Thursday, July 24, 2008

FDot breaks down "Revolutionary Road"

N.B. I saw Revolutionary Road at a test screening this past Wednesday. Obviously, there will be some changes made to it before the final version is released later this year.

Directed by: Sam Mendes

Written by: Justin Haythe based on the Richard Yates' novel.

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Michael Shannon

The Short of it: A depressing slog through a disintegrating marriage that not even test screenings can save.

The Long of it: Obviously, reviewing a test screening comes with it's own set of issues; the least of which is that the version I saw will no doubt have some changes made to it before the final release. However, with a running time of 1:51, there's not a whole lot to work with.

The story is actually quite simple; in 1955, Frank and April Wheeler (DiCaprio and Winslet) are a young married couple (with 2 children) in the suburbs. They both suffer from a superiority complex, believing they are more important then the other rubes who live in the suburbs, and both feeling that they don't have the lives they were meant to live: April wanted to be an actress and Frank just doesn't want to be doing his job. On a whim, they decide that a move to Paris will be beneficial to both.

This plot device is where the problems with the movie start. The film opens with a major fight between Frank and April, so it's hard to develop any feelings for the characters. Then, even though April was majorly annoyed with Frank, suddenly on a dime, she proposes this Paris trip. She'll work as a secretary while Frank just does stuff (seriously, the idea is for him to lay about and read). A good chunk of time is spent watching every secondary character's reaction to this news. Obviously, complications ensue, with Frank in his professional life and April in her personal life. Unfortunately, the movie continues on a slog through fight after fight and depressing scene after depressing scene until the very end of the film.

Here are my main issues with Revolutionary Road.

1. The obvious comic relief. The Wheeler's real estate agent (Kathy Bates) asks the Wheeler's if they would be willing to entertain her son (Michael Shannon) for an afternoon, while he is on a furlough from the local psychiatric ward. Shannon is a breath of fresh air in the proceedings, and is supposed to be the one character who can see through the facade of happiness that the Wheeler's put up, but his character is so odd and tic-y, that it becomes obvious he was needed solely to relieve the film of it's dour tone and liven up the screen for a moment. There are no laughs to be found in the film when Shannon is not on the screen. So while the character is enjoyable to watch, he feels a touch shoehorned in.

2. April Wheeler. This is where the film truly lost it. The character of April obviously suffers from some sort of mental imbalance. In one scene, she will be having a major fight with Frank, telling him that she hates him, never wants to see him again, yet in the next scene, she is playing the perfect housewife. There must be some sort of disorder going on, but the film's major flaw is that it never even remotely delves into examining this idea. The viewer is left with the possibility that either she does have some sort of imbalance, or else she is suffering from the worst case of suburban ennui ever recorded. Winslet overacts slightly in the role, making it even more frustrating that the film ignores this tack.

3. The tone. The film is just depressing. Save for Michael Shannon's two scenes, all the rest of the scenes tend to be fights or discussions about how unhappy they are. I have nothing against a film that wants to be bleak, but Revolutionary Road is such a downer, you can't catch your breath.

4. The ending. I can't imagine that it will be left alone. It's just bad. It's set up so boldly that it comes as no surprise to the viewer when it happens. Worse, it's a bit of an abrupt end, then strangely followed by two scenes with the secondary characters discussing the Wheelers.

The Sum Up: Again, this was a test screening, so the final product will be somewhat different. With a running time already under 2 hours, I'm not sure what can be done with the film. It's just a depressing movie with no surprises that doesn't examine the issues it should. Lightning has not struck twice for DiCaprio and Winslet.


panta924 said...

You never mentioned the acting? Screenplay? Cinematography and such. And all of those complaints warrants a C-? It must have been some bad acting . . .

panta924 said...

I meant Leo's acting, of couse.