Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Shannon, Kathy Bates
Justin Haythe (Richard Yates novel)
I agree with Roger Ebert.
Okay, I sort of agree with Ebert.
Ebert called "Revolutionary Road," the latest Sam Mendes featuring the reuniting of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, a film "so good that it is devastating."
I agree. "Revolutionary Road" is devastating.
In short, "Revolutionary Road" is a decent film that falls devastatingly short of anything resembling greatness.
Based upon a critically acclaimed 1961 novel by Richard Yates, "Revolutionary Road" is a two-hour journey through the miserable marriage and lives of Frank (DiCaprio) and April (Winslet) Wheeler.
Mendes, whose "American Beauty" is practically this generation's definitive film on suburban life, at least modestly misses the mark with "Revolutionary Road" despite a faithful to the source screenplay from Justin Haythe.
Winslet, who surprisingly captured the Golden Globe for Best Actress for her performance here and the Best Supporting Actress award for "The Reader," does serve up a winning performance as the raging to the point of irrational April. She and Meryl Streep have both given two magnificent performances this year, though it's hard to argue that Streep's offers significantly more evidence of the actress's range.
DiCaprio, on the other hand, feels a touch out of place here and gets smothered by the viciousness of Winslet's rage as April.
While much was made publicly about the awkwardness of Mendes directing Winslet, his real-life wife, in making love to DiCaprio, one can rest assured that "Revolutionary Road" is not about making love.
As much as we've seen and adored DiCaprio and Winslet together before, in "Revolutionary Road" they feel as unconvincing as Pitt and Blanchett in "Curious Case of Benjamin Button."
While DiCaprio disappoints, supporting player Michael Shannon astounds and practically steals the film as the brutally honest son of a neighbor (Kathy Bates).
As is expected from a Mendes flick, "Revolutionary Road" is beautiful to behold with stellar camera work from Roger Deakins and Thomas Newman's original score.
"Revolutionary Road" is likely to play fairly well for those who longed for the Leo & Kate reunion, however, it's hard to imagine that this is how anyone wanted the reunion to go. After all, if it were Frank and April on the Titanic I have no doubt that April would have held him under.
There are plenty of folks who are going to mistake "Revolutionary Road" for great cinema. After all, it is similar in tone to Mendes' "American Beauty," though that film at least allows the audience to come up for air once in awhile.
In "Revolutionary Road," once the marriage becomes to crumble it becomes an emotional tour-de-force until the end.
Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. It simply doesn't work consistently enough for "Revolutionary Road" to be receiving all the accolades it's receiving.
In the end, I couldn't quite decide with certainty why "Revolutionary Road" felt like an empty shell of a film for me. What I've concluded is actually rather simple...Mendes simply tries too hard to create a masterpiece, rather than focusing on the actual making of the film.
"Revolutionary Road" looks awesome.
"Revolutionary Road" features strong performances from Winslet and Shannon.
"Revolutionary Road" offers a screenplay that remains largely faithful, if to a lesser degree successful, to the source material.
Yet, "Revolutionary Road" feels like a surface look at the intimate details and failings of a marriage.
Decent? Sure. Yet "Revolutionary Road" should have been far beyond merely decent.
The truly great films can take you anywhere they want you to go and you bow down and thank the cinematic Gods once the journey is complete. The journey down "Revolutionary Road" is filled with darkness and despair, rage and disappointment...yet, it's hard not to reach the end of "Revolutionary Road" without wondering "Was it really worth it?"
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic