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Revolutionary Road: Ripping the Mask Off of Suburbia. Again.

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At the time of its release, Sam Mendes's 1999 breakthrough film, American Beauty, was supposed to have ripped the placid mask off of suburbia. Nearly 10 years later, it looks more like an extended, unfunny sitcom episode. So it's not much of a surprise that Mendes has gone to a more durable source—Richard Yates's splendid, stately 1961 novel Revolutionary Road—to get the job done right. It almost works, too.

It's a pleasure to see Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio coming back together 11 years after Titanic to gauge their progress as actors. They've both improved, but DiCaprio still chews a bit too much, Brando-like, on his words; Winslet, with her great oceans of unspoken dialogue, is clearly the better of the two. And it's surprising to see Michael Shannon—literally the only reason to watch last year's ugly little film Bug—steal the show from both of them as a rage-filled man whose nonconformist ways get him sent to a mental institution.

But the problem is that every year around Oscar season, Hollywood dresses up like average people and puts on a caricature play of suburban life, and we know the score far too well at this point. There is sad, meaningless adultery. DiCaprio and Winslet relentlessly feud—from the very beginning of the film—in the kind of screaming, snot-splattered scenes that always wind up in Best Actor and Actress montages at awards shows. And you can throw all the money in the world at this sort of thing (the costumes and sets are beautiful), but without the soul of Yates's gorgeous language, it's only so much pretty whining. When you repeatedly rip the mask off of something—like, say, suburbia—you're not revealing anything: You're just playing peek-a-boo, and the only people who are consistently amused by games of peek-a-boo are children and imbeciles. recommended


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Good to know that any person who would go see this film is either a child or an imbecile. As opposed to mental powerhouses like yourself whose great depth comes by way of reviewing graphic novels and live blogging from science-fiction conventions?
Posted by Holly B. on January 2, 2009 at 8:25 PM · Report this
This movie should have ended with the crazy guy actually going to Paris – much better ending than the nonsense they came up with. (Although he did have the best lines in the flick). => Morale, only the insane are insightful ;-)
Posted by Fred34 on January 5, 2009 at 4:05 AM · Report this
I'm surprised to see Him say that American Beauty now "looks more like an extended, unfunny sitcom episode." I thought it stood the test of time, as short as it has been. It was, and still is, a beautiful film. This one on the other hand, i have no idea, haven't seen it yet.
Posted by Bug on January 6, 2009 at 11:04 AM · Report this
Bug is an "ugly little film"? I thought it was one of the best horror films of the year, honestly.
Posted by DR on January 12, 2009 at 3:55 PM · Report this
So if one film "rips the mask off suburbia" another one can't? And since when do we paint a movie with one broad stroke definition and leave it at that?

Sure, Revolutionary Road may have been an up-skirt view of suburbia, but it says a whole lot more about marriage than American Beauty did -- and it does so in a different way, and without all the other distractions.

I'm guessing Paul Constant has never been married. Bro, if you don't understand this movie's significance I can't help you. And congratulations on that earth-shattering comparison. Next time filmmakers want to say something about suburbs or marriage, I'm sure you'll pass.

That said, I have my own complaints. For one, I thought it was 20 minutes too long. The end distracted. We didn't need the blood and the hospital and the opinions of the neighbors.
Posted by P on January 13, 2009 at 3:10 AM · Report this
This review satisfied me.
Posted by Fisti on January 18, 2009 at 11:14 PM · Report this

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