Technically speaking, “Revolutionary Road” was a well-done movie. The cinematography, the acting from both Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the score — everything was top-notch and as good as it probably could be.
It was the movie as a whole that was so down. Based on the novel of the same title by Richard Yates that was published in 1961, “Revolutionary Road” was hopeless and bleak and ruthless with no hope of redemption. In its lack of empathy — a departure from the novel — the movie falls well short of greatness.
Written by: Justin Haythe (screenplay), Richard Yates (novel)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates
Seen at: Kendall Square Theater
Running time: 119 mins
The story of a Connecticut suburbanite couple in the mid-1950s, Winslet and DiCaprio play April and Frank Wheeler, a couple the viewer knows to be fundamentally unhappy from an earlier argument but whom everyone else in the film seem to view as the perfect couple.
The theme of unhappy suburbanites is familiar to director Sam Mendes, who also directed the far superior “American Beauty.” The reason why “Beauty” was so superior was for its forgiveness. Though it ended in death, there was an element of hope that left the viewer on a positive note. “American Beauty” was about peeling away the layers and seeing what was really there, but also saying that it’s never too late to change. “Revolutionary Road” not only says it’s too late to change, but that it’s impossible to hope for anything better. There is no happiness, and there is no love — for anyone.
“Revolutionary Road” will get more press for its leading man and lady than for its chops as a work of film. As Winslet and DiCaprio’s first film together since 1996’s “Titanic,” eyes are turned to see if the chemistry will be just as perfect as it was in history’s biggest box office hit.
The chemistry is still there, but in a different way. The acting is meant to be curt and cold, with more being said in what is not spoken. Winslet and DiCaprio are controlled until they each have their final, climactic breakdown. DiCaprio has not aged quickly enough to make it seem like he is a man having a midlife crisis versus a boy having a hissy fit.
The best part of the film was Michael Shannon, the psychotic son of Kathy Bates’ character. He adds chaos to the order of the Connecticut suburban neighborhood on Revolutionary Road, saying what everyone in the movie — and everyone in the audience — really wants to. It is a breath of fresh air in an otherwise bogged down and heavy film.
What is saddest is that “Revolutionary Road” faces the same affliction as its unhappy couple: it thinks it’s special and unique, but deep down, it’s nothing more than ordinary.