Revolutionary Road - Movie Review
With Leonardo Di-Caprio and Kate Winslet back together, maybe I expected to watch Titanic 2. Instead I got Revolutionary Road, and to be honest, it seems that Rose was better off with Jack sinking to the bottom of the ocean than moving to suburbia. What we have here is your classic suburban couple imprisoned by their quaint lifestyle and public identification as "that sweet couple up the hill." In reality they live in a demented emotional nightmare. For the price of admission we get to see this nightmare crescendo, and rather than dissipate, accentuate the troubles of self identity and family life.
Now, I've seen a lot of depressing movies; Requiem for a Dream, Leaving Las Vegas, 21 Grams, The Mist, but I don't think I've been quite as disturbed as I have after watching Revolutionary Road. Perhaps that's a testament to the film's realism. Everything about this production is impeccably executed. The set design is exacted with an almost surreal eye for what is considered "quaint" or traditionally "perfect," and this is appropriate considering that the idea of perfection is the films primary focus.
The story is centered upon Frank and April, a couple from a quaint neighborhood who despite friendly appearances are both vipers within their relationship. Although they serve as the tangible example of the nuclear family with two children of their own, the reality of the matter is quite different. The children, for the most part, are completely absent from the picture. This alone might be my greatest complaint. Yes, this is an adult picture, but the dissolving of the family unit involves more than just parents at odd-ends, and without the kids the resulting collapse lacks a certain dynamic which could have been useful.
Right now I need to say that Michael Shannon gives one of the best performances I've seen. As a matter of fact, he steals this movie. I'd be willing just to watch him rant, rave, and condemn every character for another solid two hours. He turns a supporting character into a role every other character supports. Quite simply, he owns this picture.
As far as resonance goes, Revolutionary Road has far more than you could ever hope. It manages to settle in-between those anxieties concerning marriage, work, family, and relationships in general, and fester for days. It certainly asks valuable questions, but the method of framing leaves little to be desired for the answers. The film seeks to propagate not only anxiety, but hopelessness. It stands defiant against not only all romanticized ideas, but against hope in general. It's hard not to look at this film merely as a lesson from example and not a refutation of all that is good.
The film has realism to be sure, but to sit through this is the equivalent of sitting through an emotional "Hostel" or "Saw" sequel. The realism only makes it that much more emotionally troublesome. This film is, quite frankly, downright scary. But maybe that reveals more about my own reservations concerning domestic disturbance than what the film says. I think at one point I was shaking.
All personal misgivings aside, Revolutionary Road has no ethical obligation to it's characters. In fact, I am fully and completely willing to say that this film is more torturous to its characters than last years "Funny Games," a film which unabashedly tested the ethics of character treatment within fiction, and which I, interestingly enough, thought was brilliant.
Here, all evidence of hope is gone. The only mention of faith is provided by the natural crosses evident on every wooden bathroom door. And when those doors are shut, the cinematography can do nothing but frame it. Somehow I doubt the purposeful intention behind this image, in fact, I might be one of the few people who noticed it. It's the great hole in the middle of what the central characters are yearning for, but its utter absence from the story leaves them floundering in that same gap. This complete absence of faith manages to somehow focus on it far more strongly, yet it provides no source of comfort.
I just can't recommend watching this film. As a young twenty-something maybe I just don't understand some of its facets. Truth be told, I don't really want to. I already understand enough of it personally to know I don't ever want to experience it. I feel this tragedy causes more trouble than it actually resolves, which I suppose is what revolutionaries often do. It's a brilliant work, beautiful, excellently crafted, but its content is as deeply troubling as it is troubled. I appreciate any film this effective, yet I doubt it couldn't have been delivered more even-handedly, perhaps with some semblance of goodness. As it is, the film is unabashedly cheap in it's ruthless punches to the audiences gut. See it if you have to, but I'm staying away.