Now Showing at: Esquire and Kenwood Towne Center theatres.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Sometimes watching movies that are filled with truth and realism are hard to take. That doesn’t diminish the quality, or the effect of the message, but there are those that make you squirm in your seat. Sam Mendes’s Revolutionary Road is such a film.
Mendes, who tore apart contemporary suburbia with his acclaimed American Beauty a few years back, has returned to similar territory with the adaptation of the novel Revolutionary Road. In a nutshell, the story follows a young couple who meet in the 1950s, wed, and then get caught up in the era when suburbanism and corporatism began seriously sucking the life and imagination out of America.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet brilliantly play the couple, in their first film together since the mega hit Titanic. In fact, Winslet won the Golden Globe last week for Best Actress in this film, and is on the fast track to do the same at the Oscars at the end of February. She’s been nominated five times without a win, so she’s not only due, this is the role to do it. She gets into the head and soul of this troubled young woman and brings her vividly to life. Is she crazy, or just disillusioned?
And DiCaprio proves that he is more than a “movie star” with a brilliant turn as the man who hates his job, but climbs the corporate ladder out of responsibility. He has to run the gamut from fun-loving youngster to married with children to someone who is fiercely on the edge. A couple of his scenes are truly frightening and wonderfully dramatic.
Also returning from the Titanic cast is Kathy Bates as a busybody real estate agent who sells Kate and Leo their home on Revolutionary Road. She attempts to become social with them in order to introduce her son to new people. He is disturbed and has spent much time in institutions. The son is played by Lexington Kentucky native Michael Shannon, and it’s a star-stealing performance. Even though his character is considered crazy, his thoughts and words seem incredibly sane, especially what’s going on with everyone else in the neighborhood. If there’s any justice in Academy voting, Shannon will nab a Best Supporting Actor nomination.
Canadian character actor Richard Easton has the small part of Bates’ husband and Shannon’s father. He’s older, and seems totally overwhelmed by his wife and son. The final scene, in which he is in closeup, will nail you to your seat, and speaks volumes about not only how life changed in the 1950s, but also how so many people choose to opt out rather than change even today.
The rest of the supporting cast includes familiar faces from television like Kathryn Hahn, Jay O. Sanders, and Dylan Baker. You’ll know them when you see them. Zoë Kazan, the granddaughter of famous director Elia Kazan, also impresses greatly as the secretary with whom DiCaprio has an inter-office fling.
The film has the look and feel of a 50s film and features good use of some of the pop tunes of the era. The original score is by Thomas Newman, who has been Oscar nominated eight times.
While Revolutionary Road is often knife-in-your-gut close to home, and sometimes relentless depressing, it’s one of the major film achievements of the year. You’ll be hard pressed to find better performances anywhere else.