2007 Verve Awards

2006 Verve Awards

Best Arts and Culture Blog 2005 Queer Day Awards

Best Gay Blog Nominee 2004 Weblog Awards

Best Arts and Culture Blog Nominee

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


Revolutionary Road: The ModFab Review

BBC Films/Dreamworks (119 Minutes)
Starring Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kathy Bates, Michael Shannon, David Harbour, Kathryn Hahn, Zoe Kazan, and Richard Easton
Written by Justin Haythe
Directed by Sam Mendes

Despite a marketing campaign that foregrounds the reuniting of its stars, Revolutionary Road is no sequel to the doomed romantic epic Titanic. Oh, there's a romance alright, and it's certainly doomed. But the ship that sinks here is metaphoric: a claustrophobic marriage. And the youthful impudence that fueled the passions of Rose and Jack seem light-years away from Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet), a once-lively couple drowning in bitter obsolescence and faded dreams.

The cause of their sorrow is Suburbia, with a capital "S"...and there's no better chronicler of deadening suburban emptiness than director Sam Mendes, who a decade ago won an Oscar for American Beauty. With a reverent, almost funereal tone, the director places Frank and April in the constricting assimilationist WASP culture of the 1950's, replete with a beautiful but soulless house, elegant but vapid costumes, and enough alcohol and cigarettes to torch most of New England. A desperate plan to move to France offers the couple a chance for real happiness -- happiness, in this case, simply being an idealized view of European sophistication versus American vapidity. Real life has a way of getting in the way of dreams, and you know what they say about the best-laid plans. I'm not giving anything away by suggesting that a happy ending seems doubtful.

But oh, what lovely morose sadness! Roger Deakins' cinematography is as luxurious as velvet, and Albert Wolsky's costume radiate period glamour. But Revolutionary Road is, in the main, an actors' showcase for its iconic duo...and both have grown impressively since they last swooned shipside. As he proved in The Basketball Diaries, Blood Diamond and The Departed, DiCaprio has never been afraid to subvert his good-guy image; as Frank, he mines rich ground as an amoral, self-interested, and lonely low-level executive. His casually abusive relationship to April echoes the sexism and brutishness of the period; so, too, does his panic over his deteriorating home life. It is impossible to watch Frank and not wince in pain...because of his arrogance, of course, but also because it is mixed with psychological impotence and a terrible, emotional fragility.

Winslet, in short, has become the world's most underrated actress; trapped by circumstance and devastated by her evaporating hopes, she powers April, and indeed the entire film, through sheer force of will. A glance here, a fidgeting hand there...every detail is provocatively drawn, rich in nuance and bound to impress in repeated viewings. If Streep has a successor to her throne, it is undoubtedly Winslet. She has become the most accomplished film actress of the 21st century, hands-down.

Mendes, perhaps recognizing the chamber-play qualities of Justin Haythe's screenplay, populates the cast with Broadway veterans, each of whom bring a tragedian's understanding of story, and the way an intimate moment can become emotionally epic. Especially noteworthy is Michael Shannon (Bug), who plays the recently-hospitalized son of a neighbor; mentally unstable due to electroshock therapy, his moments of perception carry both a piercing intensity and a mitigating levity. Equally powerful work comes from stage vets David Harbour (Quantum of Solace) and Kathryn Hahn (Anchorman) as lonely neighbors, and Zoe Kazan (In The Valley of Elah) as a flirtatious secretary.

Revolutionary Road spells out its contradictions right in its title. It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to stage a revolution in a cul-de-sac...even if your own sanity, your own existence, hangs in the balance. But the moral of the film, it seems, is that one must try anyway. Unlike the truisms of Titanic, few men are actually king of the world, hearts do not always go on, and icebergs are everywhere. It's up to us to make peace with our own lives, and keep from sinking...any way we can.
Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Labels: ,


Blogger gabrieloak said...

A well-written review and more positive than others I've read. I want to see this so much. So far the critics have been respectful but not rapturous about the film.

12/4/08, 11:46 AM  
Blogger Jill said...

I'm convinced that critics don't want to like this film because of what seems to be an obvious casting gimmick. However, if you want to cast two of the best actors of their generation as a troubled couple, who better than two people famous for being willing to tear open their souls in pursuit of their art? Who cares if the Big Boat hovers over it like an 800-pound gorilla?

I think, however, that you have set a new record here for the most cheesy Titanic references in one sentence. :-D

12/7/08, 12:50 PM  
Blogger masoniscool said...

The author of this review is a woman right? I've noticied that the majority of writers for magazines, publicationjs, et cetra tend to men and in the place of a woman, their is always one key subtle inclusion in their articles regardless of the type that marks them as women.

12/19/08, 4:17 PM  
Blogger ModFab said...

Mason, the author of this review is male. And happy to be so.

12/19/08, 9:05 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home