Sam Mendes :: USA :: 2008 :: 2h05
Based on the first book by Richard Yates of the same title (1961), Revolutionary Road is set in a post-war Connecticut. The young couple Frank and April Wheeler, struggle with the pressures of 1950s conformity. Trying to set out a path of their own, one in which they can make themselves happy, they buy a beautiful house in the suburbs, on Revolutionary Road. The house, in which they thought they could be themselves, despite the suburban stigma, becomes a symbol of the dictate of society. Frank had turned into a commuting worker in an abstract office job he does not care for. April had become a housewife, unhappy and lacking a passion for anything. The two of them smoke and drink their way through their relationship and their obligations, but the first step to escape comes when April proposed to just leave and move to Paris. They would try to make something out of themselves before they were just swallowed up by conformity.
Quite some emphasis is set on the characters living their lives in the suburbs, even the title, and that being somehow responsible for their unhappiness. Of course that is not really the case. Suburbia plays a mythical role in the American dream of the ideal life. The ￼Wheelers are there, in a pretty house in a tree lined neighbourhood with the harmless, nosey but kind neighbours one would expect. It is the conformity of living in that neighbourhood, living out that dream which is not theirs, which haunts them. The neighbourhood embodies the end of a childhood dream of a special life, paradoxically, by the fabricated happiness that it shines out. The suburbs are accused as being artificial, as shown through the side characters, a world in which nothing is real, not even the sentiments people express. It is a world which de-humanizes people, turning them into caricatures.
It is perhaps not surprising to find that it was British director Sam Mendes, who brought us American Beauty, that launched himself into the project. Taking on board his wife Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, last seen together on Titanic, has been brilliantly cast. The movie also makes a perfect showcase for the actors’ talents, almost distracting you away from their game as you contemplate what they will say at the Oscars. Without the irony, they do actually do a good job crying their way through this production, and if you enjoy seeing good acting for its own sake, certainly do not miss this one. For the rest of us, Revolutionary road is not a happy movie, and the dark picture it paints is without relief or hope of a better future. Perhaps you can console yourself that you do not live in the suburbs, or that you are not like Frank and April Wheeler. In your time with them, you will live some moments to be cherished, but as a whole, keep your head up high to be able to question the validity of the points made lucidly afterwards. Watch at your own risk.