These two hours spent in the final throws of a marriage are as torturous as six months of community service impaled on the wall of a Relate consultation room. It leaves you feeling voyeuristically sullied; scrubbing the blood out of your mental carpet, privy to something simultaneously indulgent and inconsequential.
Revolutionary Road is melodramatic without being Douglas Sirk. It’s middle class without being Merchant Ivory. It’s midlife crisis without being Sideways. It’s suburban American Beauty without the humour. It’s 1950s without being Mad Men. And it’s miscast. Neither Kate Winslet or Leonardo DiCaprio are unattractive, dull or old enough to warrant the small town nightmare marriage they’re in. And because we are never told their independent back stories or their co-dependent love story, you know within the first five minutes exactly how the film will end. They are shouting and shunning and punching and crying before the title font, leaving the film a road to nowhere, and each performance a flatline rather than an arc.
It’s hard to make a film about mediocrity interesting; hard to dynamise normalcy; enliven your hollow man; empower your little woman. And Sam Mendes chooses an aesthetic colour palette of greys and blues and beiges and fawns that neutralise – like these two people have been lobotomised by the sociological conventions and clichés of the ’50s, and by marriage per se. As she, the wife, April, comes up with the idea to free themselves by starting a new life in Paris (with their practically invisible children}, you know this will be jeopardised by he, the husband, Frank’s inevitable promotion. But you will find yourself unable to give a shit.
Where is the universality here? Where are the issues beyond two selfish human beings who haven’t been honest with themselves or each other? Where is the enjoyment beyond rubber necking a commonplace couple’s car-crash marriage?
There is great potential power in exploring the loneliness of being trapped in a loveless relationship; shorn of aspiration, hope, dreams and future. Desperate to get out; escape, to the point of mutilation and madness. It is a classic tale, a kitchen sink tragedy, but the sense of set-piece theatricality, sub-Chekhov, sub-Osborne, overrides and makes Revolutionary Road two dimensional, repetitive and didactic. It’s like a giant roadside advertisement against ever attempting union.
There are certain moments of truth which cut through the cling-film of claustrophobia, as well as some impactful visual motifs. And the final shot somehow transcends the film itself. It’s just that the film’s concluding point compounds a really questionable dialectic: that poor marriages end in disaster but woe betide you if you are still sitting in a bad one when your hearing goes. Somehow the acceptable sexism of the ’50s – women either narrow minded or insane, men trapped by family and responsibility – feels like cavernous gender stereotyping. It’s the kind of relationship nihilism that simply makes Revolutionary Road a reductive metaphor for the Peter Pan complex.
Will Mendes manage to direct a film with a pulse? Surely Leo plus Kate equals empathy. Look at Titanic!
Akin to aforementi1d vessel: we hit the iceberg at the get go and are overwhelmed by an endless sinking feeling.
Hopeless emptiness. Worse than (and as theatrical) as the play within the film that ends Winslet’s acting aspiration.