Revolutionary Road (2008)
Reviewed on 2010 May 16
When Sam Mendes looks at American families that are falling apart or otherwise don’t tick, I think it’s even more interesting when he frames them in a specific time in history. American Beauty could have happened almost any decade in Your Town, USA, but Road to Perdition was set in the Prohibition, and this was a painful look at a miserable couple circa Levittown. The acting was wonderful but this didn’t have the bits of sly humor of Beauty or intensity of Perdition and was harder to get through, since it seemed like 120 minutes of navel-gazing.
Frank and April Wheeler (Leonardo DeCaprio and Kate Winslet) are a Charming Couple, on the surface anyway, with two adorable children and a pretty house on Revolutionary Road. Both of them are miserable in their consumerist existence, and the first problem is they seem to take it out on each other: easy enough to do in the best of marriages but painful to watch nonetheless. The other problem is for all his purported itching to get out of the humdrum straight-jacketed life depicted here, Frank is tempted by the perks, financial and otherwise, of the job he hates. April, bored out of her mind as suburban housewife, just wants out.
This was based on the novel; and I think one issue was the characters seemed to fall apart so quickly due to the time constraints of the movie that it was hard to empathize fully with them, and some of the peripheral characters were almost clichés. Many parts of the movie it almost seemed like the Wheelers were yelling at each other about nothing, even though I know that’s not true. Mendes was excellent at telegraphing the general conformity of the era, though: when April comes up with an unconventional plan to change their lives, the reactions of the neighbors are priceless. I also think the ending was one of the most poignant things I’ve seen in a while.
Two chocolate morsels and a highball.