Revolutionary Road Review

Published 5 years ago by , Updated December 26th, 2008 at 11:54 am,

Short version: If you’re looking for an intense, character-driven movie, Revolutionary Road delivers big time.

revolutionary road reviews Revolutionary Road Review
Screen Rant reviews Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road is an obvious Oscar contender on many levels – Acting (lead and supporting), direction, screenplay… you name it. As the film begins, I started to feel like this was a Titanic reunion, putting Leonardo DiCaprio opposite Kate Winslet once again, with Kathy Bates thrown in for good measure.

The film opens with a younger (and single) Frank Wheeler (DiCaprio) and April (Winslet) meeting at a party or club and instantly hitting it off. The movie then jumps forward to April at the end of a very small stage production which is not exactly knocking over the audience with its quality.

Frank seems to be very supportive of April, who seems very distraught, consoling her as best he can on the drive home. She wants to hear none of it and when he pulls over to discuss it things blow up into full-on argument. He’s tired of coddling her and her dreams of being an actress, and wants her to accept reality. She belittles him and leaves him feeling supremely frustrated.

The film takes place in 1955 and Frank works in a cubicle of the day in a “Mad Men” environment. It’s a low level executive job where he and his co-workers just go through the motions of their decent paying but dead end jobs. Frank eyes a pretty young secretary and ends up seducing her over a three martini lunch.

At this point it seems that April has driven him to cheat via her lack of respect for him as a man, but as you watch the film it is clear that there is always going to be another level to what is happening with the characters. In an extremely ironic twist, Frank comes home that evening to a wife that is dressed to the nines and meets him at the door in loving, iconic 1950s fashion. It’s his birthday and she seems to have completely turned around her attitude as she and their two children wish him a happy birthday.

Apparently the crux of the matter is that April believes that they were both meant for much better things, and certainly not a mundane life in the suburbs with two kids. She comes up with a plan for them to chuck it all and move to Paris where she will support him so that he can “find what he’s meant to do.” At first he’s reluctant (and full of the common sense reasons why they shouldn’t do it), but he succumbs pretty quickly with a “why not?”

From there things improve dramatically between Frank and April (known in the neighborhood as “The Wheelers,” the perfect couple). Just the decision to change their lives makes them feel free even though they won’t be moving for a few months. Expectedly, everyone they know is incredulous and thinks they’re nuts.

Speaking of “nuts,” one of the outstanding characters in the film is the son of Kathy Bates’ character, John. He’s played by Michael Shannon, who will no doubt be competition for Heath Ledger in the Best Supporting Actor category at the Oscars next month. Shannon plays an emotionally disturbed man who has been put in a psychiatric ward by his mother. She thinks meeting with the “cosmopolitan” Wheelers will be good for him. He does a fantastic job, and in the end despite his barely contained rage he seems like the most clear-headed and sane person in the film.

He says exactly what is on his mind with no fear of consequences, and although his comments are usually tough to take, they’re also right on the mark. Really a riveting performance, and he has some of the best lines in the film.

But back to the story – as expected things don’t just go on to a happy ending with Frank and April, and director Sam Mendes manages to keep a subtle sense of foreboding throughout the film. He manages to make the viewer feel a definite sense of unease and every time things take a turn for the better you just know it won’t last.

Revolutionary Road is an excellently crafted film: The script is intricate, the performances real and the direction is great. The film immerses you completely in the 1950s, at times instilling a sense of nostalgia while at others making us think about how far we’ve come since then. It’s based on a book that I haven’t read – actually I went in thinking I was going to be seeing a completely different movie so I took it in completely “cold,” with no expectations. I didn’t even know what film it was until the title credit appeared a few minutes into the film.

Leo DiCaprio turns in another great performance (finally beardless once again in a film appearance), but Kate Winslet really steals it from him. She is amazing in the film and looks surprisingly older (the last thing I saw her in was Titanic). Actually I thought about that film a lot while watching this one – it occurred to me that this could be the story of Jack and Rose if he had not frozen to death at the end of that film.

Winslet has stated that she thought her character in the film was heroic, fighting desperately to have the life she really wanted. DiCaprio described his character as “cowardly,” afraid to go after his dreams. While I would agree that his character could at times be described that way, or maybe more accurately as having self-doubt, to me April came across as selfish and almost mentally ill. While he may have been afraid of change, she was devoid of any sense of responsibility to anyone but herself, despite being a mother of two children.

Revolutionary Road is the type of film that makes you very conscious that you’re watching a movie. By that I mean that while it was engrossing, I always felt like I was on the outside looking in – sort of like watching bugs in a jar. The performances are so good and what the characters went through was fascinating, yet the film somehow never sucked me all the way in – I was always aware I was watching something from the outside.

if you’re bothered by the occaisonal F-bomb and sexual situations, this may not be for you, however if you’re looking for a character-driven movie you can really sink your teeth into, this is definitely for you. I often complain about lack of character development in movies, but this film has it in spades.

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5
(Must-See)

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TAGS: 4 star movies, revolutionary road

16 Comments

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  1. I saw Sam Mendes’ first two films (American Beauty, Road to Perdition) and enjoyed them. Didn’t bother with Jarhead, but I may see this one. Only thing is, I still feel that Leo D is barely holding his own in these films. He always seems to play himself.

    Heath Ledger was the only actor I can think of, in the mid-20s to mid-30s range, who could actually disappear into a role.

    heath

    ps-See The Spirit, Vic?!

  2. Who is Amy? Her name is April. You saw the movie, wrote a review and you can’t even get one of the main characters names right? Are flipping kidding me? How old are you, 5? I bet you just copied and pasted from another review. And if you read the book you’d know this film is nothing like Titanic. Go back to your coloring book.

  3. Ummm a simple “you got her name wrong Vic, thanks for taking your time to write a review for a movie. I love you” would have been ok, you didnt have to go and insult. Vic, what have you done? lol why is everyone after you these days? Leo seems to pick good movies, and if you gave it a 4.5 its actually worth watching. I just wanna know if Leo is Cap material.

  4. Leo always reminded me of a “dramatic” Clint Eastwood: the guy can perform, but is always just playing himself, to a major degree. Of course, now that Leo isn’t just tossed into movies because he’s the latest hot “boy” actor (because he, like, grew up), I might be able to sit through one of his performances if the movie is high enough quality. Might check this one out.
    Normally, I probably wouldn’t bother, as this seems more like a Lifetime channel or some other chick flick made for only women in mind, but the current barren landscape of high quality movies to watch might make me think otherwise.

  5. @Brooke

    Tell you what, some time you try going to see a movie you know nothing about, paying attention to the plot, performances, character names and writing all that down on a pad in the dark while not missing anything that’s going on.

    M’kay?

    Oh, and you’re bitching after I give the freaking movie 4.5/5 stars? Talk about acting like a 5 year old.

    Vic

  6. @Charles

    This movie really is all about the performances more than anything else. For that I’d say it’s worth it.

    Vic

  7. As much as I can not stand Leo’s acting at all since he has no acting personality, the other actors might distract me from him so I will most likely end up seeing this one.

  8. Charles – I get your comment when you said DiCaprio is “always playing himself”, but don’t compare him to Eastwood… lol–the DiCaprio brand doesn’t contend with the Eastwood brand.

    Brooke – Because I respect Vic’s rules about not attacking other readers, I won’t tell you your an idiot. Vic is one of the nicest bloggers I’ve ever had the pleasure of writing to and his work is certainly more influential than a 5 year old. That’s why he has the largest respect from many of the high profile writers on the net and the envy of the little bloggers like myself.

    As for the movie, I agree that the character driven performances are fantastic, but overall… the film is just a little too much for my tastes. If I was going to rate it on your scale, it would probably be a 3 out of 5 at best because this type of story is just not my cup of tea. I still do recognize good performances however.

  9. This movie was filmed in my neighborhood, 2 houses down. It was fascinating to see the dynamics of this pulled together. Amongst the great disruption to our quiet neighborhood life, Leo and Kate were great with the neighborhood kids, giving them autographs,photo opportunities and some quality time! We heard that Sam Mendes was pulling out all the stops so that his wife, Kate Winslet, would finally get her Oscar! He was doing everything possible for this. We are going to see this soon…have to say Dreamworks was not so accomodating to the neighborhood..still looking for our free passes!
    More..later.

  10. @Kateri,
    How cool is that? They filmed a big Hollywood movie in your neighborhood? I’ve had dreams like that, that usually end up with the pricey star of the film quitting and them seeing me mowing the grass and saying, “Hey, you wanna be in a movie?” This in turn launches my career and soon I’m well on my way to playing Captain America.

    @Vic
    Gotta say, wasn’t too intrigued by the trailers, but, after your review, I think I’ll give this one a shot, especially because it shys away from the Hollywood formula of sequel, remake, reboot, or FX driven movie. Instead, it sounds like what movies are supposed to be-a great story driven by great acting. Can’t wait!

  11. Just seen the movie and this was a great review. I must read the rest of your write-ups to get some new movie suggestions. I thought RR was an excellent production with outstanding performances from the whole cast. The very last scene with Kathy Bates’ husband left my jaw on the ground. Surely up for many Oscars with this movie.

    Unfortunately, the only thing I can think of right now is just how rude people can be on the internet.

  12. Hey Matt, thanks for your comment. Welcome to Screen Rant! :-)

    Vic

  13. First of all I wanna say how much I like your reviews. They are quite charming and funny plus they are mostly dead-on. However this time I must disagree with you. I feel so strongly about it that I make this my first comment :).
    I thought the movie was intensly boring. I couldn´t even make it through the whole movie and that only happened once before with the Royal Tennenbaums. I love Leo and Kate and think that both are incredible performers. However, this movie is just plain boring. Please, excuse my ignorance but one can´t be always agreeing :).

  14. @Kerstin

    Thanks. And it’s ok to disagree. :)

    Vic

  15. Ok, you sold me on it. I’ll watch it. (I avoided this thing because it just looked awfully dull)