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"Revolutionary Road" and the tragedy of the ordinary

Posted at 12:40 PM on January 2, 2009 by Euan Kerr

Sam Mendes new film "Revolutionary Road" gives us a world filled with deluded and disaffected people struggling to escape the ordinary. Frank and April Wheeler live in a faceless New York suburb in the 1950s, where martini-dulled people exist in a haze of cigarette smoke.

Frank and April dream of escaping their manicured drudgery, he as an office drone, and she as a homemaker strangling on her apron strings. They both believe they are capable of great things, and that they are better than the people in the community around them.

Sadly on both counts they are wrong.

The story plays out as their hopes and aspirations crumble in the face of their realities. Their love turns to hate and the hate into warfare, all the while as they try to maintain their facade of normality.

A lot has been made of the reunion of Kate Winslet and Leonardo di Caprio for the first time since "Titanic." This is a very different kind of film and the actors fare very differently. As April Winslet conveys the feelings of love and hopelessness of a woman desperately hoping her husband can become the man she mistakenly believes he can become. Di Caprio struggles more as Frank, in part because his boyish good looks make him look young for the part. His attempt at world-weariness can come across as childish petulance.

It doesn't help that the script doesn't give us many clues as to why Frank and April feel they have something special beyond that of their neighbors. For people dreaming of a creating a new world for themselves they are remarkably unimaginative.

"Revolutionary Road" is a bleak story about a bleak world. It would be better if we could care a little more about the characters.

January 2009
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