Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Revolutionary Road

Ever since I saw Pocahontas at the Beatrice Holly Theater in the sixth grade, I have been a little on edge with movies that bounce from the present to the past and back again. I was super excited for Pocahontas at the time that I didn't think anything of the fact that John Smith and Pocahontas were having really deep conversations about the river and the wind BEFORE they met. I was still confused when all of the lights came on mid-movie and the movie theater manager came out and told us that we would be refunded our ticket money because the film strip was out of order... it was somehow cut wrong or something. I had to wait an entire week before I could see the movie in its correct order entirety. I've been on edge ever since, because, who knows! This could happen again at anytime without our knowledge!

I was a little worried and distracted by the thought that this had happened in Rev Road until the second quarter of the film, as it opens mid-story and then back tracks throughout the film explaining Frank and April's journey up until this point. Because of my unique Pocahontas experience, I was probably the only person in the audience to feel this way... because this was a PHENOMENAL film. Phenomenal. As my new friend Katy said at post-movie drinks at Pete's Tavern, run, don't walk to see this film.

Revolutionary Road tells the age old tale of discontentment. We know the story before the story begins... starry-eyed boy meets starry-eyed girl, boy and girl plan a life of adventures, accidentally (yet happily) have a child, put adventures on hold, then suddenly find themselves stuck and unhappy in a life of monotony. American Beauty, anyone? Titanic, perhaps? Nope, not at all. Mendes, DiCaprio, and Winslet leave these ghosts behind and retell this already told tale with an earth shattering freshness.

This film is different as it begins with the discontent. Rev Road doesn't waste anytime with anticipation. It opens with conflict, and reaches its peak of happiness and what we would normally deem conclusion at its mid-point. Everything we know has already happened at this point... its deeply satisfying. Mendes then shocks us with an unparalleled dramatic crumble that Kate and Leo absolutely nail. We were trembling.

Revolutionary Road's strength is matched by its supporting actors as well. The couple next door (Milly played by Kathryn Hahn, cousin to my friend Alex Hahn) work not only as the stereo-fifties cheese, but also hold a terror just beneath the surface that we can read softy. They hold normalcy without blankness.

The Dickens's character, Truth, is embodied by John, the crass neighbor recently released from an insane asylum. Truth shatters all false hope in both Frank and April, and releases the emptiness with a scream. The characters even voice this irony... isn't it interesting that the only person to understand us is certifiably insane? says Frank? I don't care, even if that makes us crazy too, answers April with a smile.

The film isn't anti-suburb, nor is it anti-children. This is where Mendes departs from American Beauty. It doesn't preach a ridiculousness, as anticipated. Instead, it unveils the terror of finding oneself at a place of inescapable discontent, no matter the situation. And it was terrifying. Most of us will relate to Winslet's character. Not that we are proud of it. At one lurching moment we see her as crazy, and the next as the villain. But it is April that we understand and will walk away knowing this with our tails between our legs.

Both DiCaprio and Winslet should be nominated for this film, although again, what do I know? I know that DiCaprio made us believe that a man with dreams of Paris and an understanding of suburban entrapment will suddenly wake up one day to a perfectly prepared breakfast made by his deeply unhappy wife and will actually believe that she is changing. That she is sincere in her wifely duties. I know that Winslet tapped into a crazy that we could feel, and not only judge. I know that this film twisted my stomach into a firmly settled knot and I could do nothing but gasp at its perfection. Run. Don't walk.

Happy New Year. :)


David Henly said...

"inescapable discontent" - yikes! I look forward to seeing this film when it moves beyond NYC. I also await your review of Benjamin Button. Happy New Year!! - David

Jen Pasko said...

Sarah I definitely can't wait to see this movie when it moves to the "Big IN". Kate Winslet is timeless --love her....I will also have to second the Mr. David Henly, I went and saw Benjamin Button and stinkin' loved it a film that embraces the grandma in us all....I mean please I need your expert review

La said...

I loved your reference to Pocahontas! I definitely remember that but had forgotten about it until now. Very disturbing. I too am looking forward to your Benjamin Button review. :-)