REVOLUTIONARY ROAD ***
Living is hard. Marriage is harder.
In 1955, gorgeous blonde APRIL WHEELER (the magnificent KATE WINSLET) and her equally attractive husband FRANK (the impressive LEONARDO DiCAPRIO) languish in the Connecticut suburbs like they’re living out the ends of their last days.
They are still young, vital and lovely to look at. But they feel like they’ve been through the worst hardship and devastating grief.
They wed with such high hopes and brimming excitement. April and Frank were deeply in love. But stuck in their perfect little house, what they found was despair, loneliness, sexual dysfunction and desolation.
They feel stifled by the time period and the roles that they are expected to play. April dreams of being a serious actor. But she has two children to raise.
Frank swore he would never work for his father’s firm or become like him. Now, at 30, he commutes into glamorous Manhattan on a regular basis. Every weekday morning Frank walks through the door of his parent’s office. It feels just like death to him.
When Frank met April, he had just returned from Paris. She thought he was the most fascinating man she’d ever spoken to.
Outwardly, these great looking upper middle class people appear to have the quintessential dream life – a truly enviable existence.
Revolutionary Road is where April and Frank live. It’s not utopia or a seductive fantasy.
It’s hell on earth. Or at least it seems that way to this man and woman enmeshed in utter misery.
April is strong and she can hold her own. But the sadness and terrible pain are readily apparent in her deep ocean green eyes.
She has been unhappily defined by marriage and motherhood. But she wishes fervently that she could have made actual choices for herself instead of having life continue to happen to her.
Everywhere she turns there are barriers to her contentment and satisfaction that she never created. It’s much worse for her than it is for Frank. A glittering artistic career is far beyond her reach now. Frank works at a job he hates to support her, the children and their lifestyle.
But at least he’s working, getting out of the house and making money. She feels like it’s all over for her.
When things seem especially dire, April devises a scenario that may actually be their salvation. She tells Frank that she wants to move to Paris. They can rediscover themselves there. Get back to basics. Build a new life.
Frank is initially nervous. But then he realizes that this might be exactly what they need.
Then April discovers that she’s pregnant again…and their world comes crashing down.
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD has the most harrowingly vicious arguments between people that are romantically involved since MIKE NICHOL’S CLOSER.
April and Frank’s fights are debilitating, harsh and wounding. You rarely see that kind of raw intensity on film. It is savagely recognizable in its realism.
The screenplay is an adaptation of the RICHARD YATES novel.
It has a rather unfocused narrative. SAM MENDES is a brilliant director. But his previous films (AMERICAN BEAUTY, ROAD TO PERDITION) are far superior.
The major strength of this flawed but interesting motion picture is the acting. KATHY BATES is an exceptional performer. She plays a talkative, rather ridiculous real estate agent named HELEN GIVINGS. For the very first time, she was rather mannered and annoying.
Her mentally ill son JOHN (MICHAEL SHANNON) is the only person willing to sympathize with April and Frank. He understands and he speaks the truth – for limited periods of time.
Though LEO has been exceptional before (principally in THE DEPARTED), he gives his most rich, mature, adult performance. His glorious subtlety is definitely superior to almost anything he’s done before.
But KATE is the unquestionable revelation. She soars to astonishing new heights. Ms. Winslet has always been exceptionally talented. But in this motion picture, she is filled with unstoppable brilliance.
There is a galvanizing scene that makes Kate’s acting one of the most unforgettable tour de forces of the new century.
April sits in a booth in a nightclub with their friend Shep. Frank has taken Shep’s wife home. You sense that there has always been a spark between Shep and April. He clearly adores her. It’s written all over him.
April is smoking. She’s wearing a gorgeous form fitting halter dress. The tension in her is building. She’s like a lean, hungry tiger in a cage. Her boldness is growing and she’s getting ready to burst free. She wants to turn the world on a dime.
Suddenly she looks at Shep decisively and walks out onto the floor. “Let’s do it,” she tells him. You know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is much more on her mind than dancing.
Some scenes are seared into memory. It’s such a horrible waste of youth and beauty. People search for happiness and fulfillment their entire lives.
But the American dream is a facade that ultimately has no meaning.
April and Frank understood this eventually. Tragically, their fragile comprehension came much too late to save them.
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is bleak, brutal and melancholy. But its heightened sense of glorious nostalgia haunts you for days on end.