Revolutionary Road

I have a niggling feeling that Sam Mendes doesn't like suburbia. In fact I'd go a little further than that, I suspect that he thinks that the American dream is a big pile of crap and wants to convey his distaste for its assumptions as aggressively as possible. To this end he has appropriated Richard Yates' superb indictment of the conformity of family life in 1950s America.

What Mendes has done with it is essentially make the small modifications necessary to convert Yates's work into a period version of American Beauty. As derogatory as this statement may sound, it is not necessarily a critique. The modification really are very small, and the similarity to American Dream (which, let us not forget, won an Oscar) means that Mendes has a wealth of ideas and experience to draw open. Let me state right now that he uses these ideas and experiences incredibly well. Partly, they allow Mendes to drop some of the aggressive eulogising that characterised Lester Burnham (Spacey) and focus on the sumptuous visuals he does so well.  As a result every scene in revolutionary Road looks superb, the lighting is perfect, the mise-en-scene wonderfully constructed and the room to think in between intense exchanges is perfectly paced.

It is also worth noting that Kate Winslet, whose exceptional performance has been widely commented on, is the wife of Mendes. Rather than affecting the production negatively or infusing it with visible subtexts (as we saw with many director/actress relationships in the 1950s and 1960s) it appears that the relationship on this allowed Winslet to instinctively understand what her director wanted, and produce one of the performance of her career as the repressed and frustrated housewife April Wheeler. As a self-proclaimed DiCaprio fan I have to admit to some bias here, but I would also laud his performance in this movie which rekindles the intimacy he created with Winslet in Titanic with apparent ease. As a couple their dynamic was spot on, comfortably conveying the painful frustrations of their situation in each and every moment on screen.

This leaves a somewhat conflicting picture of the film. On the one hand I am an ardent admirer of the way this film is put together, on the other I am tired and somewhat bored of the Mendes ideology which figures so prominently in all of his films. I suspect that with Revolutionary Road, like many of those films touted for Oscar nods, they are great to watch for their production values and the panache of their eager stars, but somewhat conservative in presenting something new and exciting to audiences.

Revolutionary Road at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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