Sunday, January 04, 2009

Hopeless Emptiness

It's the summer of 1955 and all is not what it seems deep in the New York suburbs. The new film Revolutionary Road tells the story of Frank and Alice Wheeler (played by real-life BFFs Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet), a young couple who move to the titular address, where the neighbors all think they're special and the perfect couple: They're attractive, they've got two kids, a beautiful home, a blissfully happy marriage, the whole bit. But the Wheelers are anything but happy, and from early on in the film, we know that beneath the surface, this is a couple that is far from in love. Frank sleeps with members of the secretarial pool in his office, and Alice longs to live in Paris, where she can be the breadwinner and Frank can stay home with the kids. Revolutionary Road turns '50s cliches on their head, with Alice taking charge of the relationship, and makes suburban domesticity seem like hell, not bliss.

Director Sam Mendes and cinematographer Roger Deakins include some gorgeous shots of Frank commuting to the city, emphasizing — with no subtlety whatsoever — that while everyone may think he's special, Frank is really just an average guy, a face in the crowd. Their production design team has added to the aesthetic, making the setting look awfully serene. And at the center of the action, the beautiful Kate Winslet gives a nice performance — it's not her best work, but compared to DiCaprio, it's very good. He, on the other hand, is disappointingly wooden and sometimes delivers his lines like he's the best actor in a high school play. Supporting performances are more memorable: Michael Shannon makes quite an impression as an institutionalized man who is perhaps the only person to see what's really going on with the Wheelers. Also worth noting is David Harbour, a former high school chum of mine, who plays Shep, the Wheelers' neighbor, who has a crush on April.

Like the Wheelers themselves, you can't judge a book by its cover. And Revolutionary Road is ultimately a pretty disappointing film. The screenplay doesn't delve deep enough to give the movie much heart, and having wooden actors delivering some of the most important dialogue doesn't really help the cause. So in the end, I'm giving you some directions to avoid this street, and I'll give the movie a B–.



Blogger Wavefunction said...

It's the Connecticut suburbs

February 02, 2009 3:35 PM  

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