james debate
james debate

Wednesday 14 January 2009

Directed by Sam Mendes
Written by Justin Haythe (screenplay), Richard Yates (novel)
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet
Release date(s) 26th December 2008
Running time 119 minutes

Revolutionary Road Film

Directed by Sam Mendes, director behind the uniquely spellbinding classic American Beauty, Revolutionary Road sees the Brit return to his now familiar cinema surroundings, plunging the dark depths of American suburbia. This outing comes from excellent source material, the well renowned novel of the same name by Richard Yates. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, it is hard to see how this film could fail, and indeed I even had it listed on my hot tips for 2009, following in the footsteps of my notoriously accurate predicting from last year where I had 100% spot on. The film even picked up a Golden Globe.

The story follows the lives of a newly wed couple played by the two stars with a relationship that is seemingly idyllic on the surface being shown to their neighbours and friends, but underneath brews the murky waters of discontentment and ennui, all set in the naive isolation of a 1950s suburbia.

So what does the film do well? Well the direction is typically excellent as you would expect from Sam Mendes, although he will find it difficult to make a film that stands out after the success he achieved with American Beauty, and this is clearly not it. It's not stylistically different enough or original enough to earn him the same kudos he found with that project. The acting, particularly from the two big stars, is simply top notch, and definitely the best thing about the film. Leo is excellent as he reminds us once again that he is much much more than the pretty face who made girls cry in Titanic.

That is where my congratulations have to end however. The real key to a book like this is the passion in every seen, and the twisted workings inside the minds of our two fairly unlikable characters, and this screenplay simply does not do that justice.

Mendes' direction, though technically excellent, feels almost sterile for most of the film, like he's there just doing a job rather than bringing the inner conflict to life. And because none of this makes the screen, frankly not a whole lot happens for the duration of the film and it's basically two hours of Leo and Kate bitching at each other over every little thing, without much substance to make it meaningful.

There is also an over-preponderance to dwell on for far too long on each overblown emotional segment and largely bypass the actual meat of the story that goes on in between these scenes within each of the characters.

In the end this is not a bad film, but it's not particularly great either, and a bit of a disappointment considering how good it could and probably should have been. This is the sort of film that critics are going to be highly divided on, and will probably only be liked by the most pretentious of critics, which the academy loves, so expect to see this make an appearance at the Oscars despite it not being as good as a number of recent movies.

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