The Night Out: Revolutionary Road (2008), or Living In Hell

26 01 2009
Having to live with yourself...

Having to live with yourself...

Hey, folks! Now, I know what you’re thinking. Where’s my review of Tank Girl? No White Men Can’t Jump? This is 90’s Week, man! And I want service with a smile, too! Well, pal, I understand your desperate need for an Encino Man review, but, damn it, I had to pull a Night Out as well. And I certainly couldn’t watch a movie from the 90’s there. Anyway, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised with my review today, because of its timeliness. You see, today’s film is an Oscar nominee this year. It was a front-runner during the Golden Globes for a number of awards but lost most of them with the exception of Kate Winslet, who won for Best Actress. I thought with all the buzz around this film more nominations would have come at the Academy Awards this year, but surprisingly they had less. Winslet is not even nominated for Revolutionary Road for Best Actress (She is for another Night Out movie though; The Reader! Natch!). So, watching it seemingly depreciate from the Globes to the Oscars, I knew I would have to see this movie. And am I ever glad I did.

Frank and April Wheeler are a young couple in 1955 who live on Revolutionary Road, a comfy road in a comfy suburb in a comfy town in Connecticut. They have seemingly bought into the American Dream of security, stability and safety. Frank is a salesman, and April is a homemaker. They have two children, and their house is very idyllic. Everything is fine on the surface. But on the inside, their marriage is breaking off at the seams. Frank hates his job, and April hates the life they’ve made on Revolutionary Road. Their dreams have fallen apart: April wanted to be an actress and Frank wanted to live in Paris. And partly because of that, they have seemingly blamed each other, which leads to bitter, bitter arguments. On Frank’s 30’th birthday, though, April has an idea that might break the spell the suburbs have cast on them; they will move to Paris, just like Frank always wanted. She tells Frank about moving, but he is skeptical. He is tied so deeply to the system, he can no longer imagine a life where he is nothing more than a breadwinner and a slave to the corporate elite. April eventually changes his mind, but it soon becomes a question of for how long…

This was a wonderful experience to go through. I have rarely had a more enjoyable time at the movies. I went in the cloudy Sunday afternoon with a moderate audience to the Rave Theater, or the Yorktown 15, in Houston, TX. I had movie nachos for the first time (not bad if you’re used to Rico’s cheese sauce) which was odd considering the dire subject matter of the movie, and I was with my lady love, Bren, who not only takes me for who I am but also frequents this site. Thanks for the movie, my love! It was just a good day to be alive for me, and while this has nothing to do with the movie, I just wanted to let everyone know how this film was just a cherry on top of the day I had.

Anyway, this is a great movie. One of the best of 2008, although I saw it in 2009. Based on the novel by Richard Yates of the same name, this one soars and swoops like few others. The soundtrack by Thomas Newman is made of a number of wistful orchestral tunes that are soaked with regret. It is great. A must-buy for soundtrack aficionados! Sam Mendes knows how to paint a picture of desperation (American Beauty was his first film!), and I have to commend him for his bravery in this one. He has to direct his wife, Kate Winslet, to do some sexual scenes with other men, and while it is tastefully done it must be an awkward thing to do. So bravo, Sam! And he really does do an excellent job. You can feel the ache in some of these people that will never, ever go away. These characters are wounded by life, but they don’t have enough blood in their veins to make a mess. It is great direction, and if he keeps up work like this I will be a lifelong Sam Mendes fan.

April and Frank Wheeler are played by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio respectively. Oh, Mrs. Winslet, what am I going to do with you? I already fawned over you in my review of The Reader. What else can I say? You are a credit to your craft, and everyone needs to have a little Kate Winslet in their movies (except The Life of David Gale; what the hell was that all about?). Mr. DiCaprio, you’ve been no slouch yourself. Rarely will you see such a relationship on screen. I don’t want to give anything away, but it is more intense that anything else you are likely to see this year.

Before I wrap up, a small note. The only big award someone from Revolutionary Road is nominated for by the Academy is Best Supporting Actor. A relative no-name, Michael Shannon is his name, and from the movies I have seen for the Oscar bid, he deserves that award 100%. I’m so sorry, Heath Ledger, but after seeing this man’s performance I honestly hope you lose for Best Supporting (even though I know you won’t). Shannon plays a mentally disturbed neighbor of the Wheelers who has lost his entire life to his mental condition, and now has no reason to perform the social niceties that you or I perform every day. he is honest, he is disturbing, and he pours a lot into what amounts to a fifteen-minute performance. I’ve rarely had such a knee-jerk reaction to an actor before, and even though it is not a popular decision, I would give the Oscar to Shannon over Ledger’s admittedly deserving role in The Dark Knight. Watch this movie and immediately tell me otherwise. I do not think it can be done without some deliberation.

So run, don’t walk, to see this one! It is a movie that hits on a very emotional level. If you can handle some deep, soul searching drama about the deepest recesses of the human spirit, this is a movie for you. The inevitable question will arise of which movie I think Winslet deserved her Oscar nomination for, this or The Reader, and I think that as long as she wins something this year it doesn’t really matter. But if I were in the Academy (think about it, Hollywood…), I would still give it to her for The Reader.  Why? It’s apples and oranges. I happen to feel though that it is the hardest to play a morally ambiguous character, and The Reader’s Hanna Schmitz was more ambiguous than any person I have seen on the screen in a long while. So there you go. But as movies, I feel personally that they are equals, and that they should both have been nominated. Therefore, I give Revolutionary Road 9 1/2 comfy suburbs out of 10! A high recommendation!

See you tomorrow, folks, where we continue 90′ Week with Scream!