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Revolutionary Road (2008)

DVD Cover (DreamWorks)
Genres:
Drama, Marriage Drama, Period Film
Director:
Sam Mendes Sam Mendes
Starring:
Kate Winslet Kate Winslet
Leonardo DiCaprio Leonardo DiCaprio
Christopher Fitzgerald Christopher Fitzgerald
Jonathan Roumie Jonathan Roumie
Neal Bledsoe Neal Bledsoe

7.3 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: January 09, 2009
There was something about that "Revolutionary Road" trailer that just made me all excited - something about the use of music and the intricately woven scenes that made it seem like it was going to be nothing short of phenomenal. I mean, director Sam Mendes is not one for making inadequate films - his resume speaks for itself. And the film is based on a popular book that was equally impressive in its text and dissection of suburban life, something Mendes already tackled once with "American Beauty". And say what you want to about "Titanic", but there are lots of people out there who wanted to see Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet reunite on screen, especially now since they've both become so powerful and so sought after as actors. But there is something missing from "Revolutionary Road" - there is something 'off'. I sat through the film, which is difficult at times, and kept waiting for this one moment that would transform this into the powerful piece of cinema I had hoped it would be. It almost gets there. It reaches for and just misses. There's a lot to admire about this picture, and I'm sure it will win its fair share of awards, but I couldn't help but thing it really went nowhere.

The film is, essentially, about a young suburban couple trying to make their way in the world and how the suburbs and that idyllic life destroys them. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet star as Frank and April Wheeler. Frank works a nothing office job at a corporation in the city, just like his father, and resents every day of it. April stays at home and raises the kids and keeps the house. She wanted to be an actress. He wanted to be anything. They both find themselves living a life they never wanted with people who are not who they thought. One day their next door neighbor and realtor, Helen (Kathy Bates) brings her son, John (Michael Shannon) over for a visit to mean the 'nice, normal' young couple. John has recently been released from an insane asylum where we was given electro-shock treatment, causing some chaotic behavior. John ends up taking his aggression out on the Wheelers, attempting to bring out their innermost fears. At the same time, Frank is screwing around in April with a secretary and April is screwing around on Frank with their next door neighbor (David Harbour). When April has the idea to move the family to Paris, everything becomes exciting and new again. When Frank is offered a promotion, it throws that dream into question and their entire worlds become turned upside down. By the end, the suburbs win and idealism is destroyed.

There is nothing really technically wrong with the film, per se. My problem was that we never came to care about either Frank or April because, when you get down to it, they are both miserable and hurtful human beings. And, with that, it is no surprise to us what happens to them. In that, the film was utterly predictable. I felt like the characters of Helen Givings and John Givings were unnecessary and held no significance on the film. You could have taken their scenes out and this story would have played out the exact same way. Michael Shannon has been getting a lot of buzz for his two-scene role here, but I thought his character was useless and the performance was too much. His character basically did nothing but explain to us what we already knew. We see Frank and April have this huge argument. Somehow, because he's had electro-shock, John knows exactly what is going on and basically screams at them both telling them exactly what they just did and said - exactly what we just saw. We don't need to be told the same thing over and over again and we certainly don't need any more screaming in addition to what we're already being given. Plus, I need to mention - it bothered me that the kids kept popping up and then disappearing. How do they have such miserable lives when they obviously don't have to take any responsibility for their own children?

All of that said, DiCaprio and Winslet are quite good here. Their scenes together sizzle with chemistry and they are both very strong with these roles. I just felt like I was being given scene after scene after scene of the same old thing. I was left with the feeling that DiCaprio was so insecure and so paranoid that he would destroy himself and that Winslet was so insane and so demented that she should be locked up. It's weird to say, but I thought they gave amazing performances in terrible roles. My favorite scene between them comes immediately after John and his family have left for the last time and their argument blows up like never before, ending with a 'chase scene' through the woods. This brings about an ending, however, that is predictable and benign. I was expecting the film to end that way and I wanted to be surprised. The whole film seemed to be about how young love can't survive the traditional family dynamic. The whole film seemed to be about how attempting to buck the system will lead to misery. I wanted to see more about why these two individuals hated each other, or didn't, or whatever. I didn't want to see scene after scene of this poor pitiful young people being driven to madness by shrubbery and day jobs and cooking scrambled eggs. Neither of them seemed bad off and I never really understood what they had to be so miserable about.

This was definitely one of my bigger disappointments of the year. Sam Mendes is usually always a hit with me, but I think he missed the mark here. I noticed several of those trademark "American Beauty" moments that popped up here and there, but those definitely belonged in "American Beauty" and not here. I read one review of the film that called it 'difficult to watch' and 'impossible to sit through', and I would almost tend to agree. There is so much screaming and so much fist shaking and misery that you eventually become immune to it and just want silence. When Kate Winslet was pleading with Leonardo DiCaprio to leave her alone, we were hoping he would. And maybe the whole ploy with this film was to make the audience uncomfortable and really make us hate these characters, but you cannot have us dislike characters so thoroughly and then expect an ending like that to mean anything. "Revolutionary Road" is a real waste of ideas that could have gone somewhere. It's like all the ingredients were there for this elaborate cake, except someone forgot to add flour. It's like I kept waiting and waiting on this 'something' to happen and it never did. I don't feel cheated so much as I feel like its trailer wrote a check that its content couldn't cash. It's a real shame.

5/10.
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Tristan #1: Tristan - added 01/09/2009, 03:02 AM
It's a damn shame. I was looking forward to Titanic 2. I'm still going to have to check it out though.
Tristan #2: Tristan - added 06/14/2009, 02:59 PM
I wanted to like this one. The trailers looked promising, and I was hoping for some more of that on-screen chemistry between the two lead actors. Unfortunately this one fell flat. The story was good, but it lacked the emotional charge I was looking for. I think this might be the first time I've seen DiCaprio be less than good, as well. He was a little bland. Even Winslett didn't seem too particularity interesting. All in all, a pretty big letdown.

5/10
Lucid Dreams #3: Lucid Dreams - added 03/05/2010, 11:01 PM
Didn't care for this one either. I'm going to agree with you 100% on the caring factor of the characters on here. Why should you feel sorry for people that do this to themselves? 4/10
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