Sam Mendes first burst on the directorial radars with the 1999 hit American Beauty for which he received a Best Director Academy Award while the film received widespread critical acclaim with five Oscar wins including a Best Picture award that year.
With other popular films such as Road to Perdition (2002) and Jarhead (2005) under his belt, Mendes brings us Revolutionary Road based on the 1961 novel of the same name by Richard Yates which unites Titanic duo Leonardo DiCaprio and Mendes’ wife Kate Winslet. This marks the first collaboration between husband and wife, and Winslet walked away with a Golden Globe award for Best Actress for her portrayal of April Wheeler.
Frank and April Wheeler believe that even though they are confined to the conformities of a typical suburban lifestyle they are different from the rest of the families who live down Revolutionary Road. The Wheelers believe that they are special, a cut apart from the rest because they have dreams and aspirations beyond the mere mediocrity of the usual well-to-do family.
However, with two children who spell financial obligation they cannot seem to squirm free of their duties. Frank spends his days at a marketing job his father spent 20 years doing ruing the fact that just like his father, he will never be remembered and would only waste his life in the grips of boredom, earning money doing something he despises. April, a stay at home mum is more adamant on making their dreams a reality and proposes they move to Paris.
Their friends down Revolutionary Road find the move alarming and immature secretly wishing it were them. However, things get complicated when April gets pregnant again and Frank is put under pressure to take a lucrative promotion at the job he hates. The problems that ensue send the audience through a draining emotional rollercoaster ride.
The film sees a great performance by Winslet who became only the second Actress not to be nominated at the Oscars for a Golden Globe winning role due to a difference in the rules. She gives a stunning performance as the deeply tragic April Wheeler whose illusions of a fulfilling life and a happier marriage slowly fade away with the circumstances she lives in.
However, the performance of the film belongs to DiCaprio who has proven that he’s come a long way since The Titanic and The Beach. His performance is honest and truly emotional portraying a deeply flawed character who despite his aspirations and inadequacies is ultimately dutiful to his family. Michael Shannon who plays John Givings, a neighbour who is in love with April received a nomination for his role.
The film is certainly emotionally draining on its viewers and the standard of acting on display would probably be the only highlight for me. The directorial work was unnoticeable at best.
Though the film’s themes were deep, this tragedy is one that ultimately would put any one of its viewers into a foul mood but once the audience picks a side there’s no turning back. A ‘should’ watch for the year but certainly not on any of my lists.