Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Revolutionary Road

"No one forgets the truth Frank they just get better at lying"

Written By: Justin Haythe

Directed By: Sam Mendes

Starring: Kate Winslet, Leonardo Di Caprio, Michael Shannon

My Rating: 9/10

Adapted from the notoriously cynical novel by Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road is a powerful dissection of the tendency that life has to tear people apart. The story follows Frank and April Wheeler, two smart and cultured young people who fall in love and agree that life holds something special for them. She gets pregnant and they move temporarily to the suburbs while Frank works his way up the corporate ladder. As he climbs, April is drowning in a desperate sea of frustration. Her life is empty. She hates the suburbs, she resents the people who live there and mostly she resents herself and her husband for being there. However, she refuses to give up and convinces Frank to use their savings to move them and their two children to Paris. She will be a secretary and he will have time to find himself. As it becomes clear that suburbia is not quite ready to let them go April and Frank start to resent each other and things fall apart.

This is not a film for everybody. It is intense, dark, and slow. One may be forgiven for disliking the two main characters. They are selfish and spoiled in a lot of ways. However, they are also fresh, smart and clearly wasted on the lives they inhabit. It is hard not to understand their frustrations. The sparks between Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio are vibrant. They feel very much like a couple in love and when we see them in the good times it is clear that love isn't the problem. They have a mutual respect and admiration for each other in many ways and it is not for lack of love that things start to fall apart. It is a realistic dissection of what can happen when one refuses to give up dreaming. The fight sequences are long and intense and there is some truly amazing dramatic acting from both leads. However, the only Oscar nomination for acting went to Michael Shannon who plays the neighbour's mentally ill son. His role in the film is as the only person who is not afraid to speak aloud in any situation. Their first ancounter with him gives them hope and inspires them to break free of their life. However, as their plans start to disintegrate, his honesty forces them to face up to realities that they are not ready to acknowledge. The role is small but brilliantly portrayed and so visceral that its importance to the plot and the film's threatening tone cannot be underestimated.

It is an unusually unsettling film to sit through. It reminded me throughout of another Oscar favourite House of Sand and Fog from 2004. Both films have very grey morals, a very dark tone and a brutal honesty from the actors that can't help but tug at the heartstrings. It also has the feel of a Douglas Sirk melodrama, except in this day and age, the darkness can be fully explored and not implied.

Although this may not have caused as much of a stir as Sam Mendes' breakthrough film American Beauty, it has just as much to say and is just as accomplished. A wonderful screenplay, brilliant performances and a sickening knowledge that this is not going to end well kept me hanging uncomfortably at the edge of my seat throughout.

- Charlene Lydon 12/2/09

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