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Monday, March 9, 2009

Revolutionary Road

On Saturday, I went to the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring (which I highly recommend if you're in the DC area) to see Revolutionary Road. As a huge Kate Winslet fan, I was of course interested to weigh in on which performance she should have been nominated for this year (RR or The Reader).

If you're not sure what to expect, make sure you're not looking for Titanic Pt. 2. There is much more pain than love to be found in this movie. Nevertheless, Kate and Leo do show the same chemistry that worked so well in Titanic. Yes, I'll admit it, I actually think Titanic holds up as a good blockbuster epic movie. Needless to say, the two actors go to a much darker place in Revolutionary Road.

To be honest, the movie started out a little shaky. After a very quick set-up of their meeting, the movie moves to a scene where they are already living in the suburbs and having a bitter fight in a car. Since we have no real clue of their relationship, this scene seems a little jarring and negative for a pre-titles sequence. While I realize that this movie is probably following the novel, I would have appreciated a little more time (if only 10 minutes or so), showing the falling in love phase of the two. While there are very small glimpses throughout the film, I think later scenes would have more resonance if we had a fuller sense of the love the two had lost.

Once Revolutionary Road gets into its particular rhythms, though, I found it quite compelling. While it is certainly insightful about life in the suburbs, condemning this particular lifestyle is not really its main point. The movie is more about individual choices and compromises that people make in their lives, and how these choices have repercussions throughout their lives.

DiCaprio does an outstanding job at a fairly tricky role. He plays a character who espouses independent ideas but, when push comes to shove, consistently ends up being the one taking the traditional route. He plays Jack Wheeler with an intelligence that shows us his character is always aware of his failings, even as he knowingly chooses more conventional route.

Winslet is absolutely fantastic playing a character that is fairly unlikable on the surface. There are things she does and says in this movie that are hard to swallow and certainly hard for many to relate to. Yet, because she is such a compelling actress, Kate helps us see underneath the actions of her character to her longing for an interesting life. There is a particular scene, a quiet breakfast scene that takes place between two crucial dramatic scenes, where she is absolutely riveting. Her brilliance as an actress is that she is as compelling in moments of calm as in moments of great drama. So, for the record, I do believe this is a slightly more impressive performance than The Reader (which is saying a lot).

The supporting cast is great as well. The actors playing their neighbors are wonderful, as is Kathy Bates as a realtor/neighbor. Michael Shannon received a Supporting Actor nomination for his small but pivotal role as a mentally unstable man who is able to see deep into the Wheeler's marriage.

All in all, I highly recommend this movie. While it is certainly flawed, I think it's a movie that I will think about for a long time.

Grade: A-

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