Friday, September 17, 2010

Revolutionary Road (2009)

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
 Revolutionary RoadAway We GoAmerican Beauty


Unknown said...

Agreed! This is a great film and in so many respects the antithesis to TITANIC. I would've loved to have seen this in theaters and seen the shocked reactions on Kate and Leo fans expecting a rehash the sappy romance from that film and instead getting this brutal drama.

I really felt that Kate Winslet should've won the Oscar for this film and not for THE READER. While she was very good in that film, in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD she is absolutely devastating as a deeply unhappy woman. The emotional depths she goes to is pretty astonishing, esp. the last few minutes of screen time she has.

And Leonardo DiCaprio actually quite impressed me in the film. Looks like all the films he's been doing with Scorsese have paid off and I think he's getting more interesting as actor as his career has progressed.

Excellent review!

Franco Macabro said...

Thanks J.D.! I agree, audiences must have been expecting a romantic film, I mean, they sure marketed it that way! Im sure they were all surprised to find the exact opposite of romance.

Totally agree about DiCaprio and Winslet's performances, both are extremely intense, theres this scene in which DiCaprio is telling Winslet "if you dont love me, then why the hell are you still living with me in my house!" Wow freaking amazing scene!

The last few minutes are intense, the ending was pretty ballsy in deed. Winslet's performance is specially good in that sequence where she suddenly blanks out and starts acting like the good little housewife, in a robotic fashion. As if she had no control over her actions. That was a good scene too.

Michele (TheGirlWhoLovesHorror) said...

Love, love, love, love this movie. Leo and Kate were both fantastic in their roles (Kate is pretty much awesome in anything, I love her), with Leo being the big surprise. That scene where he storms into the bedroom after fighting with Kate was so amazing... I truly felt his regret, frustration, and anger. So good.

I also just love the story and the message(s) it sends about not resigning from life because you think you have to and about honesty in relationships.

The ending scene is absolutely classic, and it's just how I pictured it in the book. The way Kathy Bates' husband turns down his hearing aid after she bad mouths the Wheelers shows that Kate and Leo were not the only ones who were unhappy with their lives (Millie and Shep also had these moments, too) rather they were just the ones who were strong enough to fight it - or perhaps not strong enough to fight it, however you want to look at it.

Franco Macabro said...

Yup, frustration is very palpable in this movie. I guess thats one of the first signs things arent going good, when you feel so much negativity in the air, DiCaprio and Winslet really brought that forth through their performances.

And you are absolutely right about the older couple, that scene where the guy turns down his hearing aid means that old dude has already learned to shut down whenever he cant stand his wife. That scene was kind of sad too because it shows that he isnt really happy with his married life either, but he has simply learned to ignore it instead of facing it, like you mentioned in your comment, Leo and Kate faced it, even though the consequences were not happy.

Thanks for commenting Girl Who Loves Horror!


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