Dec 23, 2011

[Movies] Revolutionary Road (2008)

In early 2009, I had finally picked up a copy of Revolutionary Road given the accolades it had received after its release. However early 2009 would also prove to be a rather turbulent time for me personally and watching a movie about a break-up is probably the last thing on your mind when you are also going through a break-up.

Fast forward to the present and I found myself alone the other day given my partner had a company Christmas party to attend. It seemed just about a good a time as any to watch the movie and finally scratch this item off my bucket list. after all, this is a Sam Mendes film we're talking about here after all and that certainly deserves the investment of time.

And while I can appreciate how beautiful the movie was and the artistry behind it, a part of me just couldn't fully relate to the story or appreciate what was going on. Maybe that's more because of my personal situation and just how happy I am these days that watching a relationship fall apart after the romance is gone is hard to handle or fully get into. And even my break-up wasn't as bad as what these two had to go through.

Revolutionary Road is a 2008 period drama based on a novel of the same name by Richard Yates. It was directed by Sam Mendes with a screenplay by Justin Haythe.

In the mid-50's, husband and wife Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) Wheeler move into a home at 115 Revolutionary Road in Connecticut.There the two settle down as April eventually gives birth to their two children Michael and Jennifer. The couple's main social interactions in the neighborhood include their realtor Helen (Kathy Bates) and their neighbors Milly (Kathryn Hahn) and Shep (David Harbour) Campbell and for the most part everyone thinks they're a pretty swell couple.

However things aren't quite well and the two keep coming to blows more and more over different issues and concerns. April's dreams of becoming an actress have yet to be fulfilled and Frank hates his job and finds it tedious and meaningless. It as this point that April suggests that they try moving to Paris where she can become a translator / interpreter at the embassy while Frank can stay home with the kids and figure out what he really wants to do in life. But these plans are thrown awry when April discovers that she's pregnant. And while she's willing to consider aborting the baby in pursuit of their Paris dreams, Frank is not comfortable with the idea.

As always, the best characters of fiction are those that are flawed and thus appear the most real. And the story behind this movie really gave the characters some real issues and contradictions that contribute a lot of how they act in this particular story. For example, Frank is shown to have an affair and then come home to his family throwing him a special birthday party. April on the other hand becomes increasingly detached as the movie progresses as she continues to aspire for more in her life, whatever "more" is supposed to mean.

English: English actress Kate Winslet. Español...
Image via Wikipedia
The movie is not a happy one, that is for certain. And it makes sense why I unconsciously dodged watching it before given my previously mentioned personal circumstances. But to be fair, the acting, especially by Kate Winslet, is pretty stellar and they really know how to flesh out the full range of emotions that each of these characters go through as the story unfolds. And given Sam Mendes as director, the movie is quite the visual masterpiece, but in a manner that is more subtle than his other movies like American Beauty. In that film we were treated to visual spectacles like the scene with the roses (you know which one I'm talking about, yes?) whereas he we have set pieces that play out amazingly well in a stark brightness that tries to push the image of happy suburbia. The lies the contrast (or the juxtaposition if you will), that as much as most of the movie is bright and full of sunshine, we as viewers are in fact watching a relationship fall apart bit by bit.

While I don't expect all movies to be happy, I think the story could have used some bright moments here and there. All throughout it seems to just get heavier and heavier, which is probably why I had issues really immersing myself in the story. While beautiful from a technical perspective, the story was a bit more painful than what I'm comfortable with.

Revolutionary Road is no doubt a great movie that really makes you think and even resonate with some of the feelings of the characters. At the same time it's hard to immerse oneself into it if only to defend yourself from the descent into mutual loathing for the couple. Thus it gets 4 secret passions explored in an almost cold manner out of a possible 5.

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