Revolutionary Road (US-UK, 2008)

Love at a dead end

Love at a dead end

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!


3 Responses

  1. Haven’t seen the film but, isn’t it sort of treading over old territory which Mendes covered before and possibly more successfully in American Beauty?

  2. […] set in the ’50s (well in part) I’ve seen recently: Bigger Than Life is the classic; Revolutionary Road the disappointment. The Hours is brilliant: a fascinating narrative and intelligent direction to go […]

  3. I recently saw this and I have to say I quite agree with you. There are terrific performances and intelligent direction, it is beautifully photographed by Roger Deakins who I think clearly evokes the period brilliantly. I think it also manages to get over the message of the book that surrounding yourself in luxuries, beautiful houses, perfectly mowed lawns and good cars does not hide your inner demons and how escaping to another country will not necessarily leave your demons behind and the film for the first half does this very well and really quite interestingly. It is therefore the fault of the film that Michael Shannon turns up halfway through to explain that to us, apparently Sam Mendes cut 18 scenes until he got it right and you wish he cut two more, Shannon is terrific but actually unneeded in making the film work. Also although your not a big fan, Mendes has done this before in American Beauty which I really like and I thought it was much more acerbic and dark and a more edgy portrait of American suburbia and did it with a sense of humour, which Revolutionary Road is clearly lacking in. I do like it, but if I want dark suburbia and how under this surface of beauty there is darkness I’ll settle for Blue Velvet any day of the week.

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