Monday 10 January 2011

Revolutionary Road (2008) - Sam Mendes

It's difficult not to compare Revolutionary Road to Mendes' previous film American Beauty (1999).  Whilst the latter is the better, more iconic film, the former is still excellent viewing.

Thematically, the two films share the same revolutionary ideology.  Two revolutions are taking place here.  On the surface, the film explores a couple's disappointment in the American Dream and the entrapment of suburban living in mid-1950s Connecticut.  Like American Beauty, the frame is suffused with red, white and blue.  As the film continues, the real revolution emerges - that of April (Winslet), the real desperate housewife, striving for independance and to escape her life dominated by stifling masculinity (her husband Frank (DiCaprio)).  Her attempts at emancipation are the driving force of the drama, though her feminist views are perceived as insane - personified literally in John (Shannon), a local asylum patient.  April wishes to move to Paris, to become more than the robotic shell she has turned into and although Frank is initially willing, the draw of financial and professional success cues him to change his mind.  The couples' conflicting views push their relationship to extreme measures.

It's an intense film with two intense, convincing performances from Winslet and DiCaprio, with Winslet, once again, proving she is one of our greatest national treasures.  Mendes takes a minimalist approach to the filmmaking, focusing our attention on the imploding couple.  The cinematography is static, like the characters' lives, and Thomas Newman provides a minimalist score used delicately and sparingly.

Revolutionary Road explores a sensitive subject matter and a period in history that helped to shape our modern society.  It may lack the comedic aspects and popular iconography of American Beauty, but it is surely deserving of your attention.