November 18, 2008

Revolutionary Road, round 1.

Revolutionary Road "Subtly affecting, director Sam Mendes's Revolutionary Road plays like a more mature and considered version of American Beauty, his Oscar-winning tale about the nagging disillusionment eating away at the heart of suburbia," writes Tim Grierson in Screen Daily. "Based on Richard Yates's acclaimed 1961 novel about an unhappy East Coast marriage, the film inevitably suffers from some similarity to other recent domestic melodramas, notably star Kate Winslet's Little Children. Nevertheless, a strong cast, led by the much-touted reunion of Titanic stars Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, guides a nuanced story with much to say about married life's emotional blind alleys."

Updated through 11/19.

"Literature, movies and social commentary have all been down this road many times before, stressing the conformism of 50s upper-middle-class life, the emotional sterility of the suburbs, the hypocrisy of attitudes, the sexism, et al," writes Variety's Todd McCarthy. "What keeps all these too routinely accepted views safely in the background here is the stinging emotional truth that courses through the novel and, to a significant extent, the film, thanks especially to the electric, fully invested performances by the two leads. Frank and April are like a 20-years-younger George and Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? who have yet to achieve an unstated equilibrium in their epic tug of war."

"Justin Haythe's script and Sam Mendes's direction hew closely to Richard Yates' 1961 novel," notes the Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt. "Which means it fails to escape the novelist's misogyny and contempt for anything suburban. The phrase seized upon in both works is 'hopeless emptiness.' It's apt."

"'We were very interested to let it go and see where it went. I was like, "If you want to smash me up, OK, you want to smash me up,"' said Winslet at a Q&A session which followed a screening of the film in Los Angeles at the weekend," report Ben Child and Jeremy Kay for the Guardian. "'We're old friends and we know where we can go with each other,' agreed DiCaprio. 'She will let me strangle her until she literally passes out in the scene.'"

Update: "It's a pretty splendid film, far and away the best Mendes has made," argues Glenn Kenny. The story "is great stuff for actors, and the cast makes the most of it.... As for Mendes, he lets the material and the actors do much of the work for him. He doesn't altogether eschew cinematic flourish, though. Working with ace cinematographer Roger Deakins, he tends to favor long takes here, but rather than aspiring to the fluidity of Ophuls/Preminger/Kubrick, he does his own thing with them - having a non-Steadicam-ed handheld keep up with Frank's impotent, enraged pacing around the house, or holding one character in focus with the background blurred, then shifting the focus to the other character for the remainder of the shot. It all works well, save for one overly pretty shot near the very end, by which time I was inclined to let him have his way."

Updates, 11/19: "Mendes definitely warms up the book," writes Anne Thompson. "The movie offers some possibility of hope for the rest of us. It lives and breathes."

"Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet drive the film with outstanding performances, Roger Deakins cinematography is top notch, and the material remains faithful to the timeless novel, while retaining an edge and highlighting issues that still exist today," writes David Benjamin at the Playlist. "Growing up in Connecticut, I remained impressed throughout at the level of detail paid to replicating the dynamic of a state that really hasn't changed much since the 50s... It's a terrific film and one that is likely to rank among the year's best."

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Posted by dwhudson at November 18, 2008 7:18 AM