Revolutionary Road Review
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD: On general release from Friday 30th January 2009
After a decade of separation following a rather unfortunate boating incident, Leo and Kate have reunited, and with only an extra wrinkle or two to show for it. Like re-casting our eyes fondly upon Jack and Rose of hand-sliding-down-steamy-car-window fame, had they both survived the berg of doom only to realise that they were pretty bored without the whole life-threatening situation thing, Sam Mendes’ film marks a welcome return for a partnership that is pure bliss to watch.
Revolutionary Road is a powerful story about a husband and wife who dwell in 1950s suburbia with a proud sense of this-isn’t-really-who-I-am-it’s-just-what-I’m-doing-for-a-while irony (akin to that of an embarrassed teenager who’s been asked to help out their grandma at a WI meeting).
As they try to change their lives, their belief that they are destined for greater things comes crashing down around them in fragments of pretty disagreeable reality. As accompanies any espousing of harsh truths, they both begin to have tantrums NB. there’s no foot-stamping/floor-beating, think serious emotional breakdowns.
The film focuses on time passing, flitting back and forth from present day despair to tender memories of when Frank and April were very much in love, filled with hope of their own potential. The impression of muddling of memories and feelings over time echoes the personal scripting that Frank and April have imposed on their identities. Has marriage and children enslaved them to the practicalities of financing a family and thus made them into something they’re unhappy with or have they always been living so much for a dreamed future that they have forgotten how to kick back and enjoy the present?
This is classic Mendes, a suburban misery story with an impact that is reinforced by honest and moving performances from Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Theatre-like in its execution, its beautifully simple interior shots and close ups of the characters mean that this really is about what is going on inside them.
Watching Revolutionary Road made me think of those tests about how male or female you brain is, or maybe just the ones about how you deal with crises (depending on whether you think that certain traits are inevitably gendered). One minute you’ll be rooting for Frank and the other wondering how he could treat his wife so rubbishly and this is never quite resolved infusing the film with the real complexity of a failing relationship.
Fair enough it’s no longer the 1950s but part of me can’t help but think that this should be the standard film that all couples watch before they marry, kind of like the horrific footage they force you to watch before you’re allowed to get back a banned driving license to prevent you from making a hash up of it. If you’re thinking of settling down any time soon, give this a watch before you pop the question.
By Susan Allen