MRR Movie Review: Revolutionary Road

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Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet star in this romantic drama based on the novel by Richard Yates. As a young couple living in the Connecticut suburbs during the 1950s, April (Winslet) and Frank Wheeler (DiCaprio) appear to have a happy existence. He goes into New York City for work each day, and she stays at home to care for their two children. Beneath the surface, however, Frank and April are not truly happy.
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Movie Review: "Revolutionary Road"

-- Rating: R (for language and some sexual content/nudity)
Length: 119 min
Release date: December 26, 2008
Directed by: Sam Mendes
Genre: Drama / Romance

"Revolutionary Road" brings together one of cinema's most memorable onscreen couples, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. The pair face a crisis as difficult as they experienced in "Titanic" when they attempt to change the path of their lives in "Revolutionary Road."

"Revolutionary Road" was based on Richard Yates' 1961 novel of the same name, which was nominated for the National Book Award in 1962. The story follows the lives of Frank and April Wheeler, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, whose performance earned her a Golden Globe for Best Actress. The movie also stars Christopher Fitzgerald and "Titanic" alum Kathy Bates.

The Wheelers are a typical married couple in the 1950s, getting along in life like everyone else. The couple has two children, April is a housewife, and Frank has a decent job that gives him nothing more than a paycheck to cover the expenses of their suburban lifestyle. The movie begins with the family moving into their new home on Revolutionary Road. Despite the street's name, there is nothing revolutionary or unique about the neighborhood. The houses have picket fences and immaculate landscaping. The men go to work, and the women keep the home. Everyone has given up on their dreams and settled into a life of conformity.

Frank and April get a wake-up call, reminding them that they once had dreams and were initially drawn together because of their shared belief that life could be exciting. April had hopes of becoming an actress, and Frank had wanted to be a cashier, but both of them abandoned these dreams. A plan is formed to escape suburbia, move to Paris, and lead the life of freedom the couple craves. April is particularly determined to achieve something more than motherhood and hopes to take a job in Paris to support the family while her husband decides where his passion lies. At this point, their problems begin. A woman working, especially a married woman being the breadwinner, is simply unfathomable to the Wheeler's neighbors, who are quick to express their disbelief with a mixture of shock and pity.

Unfazed by the reactions of others, April continues to plan her great escape, but cracks form in Frank's resolve. When he accidentally earns a higher-paying job, he decides that maybe staying where they are and fitting in with the crowd on Revolutionary Road is not as bad as he thought. Their already troublesome relationship deteriorates further, and April's desperation mounts until another accident forces her to make a dramatic choice.

The movie questions not just the social conventions of the 1950s but the broader ideas of marriage, conformity, and raising children. Through the eyes of the Wheelers, the audience is shown the costs of tying the knot, settling down, and caring what others think. The Wheelers are cursed with a little too much self-awareness. On the outside, they look like the perfect couple. They are young, beautiful, healthy, blessed with two children, and able to afford a comfortable living. But in the privacy of their suburban castle, they know their lives are banal, boring, and unfulfilling.

The brilliance of the story is that the plot is nothing more than regular events in the lives of two people trying to keep their marriage together. The things that should bring the couple joy-the attainment of a nice house, a good job, and acceptance into society-are shown to be meaningless to people who yearn for unconventional and exciting lives.

Sam Mendes does a masterful job of making the somewhat unlikeable characters fascinating. Frank and April believe themselves to be superior to others and are often unsympathetic toward each other, yet it is easy to root for them to get a happy ending, even an unconventional one.

The movie delivers a dramatic climax. The only failing may be that some viewers simply will not be able to relate to the Wheelers' struggle.

Rating: 3 out of 5