Sunday, December 7, 2008

Revolutionary Road (2008, Sam Mendes)



I'm a trash man and figured the last Leo DiCaprio flick I'd seen was Critters 3: You Are What They Eat. It was actually The Departed, which shows how much an impact he made there.

He's good in this film. I never saw Titanic either, because I've got WILLPOWER, damn it. Winslet is good too, and the whole time I was wondering how they managed to get two leading Hollywood actors together with actual chemistry...

Their chemistry is what saves Revolutionary Road. Everything else is the usual Hollywood suburbia-is-bullshit bullshit they keep witlessly shoving down our throats. Everyone's trapped in their little box of desperation, a trip to Europe is the only way to escape, and if you enjoy your cul-de-sac hell you're probably some annoying fat woman who cries "yoo-hoooooo!" and enjoys gardening.

At least when Richard Yates wrote the novel in the mid-50s, the satire was timely. Now this film merely exists 50 years later so that critics and academics can rub their chins, purse their lips and remark how little things have changed. Like, women still can't get their abortions at the local 7-11! How arcane!

DiCaprio and Winslet's children are mere obstacles to their happiness, and almost total non-entities. Was Yates advocating the cause that adults should pursue their egos selfishly and at the dismissal of their children? Winslet gradually reveals she never wanted to have them or get married or move to the 'burbs in the first place.

DiCaprio comes to realize he doesn't want to give up everything on a wild whim of midlife crisis self-discovery, and is treated as the villain - a weaker human being than his wife, whom he drives to ruin by backing out of her plan. When he ends up by himself raising the children, the implication is that he got the worse deal, the sucker!

Sam Mendes was an obvious choice for the material and he pulls out the same lame bag of tricks he had with American Beauty, namely decorating the suburban houses in Red, White and Blue. There's also a character deemed crazy by society, man, who delivers snippy outbursts of rage at all the conformity around him and is therefore the voice of reason. The second time he does this is in the scene directly after the emotional climax of the movie, to explain how the audience is supposed to feel.

Some executive at Paramount must have been a big fan of Mad Men to greenlight this project, since the period office is the only other location we spend time in outside of the couple's home. Also like Mad Men, one of DiCaprio's period office pals is an obvious closet case and there are busty naive secretaries just waiting to be plucked. Oh, and everyone can smoke indoors again! Can we strike some kind of deal with Hollywood where all actors can smoke indoors in the movies, regardless of the story's period, just because smoking makes actors look so good?

The studio lot audience I saw this film with laughed their butts off at all the right moments, snickering their superiority at bourgeois normalcy. Doesn't matter if the plebes in flyover country go to see it or not, it's awards season Oscar bait and if they gotta make a movie without Batman, it may as well reinforce their sense of superiority over non-artistic-types, the commoners. Then it's back to projects that actually make money - special effects flicks for international audiences.

If nothing else, Yates was prophetic of the coming eternal adolescence in our society and contempt for procreation as an inconvenience to the self-indulgence of eternal adolescents. Revolutionary Road is a well made drama full of sad scoldings our society already took to heart long ago.

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