Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet's first pairing since Titanic made them stars in 1997 is a totally different kind of love story. Totally different. In fact, most of the time Revolutionary Road is a hate story about a 1950s suburban couple who can barely stand each other.
DiCaprio and Winslet play Frank and April Wheeler, who meet at a party in the film's opening minutes. By the very next scene they're married … and screaming at each other in a car parked by the side of a road. Both of them harbor shattered dreams: She wanted to be an actress; he's settled into a life of corporate anonymity, a 1950s version of a cubicle dweller who isn't even sure what his company does. "You're no actress," he tells her; "You're not a man," she counters. All of this takes place before the opening titles.
Both clearly despise their lives, separately and together. Frank spends his afternoons drinking and screwing a co-worker. April does laundry and cleans the house (they have two kids who are rarely shown or discussed). Desperate to put their lives back in order, April comes up with a plan to pack up everything and move to Paris, where she'll get a job as a secretary while Frank pursues his creative urges (which are kinda vague and never outlined).
All is happy in the Wheeler household for awhile, until Frank lands an accidental promotion and April gets pregnant. Then the shouting starts all over again. Director Sam Mendes (Winslet's real-life husband) has been down this path before in American Beauty, which probed the underside of suburban bliss, peeling back layers to reveal the discontentment lurking there. It's even more defined in Revolutionary Road.
The movie is expertly acted, especially Michael Shannon as the mentally unstable son of a nosy neighbor (Kathy Bates, also terrific) who unnerves the usually reserved Frank. Still, the film is mostly a showcase for the 33-year-old Winslet, who grows more refined as she ages. Every line in her face reflects April's frustration. "No one forgets the truth," she says at one point. "They just get better at lying." It's one of the year's best and most honest performances.
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