Kate Winslet's face conveys a hundred different types of loathing for her husband in "Revolutionary Road." When she is screaming at him, when she is literally running out of the house to get away from him, when she is hurling verbal darts his way--that's harsh enough. But it's the looks she gives him when HE is talking, when they're entertaining guests, when they're at the beach, that tell us this woman often despises this man in a profound and frightening manner.
It is a great, great performance.
Winslet plays April Wheeler and the perhaps ever-boyishly handsome Leonardo DiCaprio plays her husband Frank in "Revolutionary Road," Sam Mendes' painfully faithful adaptation of the 1961 novel by Richard Yates. Set in the mid-1950s, "Revolutionary Road" is a suburban horror story about a seemingly golden couple whose marriage is rotten to the core. Frank and April keep telling themselves they're smarter and better and hipper than their surroundings; it's as if they're 'playing house,' as one visitor so accurately puts it.
April at home with the two kids, Frank stumbling upward at a business machine company in Manhattan--this isn't their real life. The real adventure of life will begin when Frank quits his job and they move to Paris, where April believes Frank will become the man he's meant to be, and she will realize some sort of bohemian dream.
They're in denial, and Paris is a ridiculous mirage. Frank is the first to realize this and try to come to terms with it. April won't go down without a fight, and then another fight, then another, each one escalating in intensity and emotional bloodletting.
Kathy Bates shines in a supporting role as a busybody real estate agent who thinks the Wheelers are interesting intellectuals--just the kind of sparkling couple that might help her son snap back from a nervous breakdown. Michael Shannon gives an Oscar-level performance as the son, Jack Givings. At first he is enthralled with the Wheelers and their anti-establishment plan--but when he realizes it's a sham, he turns on them with mad fury.
Who knew "American Beauty" would turn out to be Sam Mendes' lighter take on suburban despair? With his elegant, austere style, Mendes is the perfect director to make visual the inner monologues of the Yates novel. A work of devastating sadness becomes a film that will make you wince at times, even as you're marveling at the performances. Bolstered by Thomas Newman's score, spot-on set design and the brilliant source material, "Revolutionary Road" is a darkly effective portrait of an Eisenhower-era couple who fall tragically short of reaching Camelot.