LEONARDO DI CAPRIO
BASED ON THE NOVEL BY
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (2008)
The reunion of Titanic pair Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road confirms the fact that while the pair were fine actors back in 1997, they are extraordinary actors now, sacrificing mind, body, and soul while portraying a young married couple trapped in the hopeless emptiness that 1950s suburbia offered them.
The film begins with Frank (Di Caprio) and April (Winslet) falling in love at a party. Fast track almost a decade and two kids later (played by Ryan and Ty Simpkins), with the disconnect in their marriage resulting in a blow out on the side of Route 12. As we will quickly find out, it was not their first.
Both dread the positions they are in, as futures full of ambition have been replaced with the lumpy cushion of security. Frank works in the city, commuting within a sea of suits and top hats towards a job he cannot stand; April plays the part of the dutiful housewife, with her acting aspirations taking her nowhere.
To break their repetitive cycle, both dabble in brief sexual affairs; Frank with his secretary (Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of legendary director Elia Kazan), and April with lovelorn neighbour Shep (David Harbour).
It is a depressing yet captivating opening, with Thomas Newman’s mournful score providing the perfect aural accompaniment to what feels like a funeral procession for the living. Costume, art direction, and choice soundtrack cuts enrich the film in the period it is set.
Providing the spark to keep their marriage – and indeed their souls – alive, comes a revolutionary idea from April: a change of scenery with a move to Paris, with April playing the breadwinner, while Frank uses his time to find his goal in life. At first Frank is taken aback, but then quickly warms to the new idea. A new beginning is agreed upon, but promotion and pregnancy brings their fantasy down to Earth.
Back to the deluge, as the pair argue violently, while overcome with grief and regret. Their clashes are occasionally interrupted by visits by annoying local realtor Mrs. Givings (Kathy Bates), and her twitchy, witty, and certified loon mathematician son, John (a scene stealing Michael Shannon). He perhaps plays the most important role as the voice of conscience and truth, in an environment where secrecy and restraint is a sign of civility.
The performances by Winslet and Di Caprio are astonishing in its directness and delivery. Winslet –who excels in heavy films dominated by heavy themes – skilfully controls her vast range with a masterful display of emotion. Yet the real lure here is Di Caprio: the man has simply turned into a phenomenal actor, tapping every ounce of emotion in a physically, mentally, and spiritually draining turn.
Sam Mendes exquisitely captures every drop of purging from his two leads. And while comparisons to his similarly themed American Beauty may have some thinking “been there; done that”, be warned that Revolutionary Road is another beast altogether: this is the real fear and loathing in America.