After getting off to a good start, I ended up yawning during the middle of Revolutionary Road. This was literally the case, I yawned, and I felt tired. There was no conflict driving the story–even the conflict from earlier seemed to have disappeared–and I felt myself not caring about the near-perfect lives of April and Frank Wheeler.
And then, conflict happened, and the lives and relationships of the characters within the film began to deteriorate. April (Kate Winslet) becomes pregnant, while Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) is offered a high paying job. Yes, both of these things end up causing issues between the couple. The reason for this is because of a decision they came to earlier on in the film. They want to move to Paris, they decide to, and then these two complications arise.
Backtracking a bit, and we notice that the couple already had problems. April tries to be an actress near the film’s beginning, but after a failed play, she and Frank fight while driving home. He almost hits her, but manages to divert his anger to the top of his car instead. After that, they don’t fight for quite a long time, which means that we get about 40 minutes of happy people in a suburban lifestyle in the 1950’s. Then the tone shifts to one of darkness and sadness, at least, for the characters.
Unfortunately, that feeling doesn’t project itself onto the audience. The characters are three-dimensional yes, and we get enough development that should make us care, but unfortunately, the characters themselves aren’t in the least bit likable. Their actions are not redeeming in the slightest, their personalities make you want to stuff a rag in their mouths, and despite their lives being nearly perfect, they constantly complain about them.
This is problematic, because the characters are played very well. Winslet and DiCaprio have an easy-going chemistry, likely stemming from the film they previously worked on together, Titanic. Their performances have a lot of depth, and end up being the only thing that will keep you wanting to watch the film. DiCaprio especially is the person that drives the film forward, because the plot doesn’t.
This rings especially true when the film concludes, which I can only guess is supposed to make you feel sad. But it can’t. It holds no power over the audience’s emotions, due to the disdain you feel for the characters. It’s like watching someone sit there for an hour complaining about being bored, and then doing something incredibly stupid. You aren’t going to care that they ended up hurt, because they’ve driven you to the point where you wanted them to do damage to themselves. That’s how I felt about Revolutionary Road, particularly its conclusion.
I suppose the best thing I can say about Revolutionary Road is that it sticks to its time period perfectly. It definitely feels like it was set in the 1950’s, from the decor to the outside world, to little details like how almost all of the characters smoke at every chance they get. Doctors clearly haven’t told people that smoking and drinking is bad for you, I guess they haven’t figured that out yet, as April even decides to indulge while pregnant.
However, the dialogue in the film doesn’t quite fit with how I imagine people talked back then, or even how they talk now. Some scenes, particularly the ones that have people fighting, were written fine. It’s scenes where things are quiet, (too quiet), or when people are talking pleasantly that things seem out of whack. Normal people just don’t communicate with each other the way that they did during the film. It isn’t even really communication, more than disconnected thoughts following up one another, occasionally having some semblance of relating to each other.
I didn’t like Revolutionary Road. Dramas need either interesting or likable characters, this film had neither. The performances were good, I won’t deny that, but there wasn’t much point to having deep characters that we have difficulty caring about. When something that attempts to stir emotions happens, and the only thing I can think of is, “the carpet is ruined”, then you know the film didn’t do its job. Boring and emotionless, Revolutionary Road didn’t make me care, not one bit.