Revolutionary Road (2008)

3.5 stars

Strong performances pull this drama about a struggling marriage and family together in what feels like a psychoanalysis of our mundane lives.

Dir. Sam Mendes
2008 | USA | Drama | 119 mins | 2.35:1 | English 
M18 (passed clean) for language and some sexual content/nudity

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Michael Shannon
Plot: A young couple living in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-1950s struggle to come to terms with their personal problems while trying to raise their two children.
Awards: Nom. for 3 Oscars – Best Supporting Actor, Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design.
Source: United International Pictures

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream


Review #392

(Reviewed in theatres – first published 12 Apr 2009)

Spoilers: Mild

Sam Mendes’ journey as a film director comes full circle with his latest feature – Revolutionary Road, a motion picture that paints a bleak portrait of the American suburban life; a theme he has explored in his debut Oscar-winning film, American Beauty (1999) before embarking on a creative curve with acclaimed films such as the crime drama Road to Perdition (2002), and the biographical war picture Jarhead (2005).

The British filmmaker returns to what he does best, weaving a story around drama-centric performances that open the window to human nature. Since James Cameron’s Titanic (1997), Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet have embarked on envious, ambitious acting careers, establishing themselves as A-list actors whom are not afraid of tackling demanding dramatic roles.

“If being crazy means living life as if it matters, then I don’t care if we’re completely insane. Do you?”

In Revolutionary Road, they are reunited as the Wheelers, lovers in a marriage which from a blissful start becomes increasingly strained along the way. Their performances are a standout.

Individually, they give commanding displays that are unfortunately not recognized by the Academy. But it is their performances collectively that is more impressive; their screen-friendly chemistry still remains after more than a decade.

The star of the supporting cast is Michael Shannon, whose character John is a recently-discharged-mental-patient-who-obviously-has-not-recovered neighbor whose occasional awkward visits to the Wheelers together with his parents bring more grief and anger than jubilation.

There is a spectacular dramatic set-piece in the second half of the film that pits John against the Wheelers in a furious war of words. Although viewers are able to see it coming, the build-up to the film is extraordinary.

“Who made these rules anyway?”

Prior to John’s visit, the Wheelers have a massively intense quarrel over marital issues which are interrupted by the visitors. Thus, the mood is set brilliantly for an inevitable bitter exchange of words of volcanic proportions.

For almost a decade, Oscar-nominated composer Thomas Newman has had a strong contribution towards the aural look of Mendes’ pictures. In this film, the score is less distinct, but it is no less Mendes-resque.

The last sequence casts a shadow of gloom and offers no glimmer of optimism, which means the film has the potential to end powerfully. However, it is not executed well enough to bring a satisfactory sense of closure to the lives of these people.

Revolutionary Road is like a psychoanalysis of our mundane lives. Well for most of us. While it may not showcase Mendes in top form, the film’s intention is clear and it leaves us with a sour aftertaste: Are we too good for anybody?

Grade: B+




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