In Revolutionary Road, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio reunite for the first time since their careers exploded with Titanic–and it’s almost as if they’re playing the same characters, only married and faced with the hollowness of a 1950s suburban existence. Frank and April Wheeler (DiCaprio and Winslet) always thought of themselves as special, but they settled in a conventional Connecticut suburb when they had children. Hungry for a less constricted life, April persuades Frank to move to Paris–but slowly their plans unravel and their marriage unravels along with it. While Revolutionary Road may be a bit too glib about suburban emptiness–the lives Frank and April lead don’t seem so stifled–the portrait of a mismatched marriage is vivid and devastating. The ways that Frank and April misinterpret each other, and the subtle yet unbearable dissatisfaction they feel, is rendered with remarkable and unsettling acuteness. Winslet and DiCaprio’s natural chemistry tells us what drew these two together, making the way they tear each other apart all the more shocking. The excellent supporting cast includes Kathy Bates (Misery), Dylan Baker (Happiness), and especially Michael Shannon (Bug) as a mentally troubled mathematician who cuts to the quick of the Wheelers’ troubles. Mention must be made of the beautiful production design; the costumes and sets are simply gorgeous.


Frank Wheeler (Dicaprio) and April Wheeler (Winslet) feel as though they must standout from all the other mundane and ordinary suburbanites in their neighborhood. Frank, a marketer who works for Knoxx business (equivalent to IBM in those days) machines, is profoundly miserable at his job as he diligently works in a cubicle and engages in secretarial affairs with the novice typist. April, a struggling actress, who apparently never received her big break in show biz does not like to talk about her failures.

During the beginning of the film, we are introduced to a quick flashback of how they met at a party while they were younger; Frank exhibits his witty, charming charisma as he gives April the impression of eventually leading a spontaneous life in Paris in the future. However, the viewer only begins to find out that this was merely a sales pitch or a common characteristic of a marketer. On the contrary, April falls for it no less. Fast forwarding to the present, April now lives in an ordinary life on Revolutionary Road with Frank and her two children and receives frequent visits from her inquisitive real estate agent (Kathy Bates) accompanied with her “mentally unstable” son. April feels as though she is leading a very unsatisfying and unfulfilled life. To add some excitement in their relationship, April broaches Frank’s former idea of actually pursuing a career and settling in Paris as a secretary because it simply pays handsomely; meanwhile, it will beneficially fit Frank because he can finally figure out what he wants to do with his life. Frank refuses at first because according to him it is just “unrealistic” but eventually obliges because he too feels as though they need something new and spontaneous to reinvent their relationship. Despite the neighbors and Frank’s fellow co-workers disbelief in this “childish” and radical decision, things seem to go very smoothly in the Wheeler family; the house they just bought is now on sale, their belongings are packed, the children are excited, life could not be any better.

It all seems too swell for this tragic couple, when suddenly Frank is offered a promotion at his redundant job with a higher paying position, heavier responsibilities, and more importantly a chance to be apart of something great, the computer. Frank refuses this handsome offer from his boss at first because it interferes with their big trip to Paris. On the other hand, Frank cannot resist the temptation and is drawn to stay at this job because of the attachment he has regarding his father. We learn that Frank’s father has also worked at Knox Business Machines for 30 years. It suggests as though Frank has a yearning desire to fulfill this empty legacy. On a different note, it strongly expresses Frank’s inability to change and triumph over his trepidation. This couple struggles to achieve any sort of compromise as their lays a serious conflict of interest regarding their futures. April wants a lifestyle change in Paris; meanwhile, Frank is satisfied working in a miserable occupation with a higher salary. This relationship portrays that conflict of interest incessantly; it also shows how it affects their lifestyle and how they grapple with the consequences. It is not pleasant I rest assure you.

The reality is that the real estate agent’s son who is “mentally unstable” by society is the only one that possesses a real intellectual and realistic perception on the Wheeler’s relationship. The Wheeler’s relationship and decisions are constantly being influenced by other people and we see this through Frank’s work environment, the neighbors, and the real estate agent. April is victimized as a prisoner of culture and her difficulty of coping with the dynamics of the role of a wife during the 1950’s. Some might question her role in the film and ask, well, why doesn’t she just get a divorce, or leave Frank? It just wasn’t that simple during that time period as it was considered taboo or dishonorable to leave or separate from your husband. April wishes she could leave the house but is drawn back to it like a magnet because she has two children, a husband, and could not possibly earn a lucrative living in those days considering the job opportunities available at that time period. In that regard, April is prisoner of the house, living in an inescapable environment. She is a prisoner living in a prison within a prison. Frank is a mere coward that cannot confront the social obstacles of change

The DVD has amazing A/V quality for standard definition. There’s a little haze and edge enhancement in the background of some night scenes. But, the audio is second-to-none. The special features cover the adaptation of the book, the casting, the time period and other little bits. Plus, there’s an audio commentary with Mendes which is fascinating. But, it’s all kind of dry. No one will revisit the supplementals more than once. Therefore, I recommend it for a rental. 

RELEASE DATE: 06/02/09

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