Title: Revolutionary Road (2008)
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kathy Bates, Michael Shannon
Sam Mendes’s American Beauty (1999) is one of my favorite films ever because it is so brutally honest about what constitutes a marriage and family life when it’s on its last wheels. What happens when monotony destroys a marriage? When people are living together, but not happy with each other? When boredom takes life and aims to destroy it? Apart from being a really beautiful looking film, it explores ugly areas of life. Revolutionary Road is similar in this sense. It is a very honest exploration of the roles that men and women take once they decide to join their lives “forever”. You guys and gals out there thinking about tying the knot might want to give this movie a watch before doing so!
When you think twice about going home...its time to reconsider!
Revolutionary Road tells the story of Frank and April, a couple which has been married for seven years. Frank works a boring office job which he hates and April is a housewife trying to make it as an actress. Frank isn’t happy with his job, but he is willing to stay with it because he has a family to support and he has essentially accepted his lot in life. He isn’t really looking for a big change. April on the other hand is frustrated with her acting, her plays aren’t that good and it seems like the career she dreamed of as an actress is dying a slow death. April decides that the best way to save her marriage is by moving to Paris! She’s trying her best to convince Frank of going, but Frank doesn’t really have his heart in going. Is moving to Paris really the solution that their marriage needs? Or is something else needed to bring resolution to this dilemma?
So far, it seems like Sam Mendes’s mission in his filmmaking career is to explore family life. But not from an idealistic point of view like so many movies and sitcoms tend to portray. Mendes seems determined to explore the dark and ugly side of family like that so many people tend to ignore or want to hide. He did it in American Beauty and he did it in Away We Go (2009) as well, though that one is a much lighter film, it still explores that moment in life when a couple is about to have a child, and the problems and questions that arise when that moment comes. American Beauty is a film about family life from the point of view of a man who is very unsatisfied with his family life. His sex life is dead, he is disconnected from his daughter and he is looking for a change, most of the film sticks to the male point of view through the character of Lester Burnham as played by an amazing Kevin Spacey. On Revolutionary Road Sam Mendes aims his guns once again at marriage but the interesting thing about Revolutionary Road is that it doesn’t take sides; it explores marriage from both perspectives, the male and the female point of view.
This film asks the question: is married life really what you want?
So I enjoyed that about the film, it doesn’t really take sides. What it does do is explore the themes from the point of view of both of the main characters, the wife and the husband. Because of this, we will have moments in the film when Frank (the husband) will go into an extended discussion about what he thinks, and then we will get April (the wife) saying her say in the matter as well with equal amounts of passion. I thought this was great! Since this is a film about problems that arise in marriage when both parties aren’t happy with each other, most of the film is essentially one big fight. The film focuses on these key moments when characters are deeply dissatisfied with each other and the way their lives are going. It focuses on those specific moments when both parties simply can’t take it anymore and have to voice their feelings on the matter. You know, this movie is all about when no matter who’s feelings get hurt, things are said. In my opinion this is really the best way to go. When it comes to relationships, its best to say what you really feel instead of just trying to be nice to each other. Why not just say what you feel instead of hiding things away and hope they will go away? The film also explores this angle of the matter. Why can’t people simply say what they truly feel when it comes to a relationship? This is why I found the character that Michael Shannon plays extremely interesting.
Michael Shannon shines playing the role of John Givings, a character who suffers from deeply antisocial behavior and has just been released from psychiatric ward because of this. The cool thing about this character is that he is unflinchingly honest! The filmmakers used this “crazy” character to say the honest truth about things, which I loved. Filmmakers will do this a lot; they use the character that seems crazy to say what they really want to say about things. It’s that old idea that says that when everybody thinks one way, and you are the only one who thinks the other way, well, you are labeled as crazy. But does that really mean you are crazy or wrong? Not in the least, it just means you are in the minority. This is the case with John Givings. A guy who has no problem whatsoever with saying things the way they really are, which is what the majority of people don’t like to do. So he is labeled as nuts. Imagine if you could say anything you thought about anything without fear of repercussions and this is essentially who this character is. One night he gets invited to Frank and April’s home for dinner…little do they know the amounts of honesty that will be lambasted upon them once this guys tongue gets going! I thought this character was a great tool on the filmmakers part to tell these characters what they don’t dare say to each other.
Michael Shannon is one of the highlights of the picture
One look at the poster and one might get the idea that this is another film in which Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet fall in love, after all, the poster makes it look like it will be a love story. In reality, the marketing campaign was simply trying to cash in on audiences memory of the two actors falling in love in James Cameron’s Titanic (1997). Hell, even finding picks for this movie where the characters were angry (which is closer to what this film is about) was difficult! Most of the pics available have Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet smiling and staring at each other as if this film was all about that. Truth is this movie is the furthest thing from love there is! It is not a romantic film at all, in reality, this is a film about two characters falling out of love and finally coming to the realization that maybe they shouldn’t be together.
See what I mean?
I enjoyed the exploration of the female point of view on this movie. April is a character who fell into marriage and the housewife lifestyle without fully realizing the implications of it. She’s still trying to get to know herself and what she wants in life, and for that matter, so is Frank. Essentially we have two characters that haven’t truly gotten to know themselves, and this my friends is something that takes time; time that married life does not give you. Much less when children are involved. Revolutionary Road is a film that begs you to know yourself first and what you want out of life before deciding to tie the knot.
Rating: 5 out of 5