Great novel + terrific cast = mediocre movie; what went wrong? The direction.
In choosing widescreen Mendes is inviting comparison with the great ’50s melodramas of Ray and Minnelli and delivers a mise en scene virtually devoid of meaning other than ‘setting’. Maybe choosing to shoot on location drastically limited what could be done but there are only two really impression ‘visuals’ in the film: Frank’s commute and John Givings’ rant/breakdown (great use of rack focus).
To accentuate the positive: Yates’ depiction of the American Nightmare is pitch perfect, though the film misses April’s gradual disintegration which happens, virtually, overnight. Fortunately Winslet is able to convey the descent to a Stepford Wife with great skill. Di Caprio offers good support – a marvellous ‘carpet chewing’ scene when he really loses it – as does Kathy Bates and Michael Shannon. So well worth seeing but it you’re making a melodrama lets have shedloads excess in the mise en scene!