Saturday, December 27, 2008

Revolutionary Picture

Revolutionary Road is a film that punched me in the gut and stayed with me long after I walked out of the theatre, deeply moved by it.

Based on the Richard Yates novel of the same name, the film tells the story of Frank and April Wheeler, a married couple with children in the mid Fifties who find themselves questioning what to make of their lives up to this point. As April struggles to break from the banality of suburbia, Frank begins to find value in his mundane career and their lifestyle.

Within the first twenty minutes of the film, I was engrossed in it and when Frank uttered the line, "I'm a thirty year old Knox man," I felt as if I had been knocked back into my seat. Amongst all of the film's emotional pulls, I immediately identified with Frank's slightly sorrowful acceptance of what his life had turned out to be. But, later, when he is finally recognized for his work and begins to achieve a sense of validation at the office, he begins to wonder if a life as a supportive husband and father is enough for him. It is a struggle many people must face in life, but Leonardo DiCaprio brings Frank's confusion and frustration to life so vividly, I felt as the film were made just for me.

It was difficult to watch a seemingly loving couple get out of their car to argue on the side on the road. It was uncomfortable to hear try to talk his way out of a secretary's bedroom and back home on his birthday. It was upsetting to watch Frank recall his days as a veteran as a time when he felt alive. And it was heart breaking to watch him try to sustain a dialogue and a relationship with his wife who just tunes him out.

For although the novel is told from Frank's point of view, the movie practically belongs to Kate Winslet. As April, she is never as explosive as Frank, but instead allows her feelings to remain subdued and beneath the surface until she is pushed over the edge by Frank's earnestness and inability to effectively communicate with her. Whether as the beautiful girl meeting eyes across the room at a party, the wife and doting mother or the woman who finally cuts herself off emotionally from everyone around her, Winslet is amazing at making you simultaneously pity her and scorn her. She becomes in front of our eyes, every person you have ever loved that didn't quite turn out to be the same person you fell in love with. Some will say she is selfish, some will say she is honest, but she is a real character with very real human emotions and flaws.

The film itself however, is flawless. Directed by Sam Mendes, it is better than American Beauty and shot beautifully by Roger Deakins, it has the unique quality of making you nostalgic for a time period you did not live in. Although I cannot say it is my favorite movie of the year, I can say that
Revolutionary Road is the best film of the year.

I talked about it all night with my friend. We asked ourselves what the other would do in the same circumstances, why had these characters made these choices, what choices would we have made instead. Even now as I write this, I can see Frank in my head and myself in Frank. I can see his struggle as my own and the film makes me wants to try to lead a better life for myself. But, it has not told me which life is better. It has left me to discover it on my own.