starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Michael Shannon, Kathryn Hahn, DavidHarbour and Richard Easton
screenplay by Justin Haythe
directed by Sam Mendes
Rating: ♦ (out of five)
Based on the novel by Richard Yates, this is a period piece, set in 1955 New York City and its Connecticutsuburbs. Just like Married Life, Revolutionary Roadis a study of the intricacies and problems of a married couple. In the former it was a middle aged couple, but in this film it is a much younger couple, with two young children in a quaint, white clapboard house. In short, Frank’s wife, April (Winslet) is desperate over the recognition of the compromises she has made in her life that have placed her in a suburban house, with two children and a salesman husband - all contrary to how she imagined her life. While I understand that this is a universal story - people making life choice compromises, recognizing it with despair and then lacking the courage to change their lives in mid-course in order to retrieve their initial dream - I must confess that I don’t get it. Clearly, April is insane. Frank does lack the courage to change his life now that he is already into it, but can’t we admire his courage for pursuing his life as it is? But April pushes him against his will into her dream of leading a bohemian life in Paris. She wants a life change, but it is an escapist life change it seems to me. Right or wrong, I can’t say. But unrealistic, yes. Selfish, certainly. Risky, absolutely. Maybe I don’t get the story because April does not (or can not?) articulate her desperation. She only knows that she feels suffocated and fights to get out. Maybe if her character could articulate her desperation better I might by more sympathetic. But as it is, my sympathies are limited.
Frank and April are both in a prison of their own making. Frank feels isolated and trapped in a job he doesn’t like in the busy
city that he commutes to each day among a crowd of fedora-clad, tweed suit-wearing suburban zombies. April is alone and trapped in her suburban house all day. The only one in the film who understands her and sympathizes is John Givings (Michael Shannon), the insane son of the real estate lady (Kathy Bates).
Certainly Frank and April still love each other. But in their desperation they lash out at each other and fight viciously. Naturally, it is April, the female, who starts the viciousness. But for his part, Frank is typically dull witted about his partner, thereby further antagonizing her. I mean, when a person says that she doesn’t want to talk about something any more, the smart thing to do is to shut up. When a person says enough already, then stop talking why don’t you. The wise thing is to notice from your partner’s body language and direct speech that you should close your mouth. When a person asks for just a little bit of quiet, the pragmatic thing is humble retreat, especially when you are both held in the close confines of a car, or a small apartment or house. Deficient in affective sense, but abundantly supplied with male Reason, Frank insists on charging ahead with language and forced conversation after April has repeatedly warns that the time for language and conversation has passed. I know exactly what she’s on about! Personally, if I have had enough of talking/hearing about something I will only say so three times. After that ... anything could happen.
One weak point in the whole story is the two children. We hardly ever see or hear them. They are not part of the story, but even so, if a couple has children then they would certainly impinge on them and make an appearance now and then, don’t you think?
I was looking forward to Revolutionary Road, because it is the first film for DiCaprio and Winslet (and Kathy Bates, too) together after their 1997 blockbuster, Titanic. But I was disappointed. Basically, I didn’t get April. I mean, how stupid is it of a person not to realize that married life - and married life with children - represents a universe of compromise and revaluation? Those are exactly the same reasons that underlie my complete lack of sympathy for (deceased) Princess Diana. The stupid toad!
Incidentally, Sam Mendes is Kate Winslet’s husband, and this is their first film together.