Based on the famed novel by Richard Yates, "Revolutionary Road" is the latest from director Sam Mendes ("Road to Perdition".) The picture also successfully reunites Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet who, years later, still have the same wonderful chemistry with one another. The two play Frank and April, a couple in the '50's who meet at a party. They have a gentle flirtation with one another, and there's the hint of a spark as the two chat away the night.
Years later, the two are married and the hint of a spark suggested by their night together at the party has been blown out. The sweetness of their first moments as a couple have long since soured, and the tension swimming under nearly every moment they spend together is palpable. They may have bought into the dream of marriage and family, their investment is tanking like last year's stock market.
Frank is working as a salesman at a 9-5 desk job that he's become deeply, bitterly bored of, and April spends her time as a housewife, letting her dreams of being an actress slip away. The two stick together and create a stable front for friends (Kathy Bates, another "Titanic" cast member re-joining DiCaprio and Winslet), despite the fact that the walls are crumbling and communication between the two has broken down. In an attempt to repair their marriage, April suggests that the two sell their house on Revolutionary Road and move their family to Paris, where they'll restart all over again - she'll work and he'll finally have the time to try to find what makes him happy.
However, they are soon anchored where they are by two new developments - a promotion for him at work and the realization that another kid is on the way. After their plans are scrapped, the relationship begins to fall apart, as the two realize that their own goals have been lost along the way. Soon enough, they begin to resent their wholly ordinary life and start to feel trapped (April falls into depression), which only leads to the situation coming apart at the seams. This isn't exactly a cheery picture by any stretch of the imagination, but the performances are strong enough and Mendes keeps the feel dry and matter-of-fact; it never becomes overly sentimental or melodramatic. Technically, the film boasts strong period detail and gorgeous cinematography from ace cinematographer Roger Deakins.
There's something about DiCaprio and Winslet that, in love ("Titanic") or in a very dysfunctional relationship (here), they have a way with each other that feels as if they've known each other for years. There's a genuine, natural way that they interact, and the two have a strong chemistry once again, playing off each other superbly. Although Dicaprio's performance is excellent, Winslet offers one of her best, doing a remarkable job portraying the character's emotional turmoil. Bates is also excellent in a supporting role, as well.
A terrific, often heartbreaking drama about marital distress with outstanding performances, "Revolutionary Road" is one of 2008's best.
VIDEO: The film is presented by Paramount Home Entertainment in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Although not exemplary in any way, the presentation was still more than satisfactory. Sharpness and detail were respectable, as while the presentation didn't appear crystal clear, it at least did look consistently crisp. As for flaws, the print looked pristine, but a few slight touches of artifacting were spotted. Colors appeared warm and bright, with excellent saturation and no smearing.
SOUND: As one would reasonably expect, this is a dialogue-driven feature and, as a result, the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio presentation is quite subtle. Surrounds do provide some light reinforcement of the memorable score from Thomas Newman, but the rear speakers are otherwise silent. Audio quality was fine, as Newman's score sounded rich and full, while dialogue remained clean and clear.
EXTRAS: Director Sam Mendes and screenwriter Justin Haythe offer an audio commentary for the picture. The two offer an excellent commentary, discussing working with the cast, issues with adapting the story, visuals and more. The pairing chat enthusiastically throughout most of the track, with only a couple of minor pauses of silence here-and-there.
We also get the nearly 30-minute "making of" ("Lives of Quiet Desperation: The Making of Revolutionary Road") and deleted scenes (w/optional commentary.)
Final Thoughts: A terrific, often heartbreaking drama about marital distress with outstanding performances, "Revolutionary Road" is one of 2008's best. The DVD offers very good audio/video quality, along with a few nice extras. Recommended.
The Film B+