Thursday, 5 February 2009

Review: Revolutionary Road

Year: 2008
Director: Sam Mendes
Screenplay: Justin Haythe
Starring: Leonardo Di Caprio, Kate Winslet, Micheal Shannon, Kathy Bates, Dylan Baker

I was given the chance to watch Rev Road a while ago but was not allowed to mention anything about it until it was released for many reasons. Fair enough, makes sense to those involved so I waited. Now the films been released, the awards have been announced and Rev Road got very little in the way of nominations, considering it's subject matter, it's stars, the director, the time it's was released...etc. I'm not surprised really because while Rev Road is well made, it's extremly hollow.

The problem I had with the film is that Mendes has been down the road of Suburian nightmare before and it was so much more entertaining 8 years ago. The film starts off swiftly as the two leads fall in love with each other and express (impose) their dreams on one another but after 10 minutes an arguement starts and it doesn't seem to end until the end of the movie. Most of the film is a slanging match between Di Caprio and Winslet.

It's hard not to think that this is what would happen if Jack and Rose got married at the end of Titanic, but amusing made up stories aside watching the two go at each for two hours isn't as great a movie I had hoped. The reason? It's all so basic and uninteresting, mostly because it's all so over the top. Nothing is understated, no tension rippling under the surface, it's all yelled out obviously to show the audience "HEY LOOK AT US WE'RE ACTING!" Everything is far too staged for it's own good. Richard Yates' novel has been heavily praised but watching the film first has given me no desire to ring it up. No doubt being a novel Yates would have some restraint, it's not seen here.

As the leads yell at each other constantly for almost two hours, there was absolutly no entry point for me as a viewer. Thoughout the film I was kept at a distance as these selfish, ignorant people shouted in each others faces. Mendes makes sure that we share no empathy with these characters plight in any shape or form, they're shallow at the beginning, manipulative in the middle and destructive at the end. I'm sure I've enjoyed unlikeable people in films like this before but there's no just no drawing point for me.

Mendes once again crafts a great looking film with the usual Thomas Newman score but the film is show, but the narrative doesn't interest, unlike you love two respectable actors SHOWING you how well they can "emote".

The revelation in the movie (so to speak) stems from the voice of truth within the film. Micheal Shannon plays John Givings, an ex-mathematician whose spent time in a mental institution and receieved electroshock treatment. Givings can see the through the couples charade. It's played superbly by Shannon, playing the right side of distrubed, it's a funny performance as well an upsetting but it's all over too soon as the indulgence sets in again.

And thats what I feel is the major problem with Revolutionary Road, like Cold Mountain (2003), it's designed to be a shallow award pleaser. Di Caprio, Winslet and Mendes have produced stronger work with wider range and deeper emotions and it's awful to them playing up to the golden statue in a film that's more smug than an Ocean's 11 sequel. Rev Road reminds me of so much of what Stephen King said about Kubrick's The Shining; A big beautiful car with no engine inside. I was also reminded of Mendes' first film (a personal fave) American Beauty and it's tagline because once I "looked closer" I saw a extremly superfical film