is how well directed this film really is. Sam Mendes brings his years of experience from the British stage to the screen and the results make this movie feel like a stage play as opposed to just another movie. It is a breath of fresh air and the fact that he is also Kate Winslet’s husband adds a nice layer of realism to the performances that I doubt would be there otherwise.
DiCaprio also does an impressive job as the disenchanted husband who is ready to move away from everything in his life until he is offered a new promotion at his job. He loves his wife but realizes that they have moved too far out of synch with each other for their relationship to be completely salvaged. He shows the audience that he has come a long way from the guy who died in the ice cold water at the end of Titanic and has all but completely obliterated the image of him as a teen idol from movies like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and Growing Pains.
This film does a great job at bringing to light the modern tragedies that plagued people’s marriages in the mid-twentieth century while at the same time showing the viewer that there are still many of the same problems happening in today’s society. The movie does have a few pacing issues. Some of the scenes could go on just a tad bit longer than they do. Otherwise, this is a film that is very much worth locating and watching. Just don’t go see it with a group of friends after a really fun night of bowling.