Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Revolutionary Road Warrior

Easily the best part of this movie is when Humongous sends his S&M punk troops in to crash the suburban home in an attempt to steal their gasoline.

Ha! I wish!

No, no, this is Revolutionary Road, starring Kate & Leo, together again for the first time since Titanic. And director Sam Mendes is here to tell us they were better off when Leo drowned. For all the crap I've heaped on this movie, it's better than the trailer makes it out to be.

But isn't Ms. Winslet a charmer? She stars as the most horrible, narcissistic, self-absorbed characters in film, wreaking a swath of destruction wherever she goes--and not even the usual femme fatale type swath, but the inconstant lover swath--and yet we keep going back to see her do it again (and again and again)!

The story here is trite enough: Boy meets girl, boy and girl have a lot of pillow talk about grand adventures, girl gets knocked up, boy gets job and buys girl house, boy knocks up girl again, and both are really depressed.

It's a little better than that, fortunately, because the two characters are so unlikeable at first, you sort of wish they would do one of those murder-suicide things. April (Winslet) is a wannabe actress, but she's really horrible. She's also moody and uncommunicative and none-too-bright Frank (Di Caprio) hasn't figured that out.

Frank, not feeling special, has a fling with the new girl in the steno pool--gets her drunk first, too, classy!--but then comes home to find new passion in his wife who has concocted the following plan: Move to Paris; they live on savings and money from the house; April will get a government job; Frank can use the time to "find himself".

This reinvigorates their marriage so much, they have spontaneous, unprotected sex, apparently unaware that that activity can have long-term effects. Meanwhile, Frank, in a moment of ebullience, did something noteworthy and is offered a big promotion--a once in a lifetime thing.

So while Frank is starting to feel good about things, April is getting increasingly depressed. Things go downhill from here.

This is when I began to realize what a truly horrible person April is. She's so focused on being "special" that she can't see the esteem in which others see her and Frank. (Or she can, but lacking any respect for those who admire her, she doesn't care.) I thought we were seeing another side of her when she came up with the Paris plan, but then I realized it meant: 1) getting out of their neighborhood; 2) getting away from their kids; 3) attaching herself to Frank's future achievements.

This becomes painfully apparent when Frank's newfound satisfaction results in less happiness for her, and her subsequent actions get more and more selfish. (Though I wonder if Winslet sees any of this. She's the one who failed to see her Nazi character as a sexual predator.)

Anyway, while I enjoyed American Beauty because I saw it as upbeat--no, really--this movie doesn't give you any positive thoughts to close on.

For sheer moviegoing pleasure, I thought the movie dragged a lot until April comes up with the Paris plan, then it starts to drag again at the ends of both act 2 and act 3. And as much as I love Michael Shannon (who drives the little horror flick Bug), his character has to be one of the laziest and ham-handed literary devices I've ever seen in a movie.

Not to say he doesn't do the part well, 'cause he does, but the whole "Aaaand here's the crazy guy who perceives the situation between Frank and April perfectly and explains it thoroughly to that part of the audience that hasn't figured it out yet" is completely unnecessary.

The Boy basically liked it. He disagreed with the premise, though, finding suburbia far from hellish. Of course, now, when he's taking out the trash, he looks pensively up-and-down the street--'cause that's just what a smartass he is.

And on that last point, the house Frank & April have is gorgeous, and they just have to walk across the street to find themselves in the woods! They're tramping through the woods explaining how they have to get away from it all at one point.

But, you know, okay, the point is (in part) that it's not for everyone. However nice your situation is, if you don't want it, it's unpleasant. And at least the movie doesn't force that point on you; I was sort of surprised by that. I perceived it that Frank found a way to be happy there, and that April's exceeding selfishness stopped her from being happy.

Whether they meant it that way or not is another issue.


  1. Great review. I didn't know this movie was based on a book. Whoever wrote the Wikipedia plot summary has a soft spot for the April character.

  2. I thought I had read that in the movie, the April character was presented very sympathetically--quite different from how the book was (supposedly, I haven't read it.) But it doesn't sound that way from your review.

    Of course, now, when he's taking out the trash, he looks pensively up-and-down the street

    LOL! Call the doctor when he starts filming plastic bags blowing in the street.

  3. That's the Kate Winslet effect, which you can see in The Reader and Little Children, to name two.

    Basically, any character no matter how despicable, is sympathetic if Winslet plays her.

    April's an absolute monster, though. Worse in the movie, probably, than the book, because her only humanizing feature is her love for her children--which we never really see in this movie, except (sort of/maybe) for a phone call at the end.

    Frank's a jerk, but he feels guilt and remorse and demonstrates affection. (April's demonstrations of affection are always self-serving in some fashion.)


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