by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
BLURAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Leonardo DiCaprio as FRANK WHEELER
Kate Winslet as APRIL WHEELER
Michael Shannon as JOHN GIVINGS
Ryan Simpkins as JENNIFER WHEELER
Ty Simpkins as MICHAEL WHEELER
Kathy Bates as HELEN GIVINGS
Directed by: Sam Mendes
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Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet return to the silver screen as Frank and April Wheeler, a young couple in the 1950s who fall in love and seem to have the perfect life in New York suburbia. Frank is climbing the corporate ladder while April stays at home as a loving housewife. However, behind their seemingly perfect exterior, they both yearn for a greater life. Eventually their wandering eyes and crimes of the heart threaten their relationship and have ugly and unintended consequences.
WHAT I LIKED
I may not necessarily be a fan of the story behind “Revolutionary Road,” but I will admit that all the elements of filmmaking are present and brilliant in this film. While I was not alive in the 1950s, the production design and costuming looked thoroughly authentic. Many other films strive for a 1950s look that seems a bit too plastic. However, like “L.A. Confidential,” there was a crisp freshness to the era that really gave me the feeling of being transported into the past.
Like the look of the film, which is also bolstered by the excellent cinematography, the acting really helps make the show work. Winslet and DiCaprio proved more than a decade ago that they had plenty of on-screen chemistry, and their characters in this film provide much darker palettes. They work well on screen together, which makes them watchable even if their characters are ultimately wretched people.
Of course, it’s Michael Shannon (who was nominated in the no-win category of Best Supporting Actor in this past year’s Oscars) that really steals the show. As a mentally off-set friend of the family, his character has the luxury of being the only one that actually speaks his mind and calls out the Wheelers on their own problems, which gives the audience its own on-screen voice.
At the very least, “Revolutionary Road” will make you think... about if you’ve achieved all you want in life, whether you’re stuck in a dead-end existence and how to get out.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
I don’t know what Hollywood (and literary types, since this movie is based on a famed book) have against the suburbs. There’s a pervasive anti-suburban sentiment in movies and television from “Desperate Housewives” to this film. Me, I personally enjoy living in the suburbs and raising a family. Sure, it’s not a bohemian lifestyle in an expensive downtown loft, but it’s a pretty good life. So that message was kinda lost on me.
Ultimately, the characters in this film are weak-willed, pathetic losers. I get sick of the whining theme of “Oh, woe is me. I live comfortably in suburbia.” I just couldn’t muster much sympathy for the characters that couldn’t burst out of the cages of their own design. And at least Kate Winslet kept her clothes on for this award-bait movie.
After watching the bonus feature about author Richard Yates, I now understand why the original book (and ultimately the film itself) was ballyhooed by the critics but pretty much lost on a sensible mainstream audience.
Director Sam Mendes and screenwriter Justin Haythe lend their voices to a feature-length commentary, as well as scene-specific commentary to the slate of many deleted scenes presented in high definition. The theatrical trailer is also included in HD.
Two featurettes are also presented in high definition, which is relatively rare even for current Blu-ray releases. “Lives of Quiet Desperation: The Making of Revolutionary Road” takes a half hour to examine the making of the film, starting with its long development process and how Leonardo DiCaprio was landed as a star.
“Richard Yates: The Wages of Truth” is a short biography of novelist Richard Yates, featuring interviews with family and friends. While this gives insight into the author and his miserable life, it doesn’t paint him in a very good light. It is definitely interesting and shows where the tone of the book and film come from, and it will probably make you pity him posthumously.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
People who hate the suburbs or are dying to see Kate and Leo back together again.