REVOLUTIONARY ROAD provides viewers with the only safe vantage point, that of a rapt spectator, as the characters barreling down its twists and jolts lurch to their fate. Bitter fights between loved ones are not on the happy end of the scale for most of us. Witnessing them, or being referee isn’t too yippy-skip, either. Watching them at a remove, however,can be rewarding cathartic drama, when enacted by skilled professional performers, blessed with scorching dialogue, sensitively directed in carefully recreated period settings. This 2008 film delivers 119 minutes worth, helmed by Sam Mendes, taking his cast through the wringer in an adaptation of a 1961 novel by Richard Yates.
Set in Connecticut, in the mid 1950s, the ‘perfect’ suburban couple has ‘Frank’ (Leonardo DiCaprio) commuting into New York City to a job he hates, while ‘April’ (Kate Winslet) finds staying at home with the kids getting emptier by the year. Dreams slip away. “You’re just some guy who made laugh at a party once.”
The blistering arguments that periodically erupt as their hopes unspool are painfully close to the real thing, so this might not qualify as the best First Date Movie you could stumble into, but if you’ve got some years and misery under your belt you’ll relate. The acting is superior. Many interested and talented parties tinkered with the project from as far back as 1962—John Frankenheimer, Albert S. Ruddy, Patrick O’Neal, Todd Field, David Thompson,—but it took forty-eight years before Mendes and screenwriter Justin Haythe tamed this production.
The evocative Art Direction and Costume Design were Oscar nominated, as was a great blast of Supporting Actor work from the riveting Michael Shannon. Costing $35,000,000, it brought back twice that, and garnered generally favorable reviews, everyone praising the potent reteaming of Leo & Kate, a decade after they spectacularly crashed the party in Titanic. Their co-star from that doomed-couple epic—the wonderful Kathy Bates— is on board here as well, as the cheery-despite-it-all realtor who hails Frank & April to their stop on the road.
“The hopeless emptiness? Now you’ve said it. Plenty of people are on to the emptiness, but it takes me real guts to see the hopelessness…”
With Dylan Baker, Zoe Kazan, Kathryn Hahn, David Harbour, Max Casella and Jay O. Sanders. Not without flaws—the kids played by Ryan & Ty Simpkins are barely there—, but all in, a gripping adult workout. Fine score by Thomas Newman.