Distributed By: Dreamworks
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
There are times when looking through DVDs in a bargain bin is worth your while. You may not always find anything decent in there. On the other hand, you may find quite a few movies you had been meaning to see for a very good price. I had been meaning to see Revolutionary Road, despite the depressing storyline, because I happen to think that Kate Winslet is an incredible actress. At the lovely price of only $3.00US, how could I pass up the opportunity.
Based on a novel by Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road is set in the 1950s and tells the story of a marriage that is slowly and steadily crumbling. It all started off beautifully when longshoreman Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) met at a party and fell in love. Frank had no real plan for life. He had seen the world and now wanted to find his place in it. Meanwhile, April was an aspiring actress. Once they were married and ready to start a family, the couple moved to a house on Revolutionary Road in a small suburban town in Connecticut. Meanwhile, Frank got himself a job at Knox Machines, a company at which his father had worked as a salesman for over twenty years.
Life in suburbia is not what the Wheelers had planned for. April's dreams of acting are over and Frank finds himself trapped in a job he hates longing for escape. He finds it in an affair with a woman in the secretary pool. The affair means nothing to him except for the break in a monotony of a life he never wanted. April also feels trapped in her life as a housewife.
After much thought and some difficult moments in their marriage, April devises a plan. Remembering how much Frank loved Paris, April suggests that, with the savings they already have and the money they could get for their house and car, the whole family pack up and move. She suggests that Frank stay at home and figure out just what he really wants to do with his life while she works as a secretary in one of the government buildings in the area. Thus, Kate will be the bread winner for a change (unheard of at the time) while her husband can be free to pursue his dreams.
At first, the plan seems ludicrous, but soon it becomes an attainable fantasy that the two happily plan for. The idea of freedom from monotony inspires Frank. He becomes excited and less brooding. His work performance spikes and he is offered a promotion. It is then that he begins to listen to what others have been saying about his plans to leave. Maybe he should stick around for a while and experience the safer career at Knox Machines and life at home in suburbia. When he learns that April is pregnant, his mind is made up, but April still longs for the freedom she believes she will find in Paris.
The two grow further and further apart as they realize they are moving in different directions - one to afraid to escape the prison of their lives while the other is ready, willing and able. The desperation in their situation hits a head when April decides to take matters into her own hands.
Revolutionary Road is not exactly one of those happy, everything will work out in the end types of films. In fact, the film is quite depressing in nature. especially when one realizes that this is exactly the way a lot of couples felt in the 1950s - a time when it was the man's job to bring home the bacon while the woman stayed home and took care of house and kids. There wasn't time for flights of fancy. As one character states in the film, if you want to have a nice house and all of the nice things in it, including children, one must have a job (doing something you hate or like, it makes no difference) in order to afford it. Even more depressing is the fact that the above statement is still true, and many find themselves working at a job they loathe simply because it pays the bills, when they'd rather be doing something...anything...else.
That being said, Revolutionary Road does present some incredible acting on the part of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, actors who have proven they have excellent chemistry before (remember Titanic?). The turmoil of love, pain and desperation are evident in everything they do. You can sense it even when there is no dialogue, just by the actors posture and the looks on their faces. I liked the way the set designers and costume makers strove to ensure that the monotony and claustrophobic feeling of a life gone sour was made clear to the viewers, moving in tight on scenes, dressing everyone the same, etc. I also loved that the only person who made sense in the film...who spoke the utmost truth of their lives...was a man who had been placed in an insane asylum for his break with reality. Seems to me that he was the most realistic thinker of all of the characters in the film.
Although the subject matter is depressing and the film may be hard for some who relate to it too well, the amazing performances of the stars make Revolutionary Road one of those must see films. You may not want to watch it again, but you will walk away with a greater respect for its actors.