It is perhaps difficult for me to fully assess Revolutionary Road, partly because I'm still mulling it over in my mind, partly because I wasn't a huge fan of the book, and partly because, as others have pointed out, the film is mining material that is, I think, pretty nearly mined out.
In fact, while I was reading the 1961 book, I was often struck that this is material that had already been pretty much previously examined, though more melodramatically, in novels and films such as The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, By Love Possessed, From the Terrace, etc. I kept thinking, had the movie been made in 1962 or '63, at least a Sirk would've added a sense of irony or a Robson would've teased out the individual vs society theme.
But Mendes is all on the surface, so we just get the book as is. Smartly, however, the movie--aside from an occasional hand-held or StediCam shot--looks like it was shot in the early '60s--Roger Deakins' gorgeous cinematography has the sheen, polish and exquisite framing of those earlier films--indeed, this is one of the most beautiful big screen movies I've seen all year.
Still, it all comes down to the surface, and I still don't think there's much there. It could be argued that the seeming plastic quality of the first half of the movie is deliberate: the movie seemed to be going through the motions, and Leo and Kate as well. I was finding it a bit tedious, and thinking that something was just off (Thomas Newman's score, which struck me as intrusive, didn't help). Again, that may have been the point.
Anyway, the movie finally kicks into gear in the second half, and Leo and Kate come alive. I have some problems with Leo here--maybe it's just me, but I don't think he works well with period pieces (even, ahem, in Titanic, but his chemistry with The Goddess overcame that)--still, there's a forceful quality to his performance here that's very convincing. Kate has some terrific moments--her delivery of "Fuck who you want to" is bound to become a classic--but, in totality, I think she's better in The Reader (again, a LEAD performance, Academy, thank you very much).
I can actually see why Michael Shannon isn't getting notice--the role, and the performance, are so obvious and calculated. Actually, I was much more impressed by David Harbour as the neighbor--a terrific performance, filled with longing.
Even if the film is out of the running for Best Picture and Director, Leo and Kate are strong possibilities for nominations, as are the cinematography and the costumes.
"...it is the weak who are cruel, and...gentleness is only to be expected from the strong." - Leo Reston
"Cruelty might be very human, and it might be cultural, but it's not acceptable." - Jodie Foster