John Givings is home from the mental hospital. He is living with his elder parents, still recovering. It is never clear what he has, but in the midst of the seemingly perfect 1950s community on Revolutionary Road, he is the only one who makes sense. He is the only one who says what everyone needs to say, whether or not they want to hear it.
See, on Revolutionary Road, where seemingly happy couple Frank and April Wheeler live, there are serious problems. They’re not happy together, but with two children, try to make it work. They have parties, they invite the neighborhood for dinner.
Behind the seemingly happy exterior, both are having affairs. They cannot be together, but given the pressures of the era and in an attempt to appear normal, they struggle to make it work. They make the choice to move to Paris, to get away, and maybe make things normal. When that plan goes astray, things quickly spiral downhill.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet re-unite on-screen for the first time since Titanic, playing two characters who could not be further from Rose and Jack during their romantic fling on the doomed ship. In Revolutionary Road, they’re spiteful. They don’t like each other. They don’t even want the children they have. DiCaprio hates his job.
Most importantly, they’re fake in front of other people.
The film opens with a harsh fight on the side of the road between the Wheeler couple, angry over Winslet’s poor performance in a play. Her dreams of acting are crushed, and her life is quickly established as routine housework. Compared to the anger and power of later scenes, these opening moments are quaint by comparison.
Revolutionary Road is not fun to watch, nor is it that enjoyable. Despite their appearance, these two people cannot be together, and oddly, neither can the people around them. Their neighbor and realtor also hide behind a shell of friendliness. It is not easy to watch them, mostly because the performances are incredibly powerful, and the ending is disturbing.
No matter how well directed the film may be by Sam Mendes, it is hard to see a reason why you would want to watch this. As a film, purely on that level, it is wonderful. As a story, it will do nothing but depress. Revolutionary Road descends into an increasing number of violent confrontations, undeniably well acted, but excruciating to process. It moves from one to the next on a consistent basis, and becomes tiring.
Not all films need to leave the audience with a smile on their face, and Revolutionary Road exposes an era typically associated with harmless comedy and perfect towns. That seems to be the sole reason why it made (and written by Richard Yates years prior), and it tells the story well. Finding value in it is something else all together.
The film looks stunning on Blu-ray, delivering a flawless transfer on all levels. Sharpness is consistent, and shows by offering an incredible amount of facial texture in every scene. Detail is outstanding. Contrast is excellent, and deep blacks deliver immense depth in every frame.
Color is well saturated in each shot. Flesh tones are spot on. A fine layer of grain if left intact, and the AVC encode handles it well. There were no moments of apparent artifacting.
A TrueHD track is given little to do. Fidelity is high as it should be for a modern film, but this is contained to the center channel. Very little soundtrack bleed is noticed, and party/club scenes are left to the stereo channels at best. The subwoofer will kick in during a musical performance, and remain silent the rest of the way. Adequate.
Limited in terms of extras, the Blu-ray offers enough material to get a pass. A commentary from director Sam Mendes and writer Justin Haythe is followed by a fine making-of, Lives of Quiet Desperation. The latter runs just short of 30 minutes, and avoids the usual cliché of self-praise. Richard Yates: Wages of Truth explores the author of the original novel candidly. Fifteen deleted scenes (around 25 minutes) and a trailer round off the extras.