“Revolutionary Road” – 2008. Dir. Sam Mendes

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.

Review 7.5/10

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Author: Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

11 thoughts on ““Revolutionary Road” – 2008. Dir. Sam Mendes”

  1. Michael Shannon is incredible here, I think, but the movie itself didn’t do much for me. Maybe I’m too weary of the American Beauty version of suburbia everyone seems to churn out, though yes, this was based off a fifties book, and yes, it actually is quite special in its own right.

  2. I’ll accept that I am fonder of the film than most, but even at that it’s very exhausting and draining experience. It always struck me that, as well made and brilliantly acted as it was, the film was just as lifeless as the listless suburbia that it condemned – which, you could argue, is quite the accomplishment and somewhat fitting at that, but it just wears me out watching it.

    Two fantastic performances. Both deserved Oscar nominations (Winslet was, in my opinion, better here than in The reader).

  3. I was so pissed off when this, WALL-E and The Dark Knight were snubbed in favor of The Reader and Slumdog Millionaire.

    How DiCaprio hasn’t won an Oscar yet is beyond me. Crossing my fingers for this year though.

  4. I thought the movie was pretty good, but not great. The cast was fantastic though and I really felt sorry for both characters, particularly DiCaprio. Would also have to (partly) disagree with Fitz. To me The Reader was a far better movie and it was superbly acted by Winslet. And I don’t get the whole attraction to Slumdog Millionaire, it definitely didn’t deserve the Oscar.

  5. I couldn’t even finish this movie. I thought it was a huge mess, and the only thing that kept me watching was Michael Shannon, which I definitely agree with you on the Joker part.

  6. Kate and Leonardo make for a dynamite couple — just a sizzling energy between those two. Whenever they’re paired up, I’ll watch. Plus, Michael Shannon’s cameo knocked me flat. He’s an … unnerving actor, to put it mildly.

    “Revolutionary Road” reminds me a lot of that Langston Hughes poem where he asks: “What happens to a dream deferred?” It’s one of the most powerful poems I’ve ever read, and it nicely encapsulates the core of the film. I also think the movie does an excellent job of capturing that particular brand of white, middle-class angst that is timeless: The sense that we are entitled to BE someone, to DO something great, even if there’s nothing we’re especially good AT.

  7. I’ve been dying to see this. Like Titanic or not, DiCaprio and Winslet have an incredible chemistry. I’m with Fitz too, how the hell hasn’t DiCaprio won his Oscar. It’s mind numbing really.

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