Revolutionary Road

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Postby Sonic Youth » Tue Nov 18, 2008 10:19 am

Aaaaand, Screendaily.

It's beginning to remind me of "Closer". Again, very solid review with reservations. And again, Winslet gets a nice notice but the review doesn't particularly single her out.

I expect a miracle every time out from goddesses.


Revolutionary Road
Tim Grierson in Los Angeles
Screendaily

Dir: Sam Mendes . US. 2008. 119 mins.


Subtly affecting, director Sam Mendes' Revolutionary Road plays like a more mature and considered version of American Beauty, his Oscar-winning tale about the nagging disillusionment eating away at the heart of suburbia. Based on Richard Yates' acclaimed 1961 novel about an unhappy East Coast marriage, the film inevitably suffers from some similarity to other recent domestic melodramas, notably star Kate Winslet's Little Children. Nevertheless, a strong cast, led by the much-touted reunion of Titanic stars Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, guides a nuanced story with much to say about married life's emotional blind alleys.

Opening in select cities in the US at the end of the year before expanding worldwide in January, Revolutionary Road boasts DiCaprio and Winslet's considerable marquee value, but while DreamWorks and Paramount Vantage are hoping to gain some capital from their stars' connection to the Titanic juggernaut of 11 years ago, this challenging drama evidently won't come close to matching the performance of that box-office record-breaker. Strong reviews and possible Oscar buzz should attract adult audiences, though the film's superficial resemblance to other suburban-angst films might convince some that they've seen this movie already.

Young disillusioned married couple Frank (DiCaprio) and April (Winslet) live in a tranquil Connecticut suburb with their two children in 1955. Frank's dreary salesman job and April's boredom with their surroundings inspire the couple to pull up stakes and move to Paris. But unexpected developments soon threaten that plan, revealing the cracks in their troubled relationship.

Director Sam Mendes, working from screenwriter Justin Haythe's adaptation of Richard Yates' novel, would seem to be revisiting the subject matter of American Beauty, his black-humoured 1999 drama which won five Oscars. But where American Beauty suffered from a noticeably smug attitude toward its suburban characters, Revolutionary Road feels even-handed and empathetic, taking Frank and April's relationship struggles seriously while at the same time slowly exposing the couple's significant flaws. Yates devised his novel as an attack on 1950s' conformity, but Mendes recognizes that this satirical territory has already been covered in films like Far From Heaven, and instead focuses on a relationship drama whose underlying concerns remain relevant today.

Ultimately, Revolutionary Road can't fully escape the gravitational pull of its genre's melodramatic storytelling conventions, including scenes of dead-end infidelities, angry recriminations, and flashbacks to happier early days. But as opposed to Mendes' previous films, which have been so meticulously designed as to be cold to the touch, Frank and April's up-and-down love story forces the director to adopt a warmer, more instinctive tone which keeps pace with the Wheelers' unpredictable journey of furious resentments and spasms of lingering adoration.

The film's tragedy lies in the knowledge that while external social factors impact the couple's bond, their individual failings have contributed much more to their misery. DiCaprio and Winslet are compelling as young people who simply don't have the emotional maturity to juggle their conflicting desires for material success, personal fulfilment and the rewards of raising a family.

At first, DiCaprio's boyish features seem ill-suited to play this beaten-down working stiff, but as the movie progresses they work to his advantage, demonstrating Frank's fundamentally childish disposition. For Winslet, the greatest challenge is constructing a portrait of discontented motherhood that's different than her comparable role in Little Children. But while some similarity haunts the performance, there is enough delineation in the two characters to keep April from feeling like a carbon copy.

The supporting cast does solid work. Kathy Bates, Dylan Baker and Jay O. Sanders largely play variations of their character types, but two lesser-known actors distinguish themselves. David Harbour is poignantly understated as a melancholy neighbour, while Michael Shannon is exceptional as the mentally disturbed son of the Wheelers' friends.
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Postby Penelope » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:09 pm

I wonder if all this arguing over The Goddess' nomination placement might be moot; she'll get the Best Actress nom for The Reader.
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Postby Sabin » Mon Nov 17, 2008 9:26 pm

I saw the trailer again yesterday before 'Synecdoche'. Looks like painful, histrionic stuff.
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Postby Sonic Youth » Mon Nov 17, 2008 8:51 pm

Variety likes it but doesn't love it. Hollywood Reporter doesn't even like it.


Revolutionary Road
By TODD MCCARTHY
Variety


"Revolutionary Road" is a very good bigscreen adaptation of an outstanding American novel -- faithful, intelligent, admirably acted, superbly shot. It also offers a near-perfect case study of the ways in which film is incapable of capturing certain crucial literary qualities, in this case the very things that elevate the book from being a merely insightful study of a deteriorating marriage into a remarkable one. Sam Mendes' fourth feature reps what many people look for in the realm of serious, grown-up, thoughtful film fare and, led by the powerful performances of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, teaming for the first time since "Titanic," Paramount Vantage should be able to push this sad tale to a potent commercial career among discriminating audiences.

In addition to being compared with Richard Yates' 1961 novel, which thwarted previous aspiring adapters and has enjoyed a persistent following over the years, the film will conjure up two other comparisons -- to the TV series "Mad Men," which is set in the same general period and shares a focus on hard-smoking, hard-drinking New York commuters and their women, and Mendes' own "American Beauty," a similarly critical but far more theatrical look at the underside of the suburban American dream.

Screenplay by Justin Haythe ("The Clearing") scrupulously adheres to the structure, personalities, perspectives and much of the dialogue of the novel as it examines the heartbreaking schism in the relationship between Frank and April Wheeler (DiCaprio and Winslet), a strikingly handsome couple who buy into the postwar convention of abandoning the city and raising two kids in a picture-perfect Connecticut suburb while Frank commutes to his unchallenging job at a large business-machines corporation in Manhattan.

Stuck at home, and with the far more acute set of emotional antennae, April is the first to identify the "trap" of their lives, and soon proposes they chuck it all and move to Paris, where she proposes to support the family while Frank endeavors to find himself. "This is our one chance," April stresses, and it doesn't take long for Frank, who would seem to have a latent bohemian in him, to agree. Questioned as to why they'd want to make such a drastic move, Frank replies, with a glancing hint of ironic humor, "We're running from the hopeless emptiness of the life here."

Literature, movies and social commentary have all been down this road many times before, stressing the conformism of '50s upper-middle-class life, the emotional sterility of the suburbs, the hypocrisy of attitudes, the sexism, et al. What keeps all these too routinely accepted views safely in the background here is the stinging emotional truth that courses through the novel and, to a significant extent, the film, thanks especially to the electric, fully invested performances by the two leads. Frank and April are like a 20-years-younger George and Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" who have yet to achieve an unstated equilibrium in their epic tug of war.

One youthful advantage they still enjoy is a simmering amorous relationship. Sad to say, this doesn't prevent Frank from having an office fling with a very available secretary, Maureen (Zoe Kazan), as a 30th birthday present to himself. Incidental as the interlude is, the brief affair serves as a cogent illustration of how the film conveys only a fraction of the nuances and layers of the book.

In the film, it appears Frank makes his move on an almost arbitrary impulse, and he's made to look bad in the typically chauvinistic way he uses his superior position to seduce a powerless young woman. On the page, the two already have a history marked by a long mutual flirtation, and Maureen is described as sexier and less frumpy than the woman who turns up onscreen. Frank may be a cad either way, but in the novel, his cheating involves an array of ambiguous feelings on both sides -- anticipation, hesitation, delight, remorse, Frank's subsequent temptation to confess -- while in the film it registers only one meaning: naughty boy.

With one notable exception toward the end, Haythe and Mendes capture the primal emotional and thematic points of the book as they try to find a cinematic way to express the subtext of Yates' prose, which most distinguishes itself through the precise expressions of minute changes in emotion, attitude and thought -- what might he say, what should she say, what does he feel, what's she really thinking, how did he and she react at the same moment? Even when the dramatic temperature is cranked up to high, the picture's underpinnings seem only partly present, to the point where one suspects that what it's reaching for dramatically might be all but unattainable -- perhaps approachable only by Pinter at his peak.

That said, "Revolutionary Road" is constantly engrossing, as it successfully engages the Wheelers' yearning to rescue themselves from their decorous, socially acceptable oblivion, just as it clearly defines how the "trap" is stronger than they are. The rows, tender moments and downtime in between are fully inhabited and powerfully charged by DiCaprio and Winslet. For his part, DiCaprio often achieves the kind of double register the film as a whole less consistently captures, as he indicates Frank's thought process in the split second before he decides what to say. At certain moments, the conjoined cerebral and emotional aspects of his characterization summon the spirit of Jack Nicholson's breakthrough performances around the time of "Five Easy Pieces."

Winslet's perf is less surprising, perhaps, if only because she has shown tremendous range throughout her career. April is a difficult role in that her mood changes sometimes seem inexplicable, but the thesp makes them all seem genuine, which resonates with Frank's occasional hints that she's possibly in need of psychiatric help. Winslet's starkly etched April is steely, strong and brittle, capable of great highs and lows as well as massive uncertainty.

Pic's startling supporting turn comes from Michael Shannon, who's mesmerizing as the clinically insane son of local realtor and busybody Helen Givings (Kathy Bates). He's a loony who is able to tell the truth about the Wheelers that everyone else so politely avoids; when Shannon is onscreen, it's impossible to watch anyone else. The limited roster of supporting players has been expertly cast, and the thesps deliver accordingly, notably Bates, Richard Easton as her conveniently hard-of-hearing husband and David Harbour and Kathryn Hahn as the Wheeler's small-horizons neighbors.

Kristi Zea's production design meshes with location work in Connecticut and Gotham to produce a vivid but unstressed sense of 1955. As ever, cinematographer Roger Deakins makes everyone -- the designers, actors, director, gardener, manicurist, you name it -- look even better than they do on their own. Thomas Newman's score, defined as it is by very simple three-note progressions, plays into the desired mood but grows repetitive.


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Film Review: Revolutionary Road
By Kirk Honeycutt
Hollywood Reporter


"Revolutionary Road"
Opens: Dec. 26 (New York, Los Angeles) (Paramount Vantage)

"Titanic's" Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet reunite in "Revolutionary Road," only instead of their characters finding themselves on a sinking ship in 1912, they run aground in a disastrous mid-1950s marriage.

In the bad-marriage movie sweepstakes, "Revolutionary Road" is no "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" But when sheer nastiness seizes its characters, the vindictiveness and emotional damage are breathtaking. Here's the real difference: In "Virginia Woolf," George and Martha are locked into a symbiotic, disturbingly needy relationship that absolutely feed off their acidic battles. But for "Revolutionary Road's" Frank and April Wheeler, you wonder: Why don't they just get a divorce?

The initial audience for this pungent critique of the soul-damaging, ball-busting desolation of the American suburbs of the postwar era might be large. Younger audiences will be curious about the DiCaprio/Winslet reteaming, while older viewers might gravitate toward an old-fashioned domestic drama, the kind that more or less disappeared from cinemas once sci-fi, fantasy and horror took over. Yet the fragile foundation for all the marital histrionics in "Revolutionary Road" might lead to tepid word-of-mouth.

Justin Haythe's script and Sam Mendes' direction hew closely to Richard Yates' 1961 novel. Which means it fails to escape the novelist's misogyny and contempt for anything suburban. The phrase seized upon in both works is "hopeless emptiness." It's apt.

Frank (DiCaprio) and April (Winslet) are individuals born with an innate sense of superiority but absolutely no ambition. So finding themselves married with two young children and living in Connecticut, they are frustrated and bored. Her solution: Sell everything and move to Paris where they will get in touch with their inner bohemian.

He likes the idea for a while. Then, when a promotion at his Manhattan firm from a soulless job into a much better paying soulless job emerges, he sours on the idea. Her pregnancy because of bad family planning seems to settle the issue. But Frank hasn't calculated on a stubbornness and selfishness in April worse even than his own.

The Great Paris Getaway scheme is strewn with adulteries on both sides -- his with an office bimbo (Zoe Kazan) and hers with the boorish next-door neighbor (David Harbour) -- intrusions by busybodies like their happily chirping Realtor (fellow "Titanic" alum Kathy Bates) and the story's own Greek chorus. The latter is the Realtor's institutionalized son (Michael Shannon).

The moment he walks into the Wheeler household, he cuts through all the b.s. as he immediately discerns the couple's tenuous relationship. He asks all the right, damaging questions and makes all the right, devastatingly accurate observations. So in this tale of suburbia the only fellow who understands anything is the one on a four-hour pass from the funny farm.

"Revolutionary Road" is, essentially, a repeat for Mendes of "American Beauty," right down to the formal camera compositions, repetitive musical chords and shocking death at the end. Once more, the suburbs are well-upholstered nightmares and its denizens clueless -- other than one estranged male.

Clearly, this environment attracts the dramatic sensibilities of this theater-trained director. Everything is boldly indicated to the audience from arch acting styles to the wink-wink, nod-nod of its design. Indeed his actors play the subtext with such fury that the text virtually disappears. Subtlety is not one of Mendes' strong suits.

The movie mostly finds its dramatic rhythms in the, yes, titanic quarrels between its married couple. These lack for true wit or appreciation of rhetoric. Yet they are as toxic, hateful and desperate as any ever committed to the screen between a husband and wife.




Edited By Sonic Youth on 1226973394
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Postby kaytodd » Thu Sep 25, 2008 9:41 am

flipp525 wrote:
Big Magilla wrote:If trailers are any indication, Kristin Scott Thomas in I've Loved You so Long acts rings around Winslet in this as well as Streep in Doubt and Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married.

April Wheeler is a dynamo of a character. Slow-burning, simmering fire underneath a placid, pleasant façade. I wouldn't judge Winslet's entire performance on what was shown in a trailer that doesn't even feature half the characters in the film. As I'm certain Penelope can attest to, there are several key scenes that we didn't even get a glimpse of in this preview.

"A slow burning simmering fire" that flares up at times when she is challenged. One of my favorite scene in the book is when Frank first expresses to her doubts about the wisdom of April's big project for their family. She never raised her voice or lost her temper. But she cut Frank down with withering, contemptuous and emasculating comments that sharply showed her disdain that he would be at all hesitant to follow her on this.

I hope that scene is shown word for word. I can picture Leo trying very carefully and gently (he is aware of how she will likely react) to point out the potential problems with what she has in mind. I can also picture Kate's eyes flashing at Leo as she delivers that brief but marvelous speech. This character has big time potential for Kate.
The great thing in the world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. It's faith in something and enthusiasm for something that makes a life worth living. Oliver Wendell Holmes

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Postby flipp525 » Wed Sep 24, 2008 9:57 am

Big Magilla wrote:If trailers are any indication, Kristin Scott Thomas in I've Loved You so Long acts rings around Winslet in this as well as Streep in Doubt and Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married.

April Wheeler is a dynamo of a character. Slow-burning, simmering fire underneath a placid, pleasant façade. I wouldn't judge Winslet's entire performance on what was shown in a trailer that doesn't even feature half the characters in the film. As I'm certain Penelope can attest to, there are several key scenes that we didn't even get a glimpse of in this preview.




Edited By flipp525 on 1222273489
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Postby Big Magilla » Wed Sep 24, 2008 9:26 am

If trailers are any indication, Kristin Scott Thomas in I've Loved You so Long acts rings around Winslet in this as well as Streep in Doubt and Hathaway in Rachel Getting Married.
“‎Life is a shipwreck, but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” - Voltaire

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Postby flipp525 » Wed Sep 24, 2008 7:47 am

I'm disappointed that the trailer has failed to explore the journey of any of the other characters in Yates' novel besides the Wheelers. Helen Givings, John Givings, Shep Campbell -- they're all compelling in their own right. The marketers of this film have chosen (quite purposefully, I assume) to focus their entire ad campaign on the Leo/Kate reunion angle.

The Nina Simone song is perfect.
"The mantle of spinsterhood was definitely in her shoulders. She was twenty five and looked it."



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Postby Penelope » Tue Sep 23, 2008 11:49 pm

I swear, it makes the notorious trailer for The Hours look like a Carmen Miranda musical.
"...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

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Postby Sabin » Tue Sep 23, 2008 11:43 pm

"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver


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