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Monday, December 29, 2008

Revolutionary Road (**1/2)


Revolutionary Road postulates an alternate reality where Jack and Rose didn't meet on the Titanic but instead got married and moved to the suburbs of New York in the 1950s. Except Jack kept calling Rose "April" and Rose kept calling Jack "Frank." Revolutionary Road is seriously damaged by the existence of Mad Men, which is a more subtle, layered take on many of the same themes of the lies, hopelessness and emptiness behind the American Dream of love and marriage in the 1950's. DiCaprio's character sometimes even alternates between behaving like both Don Draper and Pete Campbell. Kate and Leo have scenes together where they're really excellent, and then there other moments where Sam Mendes directs them up to the edge of shrill histronics, then lets them dive right over without a net. (Leo busts out the Harrison Ford Finger of Doom more than once.) There are intriguing issues regarding marriage, compromise, happiness, manliness, and the 1950's cultural image of what a perfect life should be vs. the pursuit of an ideal life free of culturally-determined burden and responsibility. There's also an interesting exploration on why married people have affairs. Some of the arguments and emotional blackmail between Kate and Leo become so uncomfortable, the audience's reaction becomes laughter just as a release to the tension. While the performances are generally terrific from the leads and the issues are intriguing, the movie doesn't end when it should and goes on ten minutes too long, filling in details that just weren't necessary. There is a built-in laugh where Kate and Leo plan to go to Paris and decide to go there by steamship. It probably would have been better for them to go out that way than remain on the sinking ship of their marriage.