Revolutionary Road (2008)
Revolutionary Road (2008)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 59 min.

Release Date: December 26th, 2008 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Sam Mendes Actors: Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, David Harbour, Kathy Bates, Kathryn Hahn, Zoe Kazan, Michael Shannon

 


 

F

or anyone who thinks life can’t get any worse, leave it to the movies to introduce new characters whose despondent situations far surpass anything imaginable. Such personas thrive in “Revolutionary Road,” a film with an outlook that reaches so far into a realm of stifling depression that the result can only be utter exhaustion. If only director Sam Mendes (working from an adaptation of Richard Yates’ novel) could have shaped these people to be sympathetic or relatable in some minute way, their suffering might not have been so pointless and so tiresome. If only.

For April (Kate Winslet) and Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio), it’s love at first sight – and, shortly thereafter, the seemingly inescapable rut of repetition. Frank assumes a dreary day job as a businessman, sleepwalking through mindless, unsatisfying work, forced to womanize the secretaries and neglect his duties just to pass the time. April is the stay-at-home mother, trapped by her responsibilities and the sinking feeling that her life isn’t being lived to the fullest. As the couple plots a refreshing – yet distant – course to an idyllic life in the utopian city of Paris, harsh realities replace desperate dreams, while difficult choices steadily destroy their chances at breaking free from the sordid existence they’ve created.

There really isn’t anything to like about “Revolutionary Road.” The characters are all discouraging, dysfunctional, and annoying – but most of all, they’re presented in such a way that empathy is essentially out of the question. As April spirals downward into insanity and Frank broils out of control, the only sensibility comes from the clinically loony John (Michael Shannon), who is so obnoxious that even his explanation of their situation is troubling. The two children, who might also be utilized to muster compassion, are frequently away, further disconnecting audiences from the crumbling consciences of the leads. It’s as if viewers are being persuaded to despise everyone in the film, to respond with nothing but negativity toward their failures and shortcomings.

The scripting is lacking as well, making DiCaprio and Winslet look as amateurish as in their turns in “Titanic,” over a decade before. Some may argue that they are accomplished actors in their primes and that their performances are worthy of distinction – but even the climax of the film is laughable, along with nearly every complementary sequence in which they bicker and yell continuously. And their arguing takes up the majority of the runtime, making this incredibly dialogue-heavy, melodramatic mess of a project all lemons and no sugar. At several points, “Revolutionary Road” is so ridiculously funereal that it’s practically funny. It’s a movie that will surely provoke audiences to reevaluate the worst pictures of the year. But just as it might cheer up those viewers who can give thanks that their lives are not this socially impaired, it might also hit too close to home for others.

– The Massie Twins

  • 2/10