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Revolutionary Road Indeed

Shane Steinberg | Friday, January 16, 2009

Eleven years and eight Oscar nominations after becoming household names for their roles in “Titanic,” Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are sharing the same screen once again, in the film “Revolutionary Road”.

Cast arguably the best actor and actress of this generation under a terrific director in Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) and you’ve got an equation that screams Oscars. And a winning equation it most certainly turns out to be.

Frank and April Wheeler are a young married couple who have recently settled down, started a family and made a home for themselves in a seemingly perfect, innocent suburban town in Connecticut.

They are living the picturesque 1950s life, falling into every sense of normalcy that comes with the lifestyle. Under the surface, however, lies a different story.

Right off the bat we are privy to the fact that the Wheelers have a rocky marriage, always arguing, but about what? There in lies the substance of the film.

Look closer and you’ll find that although this is a film about social issues and gender stereotypes facing Americans in the 1950s, about a marriage on the brink of collapse because of these issues, it is just as much, if not more, about the struggle to retain an identity amidst the delusion that when one settles down, life automatically resigns itself and is replaced by a numb existence.

Look even closer and you’ll find that although this film is built around couples, it is actually about individuals – individuals who choose to live the delusion and either convince themselves that life inevitably becomes anesthetized and there’s nothing that can be done about it, or simply don’t realize their frozenness at all. Individuals like Frank, and especially April, who so boldly choose to refuse the delusion, try to grab a hold of life again.

Look a little more deeper and you will see that even among those who desire change, there is a weakness too powerful and too restricting – reality.

The reality is that Frank and April are together in their quest to live again for different reasons: Frank wants to find his calling, but like so many of us, isn’t willing to take the risk, while April is searching for something not even she can understand – and therein lies the tragedy.

Their search for the life that eludes them both is a blind search, one conjured up by dreamers fated to wake up and realize that reality isn’t so kind.

It doesn’t take much to see that Winslet and DiCaprio are nothing short of brilliant, or that Sam Mendes is in top form in his return to showcasing the rather dark side of suburban life, but it does take a connection with the characters to really take in just how remarkable “Revolutionary Road” is.

Many will watch it from the-outside-looking-in and find it a gloomy, perhaps even dull film, but for those who can look through the window and into April Wheeler’s eyes and see the emptiness of fake existence, this is one of the real gems of the year.