Revolutionary Road (2008)

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road (2008)I don’t like to read books before watching their cinematic adaptations, because I tend to come down more harshly on the film due to the baggage of expectations. Such is the case with Sam Mendes’ interpretation of Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road.

The strength of novel is that its critique of fifties suburbia is elevated by the internal perspective; the way seemingly mundane conversations are framed as strategic warfare, defined by careful manoeuvring and social attrition. By – necessarily – culling this aspect in translation, the narrative is flattened out into a tale of affairs, promotions and travel plans. About the only time it channels Yates’ livewire rebellion is when Michael Shannon is on screen as a deranged neighbour whose lack of filter lends him a cutting insight.

As a kind of low-key tragedy, a depiction of the restrictive bonds of conformity and the toll it takes, it’s adequate but straightforward. Both Di Caprio and Winslet are fine, but it’s like they’re rehearsing for a highlights reel rather than inhabiting their characters. Revolutionary Road is too faithful to its subject material which, conversely, harms its ability to channel the themes of the novel. It’s good, but would’ve benefited from a more filmic approach.

2.5 stars

5 thoughts on “Revolutionary Road (2008)

    • It’s hard to fault DiCaprio or Winslet, but I did feel the yelling was a bit overdone. The conflicts work better when they’re lower key, “polite” sniping and undercutting, in my opinion. As I said, it sometimes felt like the actors were going “LOOK AT ME YELL THIS IS ME ACTING” so they could get a great highlight reel; I wish there’s been a liiiitle bit less of it 🙂

  1. What was it about this film that left me feeling empty? Ultra-realism? I am sure I’m supposed to feel for the characters, and yet, I didn’t. There was nothing wrong with the acting. The story line exactly depicted the suburbanite individual vs. conformity theme. That final scene when she’s standing looking out the window with the blood dripping and the score perfect–that stayed with me. It was very Sylvia Plath depressing (great). So why didn’t it resonate?

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