Thursday, January 22, 2009

Revolutionary Road

Does anyone remember Starman? Briefly: an alien comes to earth and takes the physical form of Jenny's (Karen Allen) dead husband. Being an advanced life form, he quickly absorbs functions of American life simply by watching. In one memorable instance, he is riding in the car with Jenny and as she approaches an intersection where the traffic light is turning yellow, she guns the car through before the light turns red. In a later scene, as he is driving, Starman sees the light turning yellow and he starts gunning it. In his case, of course, he is much farther from the intersection and he ends up speeding through the red light causing fender benders as cars careen, swerve, and screech. As Jenny perplexedly yells at Starman, he simply tells her, "Yellow means go faster."

If Starman saw Revolutionary Road, he would simply say, "Babies ruin everything."

Yes, there is more to Revolutionary Road than that. Though the subject of a struggling marriage is nothing new, it's always the relatable journey and characters that make watching a movie interesting. In some ways, I found myself watching this movie like a play, as a series of scenes. And that was my problem with this movie: I felt I was watching great performances of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio (as April and Frank Wheeler) in some great scenes, not necessarily a cohesive movie. Some scenes reminded me of an exercise from my acting days where we were told to make choices that took action to "100%"--especially the scenes where Frank and April would argue to the point of playing the Marriage version of Snaps! (or Yo' Momma is...). But perhaps because we never see Frank and April as the, ostensibly, former young and happy couple, nor do we really see them as a young and happy family with their children, the weight of their complaints and cruel words don't land as hard as they could. For all the scenes we watch hammering in our heads that their lives have been put in some cruel, unhappy box, we didn't get to witness the marriage worth fighting for.

The cast as a whole, was great. Michael Shannon as the Wheelers' realtor's son who has just returned from a stay at a mental institution, yet has the voice of clarity and reason (Get it? The crazy one is the sane one here!) is a scene-stealer. And Zoe Kazan as the innocent girl in the typing pool who wises up fast is also memorable. And of course, love Kathy Bates as usual. I confess I was distracted by the cast's wide spectrum of adopting the '50s cadence--from DiCaprio gamely using the word "swell" (which elicited a few chuckles in the audience) to Dylan Baker full-on channeling William Powell from The Thin Man.

Overall, I'd give this movie a B. It's got some great moments where you can't take your eyes off the screen but you can wait to see it on DVD.


Pound said...

no comment on RR, but starman- OMG! i loved that movie and watched it 14 times when i was 10.

Anonymous said...

You know I gotta say I was never a fan of Sam Mendes. I think his style is excessive. He has a very condensing tone. I think American Beauty is waaaaaaay over rated. Gosh isn’t suburbia crazy? Give me a break! How does anyone look at that film and say “you know, that’s me”? His stuff is so stilted and one sided. It’s not like Scorsese (aaahh but who is?). Scorsese pulls from the gut…totally real and how he sees it (right or wrong). NEVER an ounce of pretension in his films. I have to confess that I didn’t see Revolutionary Road (though I did LOVE the book). I hated Road to Perdition and only watched the first 15 minutes of Jarhead so maybe I’m not a good judge.
Give me Ed Wood ANYDAY (or Starman for that matter…LOVE Karen Allen-but I digress)!!

Annabelle said...

Save your ten bucks (12.50 if you are mired in Manhattan). My takeaway was not "Don't have a baby," but "Never marry an actress." No offense.

I totally agree - the absence of happier days or Q-time with the kids (when April thumbed through old photos, Josh said he thought "Oh, the kids must have died"). The scene of tepid flirtation at the party where they meet did not lend much credibility to why they ever felt "special." Or was that the point?

I was wondering, though, what the implications of the closing scenes are. Millie and Helen tsk-tsk the Wheelers smugly while their husbands are distraught or wistful. Was this a commentary on who creates the "box" and who is a prisoner in it?