Revolutionary Road, the latest offering from director Sam Mendes, is a fascinating inquiry into the suburban lifestyle of the 1950s.
Frank and April Wheeler, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, depict a non-conformist couple who almost decide to move to Paris after their disillusionment with the American concept of “settling down.” But things get complicated, and Frank finds himself having to choose between a well-paying job offer and his planned escape from American suburbia.
The film succeeds in delightfully deconstructing the spirit of ’50s picket-fence America. The contented 9 a.m.-to-5 p.m. lifestyle of the neighbors, Shep and Milly Campbell, contrasts with the idealistic unrest of the Wheelers. John Givings, a former mathematician who lives in a mental institution, also serves as a foil to the couple from his unabashedly neurotic critiques of their marriage, to the peril of his confrontation-fearing parents.
“Plenty of people are onto the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness,” Givings said in the film, referring to the shallowness of the suburban lifestyle.
Perhaps one of the most interesting scenes in the movie comes near the end, after the viewer has been exhausted by the couple’s increasingly violent arguments over the disintegrating state of both their marriage and their plans of moving to Paris.
In a climatic moment, April runs off into the woods after telling Frank she no longer loves him. Yet the next morning, the couple acts as if nothing ever happened, quietly resuming their respective roles within the family in an attempt to ignore the overwhelming pain of harmful confrontations and lost hopes.
All in all, Revolutionary Road is a depressing, but necessarily painful film, on the fascinating subject of the American family. The film has been nominated for an Academy Award and has already won a Golden Globe.