With Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Dylan Baker, and Michael Shannon.
“How do I know you didn’t try to flush our entire fucking family down the toilet?”
Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio)
The first ten minutes of “Revolutionary Road” are nice, it’s pleasant. It’s a nice little period piece (set in the 1950’s) where two young people meet, and fall madly in love. After that ten minute mark, the film takes a nose dive, and imbeds itself into your soul and will not let go of it.
The story is of a young couple who flea New York City and move into a middle class suburb where they buy a home on Revolutionary Road (amazing name) where they try to achieve the American Dream. They are miserably unhappy; they have nothing positive to look forward too. The children they have are only really seen as setbacks; an embargo that prevents them for living their lives to the fullest.
Leonardo DiCaprio is a shallow dreamer who aspires of having better things, who zigzags his way through life pretending to be something that he’s not – an idealist and refusing to see that he’s ordinary. Kate Winslet is his wife, on the outside she has the sheen of the “All American Girl”, the picture perfect housewife who takes out the garbage, who cooks, who cleans, and who caters to her husband. Inside she’s just as shallow and pathetic as she reaps the harvest she has sewn.
Kathy Bates is remarkable (something I never thought I would utter) as a real estate agent who sold this bright young couple their home, she’s also their neighbor and the veteran suburban housewife. It’s hard to put into words the emotions this film streams into our consciousness. I’ve never experienced anything quite like this – aside from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf”. The film reminds me much of a scene from Mendes’ earlier film “Road to Perdition”. Remember when Tom Hanks goes to deliver the man in the speakeasy a sealed note from Daniel Craig’s character? The jazz music is pounding, we can’t hear ourselves think. Everything in that small shitty office is vibrating to the music. No words are spoken. When the man opens the note and is the only one who sees the contents inside; the suspense builds tremendously between his eye contact with Hanks, we’re left squirming in our seat – that is how I felt the entire time while watching this film.
As if this film isn’t emotional exhausting enough, enter Michael Shannon who is Kathy Bates’ eccentric, brilliant and prophet of a son who can see only the truth, and sees what a complete joke this “American Dream” has become, he sees through its façade and sees all the pathetic weakness that everyone is feeling. I’ve known little of Michael Shannon and have only seen him in a few films, but he steals this film. Shannon is brilliant, he has a PhD in mathematics, well groomed and is one of the most threatening characters to the “American Dream” I have ever seen on screen. Michael Shannon could have played The Joker.
While watching the film, I couldn’t help but think of what a torturous undertaking it would be for Sam Mendes to direct his then wife Kate Winslet in such a psychologically painful film where you can’t figure out who the most despicable and heinous person is: DiCaprio or Winslet. Winslet gives one of her very best performances in this film, and DiCaprio gives his career finest. I also watched this thinking of all the “Titanic” fans, rushing to the theaters to see the new love story staring DiCaprio and Winslet with so much anticipation; Haha fuckers! Better luck next time.
With all this emotionally painful drama, and the beautiful shattering of the nostalgic “American Dream” which has been ram rodded down our throats since we were young, I found this movie to be boring at times, finding myself becoming emotionally dethatched from the characters, and checking to see how much time was left. This film shows us that our dreams and the achievement of happiness is like chasing a butterfly. You can run as fast as you can, be as strategic as possible and you’ll probably never catch it, but if you do catch that butterfly – it’s just a butterfly after all.