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 Revolutionary Road
 Critic's Rating
   [C+]
 Date Posted
   25th January, 2009
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Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Michael Shannon
Director: Sam Mendes

There's one thing I took away from watching the glum, miserable melodrama Revolutionary Road shouting isn't the same as acting. There are very few quite, meaningful moments in the film between the Wheelers, Frank and April (Leo and Kate, acrimoniously reunited onscreen); their conversations are all chest pounding and agonizing shrieks. In the way the film is directed by Sam Mendes, using brief flashbacks of how they met, but otherwise mostly set midway into an early midlife crisis, the couple is setup to fail, because that's all we ever see of them.

The film is supposed to be a depiction of suburban anxiety in America during the 50's, but Mendes brings the same bitterness here that he has used for American Beauty. There, with its post-modernism and biting satire, it worked wonders; here it doesn't because of how mechanically setup it is. As a once-in-love couple, neither one of the Wheelers depict an ounce of reality. They've been married for years with two children, but April wants to follow her heart's desire (and move to France). Frank isn't sure because a big promotion beckons at work. Both of them are so busy being delusional that everyone around them makes more sense then them, including the creepy half-mad character played by Michael Shannon, who steals the two extended scenes he's in. This catalyst itself is irrational and the movies subtle themes are entirely faustian. The notion of following your desires, consequences be damned, is blithely inserted and neither Frank nor April (especially April) are able to come across as people we care about because they are so entirely selfish as both parents and husband & wife.

Perhaps most unforgivably, the way it unwinds, Roadshuns the notion of having a career or a family because it feels the need to oppose every long established ideal, even an unexpected pregnancy. This allows the film to justify its characters smoking, drinking, and having affairs. Mendes seems to still be stuck with the memories of the accolades he received for American Beauty and in trying to recreate it alienates both audience (the film is a box office failure) and Academy voters (it has been snubbed in all major categories, except for the excellent work by Michael Shannon). Kate Winslet's April tells Frank "I don't feel anything"; by films end, neither do we. - Faizan Rashid

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