Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Revolutionary Road


The lead tandem of the highest grossing film of all time – Titanic – reunites in Revolutionary Road, a film adaptation of a book by Richard Yates.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are Frank and April Wheeler, husband and wife experiencing the ups and downs (more of downs in fact) of married life in 1950s America.

Frank is a dedicated husband with a well paying job and lives in a good house in quiet neighborhood.From all appearances he is living the dream.The beautiful wife, April, is the more restless soul. She was an actress who never really took off as one.As Frank’s wife she now spends her life managing a nice quiet house, entertaining neighbors, taking care of the children.

Family, quiet neighborhood; friends and neighbors coming and going every so often: it would seem that it’s a dream life, but we wouldn’t have a story if everything went smoothly.As they say if things can go wrong it will go wrong; the stable albeit routinely lifestyle is not enough for the Wheelers.

It is here that I find the movie somewhat confusing.What message is the filmmaker trying to send?

Present but not highlighted is the equality of sex.Men should always work and wives should always be at home.Roles should never be reversed on pain of ridicule.It doesn’t matter if the wife agrees delineation of duties was that rigid as the film tries to point out.

I found it humorous on this regard; the film has men merely record their reports and paperwork in the office; women secretaries type after hearing the recordings.It is a weird way to do work if ever it was true. Whatever happened to dictation?

What is highlighted is mundane lifestyle.A stable job, nice house, quiet neighborhood, would have been a cherished goal to many but was presented in the film; quite effectively I might add, lifeless and dull.There was this scene where Frank was going to the office and along with him in the road and the train were people all the same, dressed in suits.Perhaps more than the dull neighborhood that opening scene really sums it all.

The confusing part is that I don’t know where the filmmaker sides, or the author to be more accurate.Who is in the wrong; the one hanging on to a job he despises to fulfill his responsibilities; or the one chasing the unknown with children in tow? Is it so bad and irresponsible chasing the dream, lay it all on the line, having a life?

Acting wise nothing bad can be said of Revolutionary Road, except for Leo DiCaprio’s voice but then that’s just me.Kate Winslet deserved every ounce of that Golden Globe.She and Leo really had the chemistry going ironically playing a couple who have little or no chemistry at all.Their scenes as husband and wife were almost too scary I might add.

Providing some relief from the drama is Kathy Bates and Michael Shannon as Helen Givings and son John – the neighbors.They are not the rumor mongering type as you would expect from typical dramas, they are just simply there; not in a bad way, and maybe not even good either.

If ever the film had a message in it John Givings would be the one to have it as the recently “rehabilitated” insane guy with the overly honest mouth.He was always commenting on what Frank and April should and should not do.Still, I am at a loss for the writer’s opinion of things.

But maybe that is the point of the story; the audience will be the one to find out where they would place themselves in the whole thing of chasing life and providing food on the table, while married.In any case the film was successful in presenting a very mundane existence though set in the 1950s can still be true today.

The movie industry, unfortunately, for this film is often an area where escapists go to live a fantasy even if audiences want realistic movies.Revolutionary Road is just hitting too close to home; and for that, the Titanic tandem may see their present film hover in the opposite end of the highest grossing list.