Sam Mendes? Revolutionary Road couldn?t have come at a more appropriate time, given the recession and the hopelessness it has brought with it.
Adapted from the novel by Richard Yates, Revolutionary Road is a suburban drama set in the 1950s. It is the story of Frank (Leonardo Dicaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) Wheeler ? a young couple who live in a quiet Connecticut suburb. Frank has a meaningless job as a salesman for Knox Business Machines, while April is a formerly ambitious homemaker. As regular as their lives are ? full of gardening tips, house-cleaning, random affairs with young women in the office ? they believe they are special. As it starts dawning on April that they have sunk into their ?unspecial? lives, and will remain there unless they take some risks and create opportunities for themselves, she suggests to Frank that they move to Paris, like he always dreamed. After initial hesitation, he agrees to the plan that entails him taking some time off while April works as a secretary in a government organisation. His neighbours find the idea immature and make Frank feel emasculated for agreeing to such a plan. Meanwhile, things change at his meaningless job and it becomes a tad more lucrative, and Frank starts to reconsider.
Hollywood has a staple fodder of suburban films wrought with skeletons in the closets and many deep, dark secrets. What makes Revolutionary Road special is how a simple story develops to a feverish pitch. This is no ordinary fare of a build up and then a crash of perfect lives, but rather, of a steadily crashing dream.
The stark difference between the beautiful and perfect outside of a neighbourhood ? with large, glowing houses, and manicured lawns ? and a collapsing inside, is what Mendes has captured beautifully in this film.
The characters of this film become part of this stark difference, making the film more disturbing, and keeping us on the edge. There is no relationship, no response, no situation that is predictable, despite the seemingly calm surroundings.
As always, Kate Winslet has done a fabulous job. The hope, despair and the ?hopeless emptiness? is most visible through her. Her palpable, almost childlike excitement when Frank agrees to the Paris plan, and her falling apart when the plan falls through is perhaps the most significant development in the film. Leonardo Dicaprio is overshadowed and seems a little studied as the patronizing husband. In parts his character requires this, but at other times, it becomes a nagging irritant.
The two are complemented by one of the greatest supporting cast that is imaginable. Michael Shannon who plays the crazy ex-genius of a neighbour is definitely worth mentioning, as are Kathy Bates (playing the landlady) and David Harbour (playing Shep the neighbours).
Few thought that Sam Mendes would be able to follow-up American Beauty, but the king of suburban drama has delivered yet another masterpiece in Revolutionary Road.