Revolutionary Road (Sam Mendes, 2008): USA / UK

Reviewed by Byron Potau.  Viewed at The Riviera Theatre, Santa Barbara, CA.

Considering the names involved Revolutionary Road has to be this season’s biggest disappointment.  It is bewildering the praise this film has gotten thus far since it fails on so many levels.  It makes me wonder if any of these people who praise the film have actually seen it.  Even without the high expectations this film is a total dud.

Frank and April Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) are the quintessential 1950’s married couple.  They have two kids, a beautiful home, and a stable, placid life in Connecticut.  April, however, is suffocating in this stability and Frank has essentially becomes his father, working at the same company he did without any hope of doing or becoming anything special.  When April decides that they can move to Paris where she will support Frank while he finds what he wants to do with his life this seems to be the answer to all their problems.  Their marriage is rekindled and their friends are baffled by their spontaneity until Frank, having been offered a promotion at work, starts to get cold feet.

The film is full of phony characters and the actors make it worse by overcompensating.  Di Caprio hasn’t been this miscast since Gangs of New York.  He is completely unconvincing as he struggles through some very trite dialogue.  Poor Kate Winslet does what she can, spouting ridiculously banal lines like “you’re the most interesting person I’ve ever met.”  It is a credit to her that she can keep you from rolling your eyes more often than not.  I cannot say the same for Kathy Bates whose “toodle oos” couldn’t be more grating on the nerves.  Sam Mendes direction is the very essence of indecision.  He seems to have forgotten he is directing a film, not a play.  It is bad enough the actors have to work their way through the kind of dialogue that sticks in their throats, but in most of the scenes his camera setups are stationary, distant, and completely uninvolving.  Film editing can often be taken for granted until you see what bad editing can do to a film.  There are many of the scenes that seem to linger on a second or two too long.  I often found myself expecting someone to finally yell “cut!”  Quite simply, this is a bad film and one that should be avoided.  Hopefully, the buzz will die away and people can see this film for the trite mediocrity it really is.

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