The 2008 movie Revolutionary Road is a shock to everyone who remembers Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as the young lovers from the 1997 film Titanic. In Revolutionary Road Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are April and Frank Wheeler, a 1950’s suburban couple who hate each other. Revolutionary Road is an incredibly well-made film where the tension and suspense slowly build towards a final explosive ending.
In a way, Revolutionary Road is a new version of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, but in some ways even more shocking. In Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, it is obvious from the beginning that the Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor characters loath each other. In Revolutionary Road, April and Frank Wheeler at first appear to have a perfect life, with the small exception that they are slightly bored.
But things start to spin out of control when April comes up with the wild idea that they should drop everything and begin a new life in Paris. The idea is absurd. Neither April nor Frank speak French, they have two small children and no job prospects other than April’s notion that she can work as a secretary for U.S. government agencies in Paris. Nevertheless, Frank jumps at the idea and looks forward to quitting his boring job and “discovering himself” in France.
Then reality and success start to split Frank and April apart. As soon as Frank knows he will been quitting his job, his performance improves. Since he is no longer afraid of being fired, he takes more chances and submits more creative ideas to senior management. This gets him noticed and promoted. There is also the added excitement of beginning an affair with a young secretary. The more successful he becomes, the more he realizes how idiotic it would be to drop everything and move to Paris.
April, meanwhile is living more and more in a dream world and makes all the preparations to move, including putting the house up for sale and telling the kids they are moving. She starts to hate Frank when she understands that he no longer believes in the fantasy.
What makes Revolutionary Road so good is the extraordinarily powerful cast. Kathy Bates is Helen, a mild-mannered but devious realtor willing to say anything to make a sale. Michael Shannon is Helen’s grown son, who is a PhD in math but also very mentally disturbed.
He enjoys saying exactly the right things to help drive Frank and April apart. His superior intelligence means he knows precisely which wounds to prod to cause the maximum pain.
David Harbour and Kathryn Hahn are the next door neighbors, who are immensely jealous of Frank and April, but pretend to be their best friends. Zoe Kazan is the secretary Frank has an affair with. Zoe Kazan perfectly portrays the emotions of a young woman in the 1950’s in a compromising position.
One unexpected impact of seeing Revolutionary Road is that it makes us look at the movie Titanic in a whole new light. What would have happened to Jack Dawson and (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose Dewitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) if Jack had not drown in the cold Atlantic? Would they have lived happily ever after, or would they have become a miserable pair, slowly growing to hate the sight or each other? Would Rose have resented being married to an uneducated, unsuccessful artist? Would Jack have longed for all the other women he could have been with instead of Rose? (Or course, the most common question most people ask about Titanic, is “why didn’t Rose just move her fat butt over a little and let Jack climb up onto the floating door with her?”)
Titanic meanderings aside, Revolutionary Road is a powerful film and is well worth watching. Revolutionary Road has top actors at the top of their craft, with a riveting plot and an unexpected ending. We give it our highest rating.
- We rate Revolutionary Road 5 Stars *****
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