Films with subjects close to home, dealing with true to life, “real” domestic issues concerning a typical bourgeois family are very rare. Once in a while comes a well-made film in the form “Revolutionary Road”, written by Justin Haythe (based on the novel by Richard Yates) and directed by Sam Mendes.
Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio star (together for the first time after “Titanic”) in this sensitive drama, set in the 50s, that is capable of striking a chord with any married couple. So while the marriage could very well “look” happy: a perfect couple, a well paying job, a nice house, children, the works…and the “bigger picture” seems all hunky dory, can one possibly overlook the seemingly trifle issues, yet ones capable of snowballing into a crisis?
So Frank Wheeler (DiCaprio) works as a sales person with Knox, a job he is clearly tired of and thinks it is simply dull! His father worked there too, incidentally, and Frank never dreamt he would have to step in his father’s shoes, but as fate would have it, Frank has ended up in almost the same position! Perhaps out of this sheer boredom his life brings him, he begins to have the hots for a seemingly naïve young employee, Maureen (Zoe Kazan)….
Then there’s his wife April (Winslet) who always aspired to be an actress but with time, has failed miserably, so she attends to the family and helps around the house like a good housewife. However, she harbours this intense desire to support the family and do something on her own.
A distant memory of her husband mentioning Paris as an ideal place to be, triggers the birth of a brand new plan: to move to Paris where she can get a secretarial job while he can find where his passion lies and indulge in what his heart has always longed for.
Initially reluctant, Frank agrees and April happily starts planning. Are they able to fulfill their Parisian dream and live happily ever after?
“Revolutionary Road” embarks on a rather smooth road as far as story-telling is concerned and we are treated to a highly satisfying piece of cinema that unfolds subtly revealing some surprises on the way. All along its steady running time there is a lot of strong drama revolving around the two central characters that grasps our attention and we get fully engrossed as our hearts go out to the both of them. Once we find ourselves getting involved in their conflicting viewpoints, neither perspective seems out of place or “not right” and it is indeed a very interesting and challenging experience to look at the situation through the husband’s as well as the wife’s eyes! Married couples can instantly relate as they can very well find at least some percentage of an overlap in their own lives and those of the on-screen couple.
There are also some supporting characters like the friendly neighbours, the Campbells (David Harbour and Kathryn Hahn) and their realtor friend Helen Givings (Kathy Bates) and her family, especially her institutionalized son John (Michael Shannon)…all of them are intentionally written with that typical suburban characteristic and can uncannily come across as familiar! You could very well have neighbours like that or even could be them!
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet go all out with their tremendous, heartfelt performances. It is indeed a treat to watch them play these mature characters in a marriage, in comparison to the cheesy romantic couple they portrayed in Titanic. It is a pity neither of these performances were even nominated by the Academy (Apparently, Kate Winslet missed the nomination due to a technical reason regarding rules of nomination. The nomination as well as the award went in the favour of “The Reader” instead!).
Michael Shannon impresses as he delivers a memorable Oscar nominated performance as John, the somewhat mentally challenged mathematician whose mathematical abilities seem to have diminished owing to repeatedly administering electroconvulsive therapy!
Kathryn Hahn, David Harbour, Kathy Bates and Jay O. Sanders do well in their brief roles.
Zoe Kazan, the granddaughter of legendary filmmaker Elia Kazan is extremely cute beyond words, but she doesn’t get to do much except giggle when a tad tipsy and wake up in bed topless after a brief ‘session’ with Frank! One really wishes she was given a more meaty role.
Sam Mendes who debuted with one of the greatest American films, “American Beauty”, impresses with his directing skills after some “alright” attempts like “Jarhead” and “Road to Perdition”. Thomas Newman's score is aptly hypnotic and fits the mood perfectly.
Don’t forget to take a trip down “Revolutionary Road”. Rest assured, it is an entertaining as well as thought-provoking ride that is certainly worth your time.