Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Revolutionary Road


Review by Paul Edwards

When I first heard of the re-teaming of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in a epic film about the struggles of suburbia directed by Sam Mendes (the man that brought us American Beauty), I was a bit underwhelmed. Back in the day, I was one of the many 12- year-old-males who did not quite get all fuss over that film about a gigantic ship that sunk a long time ago. Of course, one of the major PR points to Revolutionary Road was that it was the first film with DiCaprio and Winslet since Titanic. So, with those memories of the last time they were together burned into head, I decided I had better do some investigating first before I fall into another five-hour-long love story.

Revolutionary Road was written by the late Richard Yates. I picked it up, nearly on a whim, at an airport on my way back home from vacation. The book is over 463 pages long and I read almost 2/3 of it on my flight back home. I couldn’t put it down. The awkwardness of Frank (DiCaprio), the beauty of Rachel (Winslet), the late-night speeches, the snide-ness, the sex, the laughs, it was all in there. Very early on I had to calm my ever-growing cynicism though. Luckily, Richard Yates wrote exactly what he wanted Frank and April Wheeler to look like. Yates wanted April to look like a 29-year old who had ashy blonde hair and a patrician’s sort of beauty. She was also “…a shade too heavy in the hips and thighs.” I couldn’t really see anyone playing April except for Kate Winslet. Then Yates explains Frank Wheeler: “He was neat and solid, a few days less then thirty, with closely cut black hair and the kind of good looks that an advertising photographer might use to portray the discerning consumer of well made but inexpensive merchandise.” And there you have DiCaprio. This was no work of stunt casting; this was straight from the book! I was amazed, and as each page turned my anticipation for the film grew and grew.

Now on to Sam Mendes’ masterpiece. He is best known for his work with American Beauty, a real film about drama in the suburbs. Revolutionary Road is not about the suburbs in general, it is about leading the life the way you want to, and Mendes hammers that point home through the Wheelers. I was pretty impressed by Mendes’ translation of the book to the film. It was not a rehashing or a retelling, but it was a re-imagination of the story for a film, which is a key distinction between this and some other adapted works out there. Anyways, Kate Winslet is practically assured an Oscar nomination for her leading role in this, as she plays April with a disturbed sort of grace that really hits home as the story reaches it’s final climax. And of course, DiCaprio keeps up well, especially adding in a certain subtext that his character had from the book, that I thought would be impossible to bring to film.

There are differences between the film and the book, but it is those differences that make it so great. One huge difference is the character of John Givings (played by Michael Shannon). In the book, he is pretty much one of the only straight-talkers you see, but he is no more outlandish or exemplary then anyone else. However, the script, written by Justin Haythe, not only gives John Givings the spotlight but when he is on screen, he owns it. I would be very surprised if he did not receive a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod. Also, another difference is that the film plays more of a really dark comedy, thanks to some great characterizations, then a heavy emotionally heartbreaking drama. I found that part of the film really quite thrilling.

All in all, I found that Revolutionary Road was an extremely faithful adaptation to a hidden gem of a book. The performances from the leading actors to the supporting players are legendary and deserving of praise. Kate Winslet may have her best performance to date. I highly recommend you catch the film in theaters and pick up the book as well!

5 / 5 stars

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