Welcome to Revolutionary Road, which looks just about like any other in the Connecticut suburbs. Only this one has the Wheelers, Frank and April, the newest and youngest couple in the neighborhood. Frank’s a salesman just like his old man and April’s a failed actress, now a housewife, perhaps like her mother.
Now with two kids, the dreams they shared when they first met are starting to slip away. Frank is, like a workingman cliché, sleeping with his secretary, and April spends her days tidying up and conversing with her friend and real estate agent. Then, an epiphany: what if they move to Paris? After April realizes how much money she can make as a translator at the American Embassy, she notes that Frank will no longer have to work ten hours a day at a job he hates. They plan to leave in the fall.
But then Frank gets a promotion, while April, concerned she may be pregnant, drags herself about the house as their charming little suburban existence begins to crumble, their happiest moments viewed only as flashbacks. They blame each other and start to realize that April may be too spontaneous for her husband, and Frank may always just be a guy who made her laugh at a party once. Every day there is shouting and signs of physical violence, even when they have company.
That company is Helen Givings (Kathy Bates), who sold the Wheelers their home (white with a red door, a visual nod to director Sam Mendes’ other depiction of suburban hell, American Beauty) not long ago. At her request, she brings over her son John (Michael Shannon), an electroshocked time bomb with a knack for exposing scars who, in one afternoon, challenges and obliterates the couple in the home they’d once hoped to escape. It seems ironic, yet oddly appropriate, that someone on a four-hour leave from the “funny farm” would be the one to expose the emptiness and hopelessness of one‘s life.
Shannon is just one of the three emotional, frighteningly real performances in Mendes’ Revolutionary Road, an adaptation of Richard Yates’ acclaimed 1961 novel. There is also Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, who portray the Wheelers. While DiCaprio occasionally borders on the theatrical (watch how comically he palms his hair back in heated situations), Winslet has rarely been better, expressing the frustrations and contempt of being an adequate nobody just as brilliantly as she did in Todd Field’s Little Children, where she also played a dispirited homemaker.
Revolutionary Road, which was 2008’s most revealing and truthful film, is set in a town just like any other town, on a block just like any other block, in a house just like any other house, where there are people just like you. They have dreams, but they also have laundry. One will have to wait.
Deleted Scenes (9:49): There are 5 here, each available with an optional commentary by Mendes and Haythe, who expand on where the scenes would have come in the film and why they were cut. Moments include more tension between Frank and April, flashbacks (Frank of his childhood, riding the train with his father; April of the couple’s first time in their new home), and more. These are all good, and were discarded for pacing reasons.
Lives of Quiet Desperation: The Making of Revolutionary Road (29:00): Interviews (with Winslet, DiCaprio, Mendes, etc.), on-set footage, and plenty of ass-kissing highlight this look into the film’s production. Topics include: Winslet working with her husband and re-teaming with DiCaprio, Richard Yates’ novel, the film’s themes, shooting on-location, the production design (props, costumes, et al.), and the cast’s characters.
Unfortunately, the Theatrical Trailer, which was by far the best of last year, is not included.
Also available on June 2nd is the Blu-ray.