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revolutionary road
Click for full sized poster

Revolutionary Road

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet; Kathy Bates
Screenplay by Justin Haythe
Based on the novel by Richard Yates
Directed by Sam Mendes

IN SHORT: Stay the hell away. [Rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity. 119 minutes]

Sam Mendes sure knows how to make a movie that no one but the most stiff-spined film-student type could love. Revolutionary Road features a young couple, Frank and April Wheeler (Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio), who meet just after the close of WWII. When we next see them it is somewhere around 1953 and the pair have attained the American Dream. She has 2 kids - one of each - to raise in a lovely house in the suburbs. He has a a daily commute into the Big City of New York to a corporate job selling adding machines. Frank hates his job; it’s the same gig his father had for twenty years before sudden death from a heart attack. He’s got an annoying boss (Keith Reddin) a secretary on the side (Zoe Kazan) and a marriage which disintegrates in front of our eyes.

Knowing her happy home is teetering on the brink. April gets a great idea! Frank had always wondered about what kind of life he could have found if he had stayed in Paris after the War (something like that). April puts forth the idea that that’s what they should do. She believes that there are high paying secretarial jobs for English speakers at the governmental agencies like NATO and that this will support the family while Frank finds his muse. The idea sparks a fire and the fire leads to sex and a determination that this move would be the right thing and the best thing for the family. A move as revolutionary as the name of the housing development in which they live.

Do we have to tell you what’s coming down the pike? Well, of course, April is pregnant. She doesn't tell Frank. She goes to the local pharmacy and buys the necessary suction devices to abort the pregnancy. Frank finds the equipment and goes ballistic. Still, the pair struggle to keep it all together. Perhaps the baby could be born in France (“They do have doctors there...”) but then Frank does something brilliant at work and is offered a big raise. Even better, one of the VP’s at the company wants to take him on as a partner in a new venture involving this thing call “computers.” As April’s dream starts to go up in smoke, she goes off into the suburban woods for a long think. Decision made, she comes back as the perfect, fit for teevee All-American housewife.

We’re not going to hint at where the film goes next. We'll just say, honestly, that the experience of sitting through Mendes’ work to this point in the story had us wishing we were somewhere – anywhere - else. In a backwards way, that’s truly a compliment to the story and the performances and the direction because the characters onscreen were real.
And now the positives: the only lightness in the film comes from a supporting role by Kathy Bates as the real estate agent who sells the Wheeler’s their suburban spread, and hopes they can befriend her troubled son, John (Michael Shannon). John has been in a psychiatric hospital, not toeing the societal line of wife and kids and home in the suburbs that the Wheeler’s fill so well; at a dinner between the two couples and out of hospital on a four hour leave son, John calls the idyllic life of the Wheeler’s on the carpet.

And we’re back on the floor of the coliseum, as husband and wife engage in yet another battle.

Our screening audience (admittedly, most were a generation or so older than cranky), all begged this reviewer to destroy this film in his review. Well then, retirees should stay far away from this film. So should most regular movie-going folks. Fact is, only film reviewers and the kind of viewers often dissed by this site – the ones who feel that “real” movies should make an audience miserable by the time all is said and done, – should pay for Revolutionary Road. They will adore Revolutionary Road, with plenty of justification. The script is one of the best written, if you want to get technical, of any we’ve observed in the last lot of years. The performances by Winslet and DiCaprio, given that we despise the journey they wind up taking by the time all is done, are exceptional. Mendes’ direction, in that it provoked the kind of reaction out of our audience that it did – trust us, their reaction was intense – works to achieve something. Not knowing Mendes, we can’t say that this is the reaction he wished to achieve. We can only report our own.

And since we always rate based on whether or not you should a) see the film and b) how you should see it, the rating is simple.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Revolutionary Road, he would have paid . . .


We'll say it again. Stay the hell away. ‘Nuff said.

amazon com link Click to buy films by Sam Mendes
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