Is this the American dream?
Revolutionary Road, directed by Sam Mendes, is set in a suburban New York neighborhood in 1955. Originally a novel written by Richard Yates, this film explores the troubled marriage of two unhappy and unsatisfied individuals who live life in suburbia. Revolutionary Road takes its audience on the tumultuous and sometimes overly dramatic journey of settling for a life that is less than acceptable, a life filled with cigarette smoke, alcohol, yelling, and chair-throwing. Despite some of the unrealistic points in the plot, the acting and directing are successful in keeping the audience intrigued.
Mendes begins this film with April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) playing the lead role in a local and quite unsuccessful theater production of The Petrified Forest, while her husband Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) sits in the audience. Knowing that the production was a complete failure, April takes out her anger on Frank and he does nothing to help improve this touchy situation. After the first of many violent arguments, Frank and April make it pretty clear that they ruined each other’s lives. With the opening 30 minutes looking like this, it seems that things for the Wheelers won’t improve.
In an attempt to give the audience a much less intense moment, Frank and April decide to pack up their lives and their kids and move to Paris; this had been a dream of Frank’s for a long time. Don’t get too happy, though: this joy doesn’t last for long. While preparing to move, April gets pregnant, Frank gets offered a better job, and they meet an insane man (Michael Shannon) who can see through their phony suburban lifestyle. All of these things combined with more drama makes their departure from their house on Revolutionary Road nearly impossible.
Winslet’s performance in Revolutionary Road — for which she was awarded a Golden Globe — is remarkable. Not only does she deliver a memorable portrayal of her character, but she makes all of the right acting decisions in terms of actions and physicality. DiCaprio certainly does well, but it isn’t his best performance. In some scenes he seems as if he is forcing himself to become Frank. The friendship that Winslet and DiCaprio share in real life certainly spills into Revolutionary Road. Choosing these two actors was a wise choice. Their on-screen chemistry is not only natural, but equally heartfelt.
It would seem that Mendes was trying to create a film that could speak to the masses, and Revolutionary Road certainly is capable of doing so. Even though some moments are too dramatic, the journey that the audience takes with the Wheelers is disturbingly thought-provoking. Everyone either knows the Wheelers — people who have bought into the falsity of settling down and watching dreams fade away — or actually are the Wheelers.