Its interesting to see the career paths of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio have taken since they starred in the biggest film of the last 25 years in Titanic. Winslet was the holder of the “Best Actress not to win an Oscar” until recently, having pegged herself in the team picture of the best working actress of the last decade and collecting Oscar nominations like some people collect sports memorabilia. DiCaprio has decidedly gone the other direction, having a fairly erratic career that only recently righted itself with a string of good performances and hits. Its interesting that they return in another modern romantic fable in Revolutionary Road, directed by Winslets real life husband Sam Mendes.
The pair star as April and Frank respectively, a married couple with delusions of grandeur so to speak. They meet young, both planning on working in New York for a while until they can leave that “dead” city for something more “alive” in Paris, France. But life doesnt go as they had planned; a couple kids and a house in the suburbs later, they come to a crossroads. Frank is given a shot at a promotion at the job he hates thats big enough to make it worth his while and April has an opportunity overseas as a government secretary, the goal to support him while he “finds himself.” Further complications arise, leading to a shocking finale.
With a pair like DiCaprio and Winslet, its an easier job for Sam Mendes. Both are talented actors whose chemistry carried the biggest blockbuster of them all; together again after a decade apart they have the same chemistry as before. If anything they have both grown separately and when together its instantly fascinating. Theres an interesting layer between them; its an odd note that their first film together was the idealized notion of romance and their second film is more of an indictment of it.
For Mendes the film is relatively straightforward. The doldrums of the suburbs are territory he mined before in American Beauty and this is in his wheelhouse. This is an actors film, not a directors film, and Mendes is wise enough to let his cast do the work and just make sure to tell the story around them. Mainly hes there to sit back, watch and make sure not to get in their way for the most part and he does it admirably.
Theres nothing fancy or unwarranted; just a depressing story told in a straightforward manner with quality characters and actors behind them. While it doesnt reach greatness, Mendes does get the film to “very good” territory and thats not a bad thing.
Presented in a Dolby Digital format, with a widescreen presentation, the film looks and sounds wonderful. Revolutionary Road is a period piece and the DVD looks every bit the part of a film that couldve been made in that time period. There isnt much in terms of a score, so the audio really isnt tested significantly, but for the scoring and dialogue everything comes through well.
Lives of Quiet Desperation: The Making of Revolutionary Road is the films major extra and is the story of how the film came together. Garnering rave reviews as a novel, the film was optioned by the BBC for them and presented to Sam Mendes as a project for them. With Winslet attached it grew into a motion picture and then stalled, moving forward when DiCaprio was able to fit it into his schedule. The piece itself is a bit beyond an EPK but not much; theres a bit of a guarded honesty, as its not quite “everything was great” but not quite candid either. It is interesting to note that the film did try and go for a more authentic feel by using cars, houses and other accoutrement of the period.
Theres also a Commentary Track featuring Mendes and screenwriter Justin Haythe. They also add commentary to Deleted Scenes.
Previews for the DVD releases of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Defiance and There Will Be Blood.
While it didnt garner the sort of awards that it was intended for, Revolutionary Road is a good film with an above average DVD. Its worth the rental but a purchase is only recommended if you really enjoyed the film in theatres.
Paramount presents Revolutionary Road. Directed by Sam Mendes. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet. Written by Justin Haythe based off a novel by Richard Yates. Running time: 119 minutes . Rated R . Released on DVD June 2, 2009. Available at Amazon.com
Tags: American Beauty, leonardo dicaprio, Sam Mendes, Titanic