The Wheelers (Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet), a young couple living in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-1950s, have a nice suburban life with two little children. But the bland ordinariness of their lives is unsatisfactory and they decide to move to Paris, even though it means she will have to work as a secretary at some international agency, and he can work out what he wants to do in life. But just as they are about to up and move, circumstances change and their troubled relationship is thrown further into disarray.
Review by Louise Keller:
An exploration of hopes and expectations, this persuasive adaptation of Richard Yates's novel touches all the nerves. It is the story of a young married couple in the 50s whose every day reality leaves them floundering in bewilderment as they are faced with the realisation of opportunities lost, and worst of all, the possibility that the decisions they have made will take them down a very different road than the one they imagined. Adult themes about conforming and grappling with circumstances form a whirlwind of angst. Love, hate and resentment make for confronting emotions as Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet join forces again for the first time since Titanic and deliver potent and haunting performances that zing with truth.
It's a relationship that begins with hope and laughter but soon finds itself sliding on a slippery slope. She aspires to be an actress; he wants to feel things, even though he may not know exactly what they are. Together they believe they can conquer the world. When they buy their little white house on Revolutionary Road, its name seems symbolic. But life in the suburbs of Connecticut with two small children and a boring job at a time when women are expected to stay at home is far from easy and relationships are strained. Winslet's April senses what is happening to their relationship, and comes up with a daring master plan to move to Paris, hoping it will enable them to run away from the hopeless emptiness that has swallowed them up. DiCaprio's Frank wants to talk; April wants to think and there are plenty of naysayers around them, including their well-meaning neighbours (Kathryn Hahn, David Harbour), to unsettle the nerves. The scenes in which Kathy Bates' busybody local real estate agent ('things can just get the better of us') brings her psychiatrically troubled son John Givings (Michael Shannon) to the Wheelers' home are perhaps the film's most disturbing. During his first visit, Frank and April, who have just embraced their Paris fantasy, are on John's wavelength, but the subsequent visit, when plans have changed, tells quite another story. His blunt observations have more than a ring of truth about them.
Director Sam Mendes creates a tangibly stifled tone throughout the film as Frank and April reach breaking point. There are infidelities on both sides - one is an act of boredom, the other one of desperation. They both leave lasting impressions to those around them, of which they are blissfully unaware. Revolutionary Road is a devastatingly sad tale of a marriage in distress and one in which the lines of communication find themselves in disarray. It is an involving film that disturbs on the deepest levels as tensions mount, words ricochet like bullets and actions speak louder than words.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
One of the advantages of adapting a novel to the screen is the rich texture and deep veins of material to be found in the book, and this work is a great example of that. Skilfully adapted and superbly directed, the film is an emotional tornado, delivered with exceptional performances from not only the two leads but the entire cast.
If you were to ask what's the film about, the answer would have to be that it's about a marriage and its ructions. This seems to defy the golden rule of filmmaking, that a film must have a strong story. But it does have a strong story, just not in the expected sense of American storytelling, where 'action' is the driving force. It is in that respect more like a British drama, where 'character' is the driving force. Characters and how they interact, how they crash into each other, how they stumble and reconcile, often through arbitrary decisions, fear, mistakes and stupidity. None of us really knows what we're doing in this life, hoping to make connections with those we have chosen, or those that have been chosen for us, in the case of families.
Novelist Richard Yates takes the writer's microscope to a set of characters and displays them to us through a tangle of emotional wires. It's as rich as a fruitcake, as explosive as the brandy poured on it.
DiCaprio and Winslet pour their hearts into their characters, in two of the year's most incendiary performances, baring their hearts and souls in a bruising work. They remind me of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf, that Molotov cocktail of a film that left us crumpled in our seats.
Explosive, too, is Michael Shannon's performance as John, the son of the young couple's real estate agent who visits from a mental institution. His is a performance that will draw comparisons with some of the great character actors in cinema, from Jack Nicholson to Marlon Brando. But let's not forget the writing, on which it is built.
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REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (M)
CAST: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Michael Shannon, Kathryn Hahn, David Harbour, Kathy Bates
PRODUCER: Bobby Cohen, John Hart, Sam Mendes, Scott Rudin
DIRECTOR: Sam Mendes
SCRIPT: Justin Haythe (novel by Richard Yates)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Roger Deakins
EDITOR: Tariq Anwar
MUSIC: Thomas Newman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Kristi Zea
RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: January 22, 2009