Going in, I expected Revolutionary Road (119 minutes) to be a movie that could only be enjoyed after a hefty dose of Prozac. It looked like the sort of heavy handed overly (and overtly) emotional tripe that gets award recognition but otherwise lacks appeal (see Atonement, Road to Perdition, and Mystic River). Surprisingly, within minutes of the opening credits, I was deeply engrossed in the story. What if Jack didn’t die at the end of Titanic? Would he and Rose have lived happily ever after, or would the blush of young passion have faded to dishwater during their struggle to make ends meet? The trailer promised a glimpse into the darker side of suburbia, and it certainly delivered.  However, the trailer failed to reveal the subtle acting skills of Leonardo DiCaprio (who apparently can act), from whom Director Sam Mendes gets an outstanding performance. Kate Winslet deserves all the award nominations she is receiving, and she was shamefully overlooked for the Oscar nomination. 
   {mosimage}The film opens at a party, where April (Winslet) catches Frank Wheeler’s eye (DiCaprio). We skip to Connecticut in 1955, where April’s dreams of acting have been reduced to starring in a poorly received community play, and their promising relationship has turned to verbal sparring and poorly concealed hate. Since that first meeting, April has forced herself (or been forced) into the disappointing and unfulfilling life of a housewife while Frank works at a job he seems to hate in order to support her.
   April suggests they move to Paris, and despite the tragic air of the whole movie, it really seems like the two will recapture the lost promise of their youth and find a way to lead mutually fulfilling lives instead of being stuck in their mutually destructive roles. They begin to tell people of their plans, only to be met with open criticism and hostility. 
  Then, their friend Mrs. Helen Givings (Kathy Bates) introduces the couple to her son (The awesomely crazy Michael Shannon from the awfully awesome Bug). He, at least, approves of their plan, and it seems like these two crazy kids are really gonna make it work…but this is not that kind of movie.       
  In the final analysis, the film reads like a contemporary take on a too often idealized time in America. To my surprise, it is actually based on a novel by Richard Yates from 1962.  Mendes does great things with the material, and the story is incredibly involving.  The actors strike just the right emotional tone, making this film a must see.
  Despite the lack of the spectacular Nina Simone song playing over the trailer (“Wild is the Wind” for those of you who were going crazy trying to remember the title), the soundtrack nicely complemented the overall aesthetic of the fifties. The dialogue is letter perfect, skillfully integrating the appropriate slang and accent of the period. The sitting room, dining room, restaurant décor and knick knacks are nicely done, and a close eye for detail is evident throughout the film. The story kept me guessing, and while the climax is not a huge surprise, the foreshadowing is subtle enough to keep the audiences in suspense. Overall, an excellent film.   

Contact Heather Griffiths at editor@upandcomingweekly.com

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