Revolutionary Road


Director: Sam Mendes

Starring: Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates

What’s it about? The Wheelers, Frank and April, are a young couple living in clean cut ’50s suburbia who decide to move to Paris in search of a more exciting life, but unfortunately not everything goes to plan.

Jack and Rose, oops...Frank and April in happier times

Jack and Rose, oops...Frank and April in happier times

This is another tale of suburban secrets, masked by the oh-so-perfect image which American suburbia displays, a topic much exploited in recent years but certainly brought to prominence in Mendes’ American Beauty. Mendes’ films since then have not gained the same level of admiration so it’s no surprise really that he chose to return to Beauty’s general theme in Revolutionary Road. He also had the ability to team Winslet with DiCaprio, a pairing that seemed to guarantee audience numbers.

Winslet and DiCaprio are not a great match but it does work on some levels; DiCaprio, while still too young to convincingly pull off the bread-winning husband role, at least fills the criteria for being the softer spouse, unable to fulfill his his wife’s needs and demands. Winslet’s character is a stark contrast, often cold and almost always the stronger of the two. At times, their scenes together seem quite theatrical, a fact promoted by the dialogue (April to Frank: “You’re the most beautiful and wonderful thing in the world. You’re a man!” Oh please). The best scenes tend to be those in which the pair argue and let their emotions fly, a relief from their constant need to portray a polished family image.

The supporting roles are brilliantly cast, with Michael Shannon showing up even the principal actors in a memorable turn as a neighbour, Helen Giving’s (Kathy Bates’) mentally unstable son. His fierce temper and brutal honesty tear at the Wheelers’ happy disguise. Visually, the film is a joy to watch thanks to the elegant ’50s fashions and the beautiful settings; two particularly impressive scenes are that of April in a smoky dance hall with her admiring neighbour, and also the scenes in the woodland area near the Wheeler’s home,  an area which allows April in particular a means of escape from the stifling neighbourhood.

It is April, moreso than Frank, who is the subject of this film, and her constant need to supress her true feelings is reminiscent of Angelina Jolie’s role in The Changeling, a testament to the ‘hysterical woman’ of yesteryear, wherein any trouble stirred up by a woman could be put down to ‘female hysteria’.  Given this, and the other issues raised in Revolutionary Road, it is a movie that will stay with you for some time after viewing it, and which can lead to plenty discussion. Yet, with Thomas Newman’s score hanging over this tale of smothered suburban life, the comparisons to American Beauty are rife, and due to Beauty being the first and the better film, Revolutionary Road’s ability to shock and amaze us is smothered also.

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2 thoughts on “Revolutionary Road

  1. Good point regarding “yesteryear”, as I felt in some ways the film resembled a kind of dark and twisted take on the old Douglas Sirk melodramas of the fifties… a bit like Far From Heaven except less explicitly homage and veering more into misery and cynicism.

    Also agree on the casting – Shannon is excellent but DiCaprio is just one of those guys that looks too young for a lot of parts, regardless of whether or not he is. (See also Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain – wearing a different shirt and a tache just doesn’t make him 20 years older)

    As for the “you’re a man!” quote… I couldn’t help it, but I laughed out loud when she said that. Thankfully I was not alone, as numerous other folks in the cinema seemed to feel it was just as cringeworthy. Even George Lucas wouldn’t have written that.

    Really liked it and would much rather have seen some Oscar love for this than The Reader. That’s the way it goes I guess. One of my local cinemas has now scheduled their weekly double bill for this week as this film partnered with American Beauty, so it seems we’ll get the chance to see how your comparison works out when they’re stacked right on top of each other!

  2. Oh yeah that’s an interesting thing; to make AB and RR a double feature. Only thing is, you’ll be humming Thomas Newman’s tunes for weeks to come! I have yet to see the Reader so I can’t really comment on whether RR should have deserved a nomination over this.

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