Revolutionary Road (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
May 24, 2009 by Dennis Amith
“Based on one of the top novels ever written in the US, Richard Yates’s ‘Revolutionary Road’ was thought provoking then and even now. Featuring outstanding performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, ‘Revolutionary Road’ is a film about the death of the American Dream and the family who bought into that dream and thought that life would be happily ever after. Powerful, emotional, heartbreaking and so real!”
TITLE: Revolutionary Road
DURATION: 118 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition, English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Subtitles – English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese
RATED: R (For Language and Some Sexual Content/Nudity)
COMPANY: Paramount Home Entertainment/BBC Films
RELEASE DATE: June 2, 2009
Directed by Sam Mendes
Based on the novel by Richard Yates
Written by Justin Haythe
Executive Producer: Henry Fernaine, Marion Rosenberg, David M. Thompson
Co-Executive Producer: Pippa Harris, Peter Kalmbach, Nina Wolarsky
Produced by Bobby Cohen, John Hart, Sam Mendes, Scott Rudin
Music by Thomas Newman
Director of Photography: Roger Deakins
Edited by Tariq Anwar
Casting by Ellen Lewis and Debra Azane
Production Design by Kristi Zea
Art Direction by Teresa Carriker-Thayer, John Kasarda, Nicholas Lundy
Set Decoration by Debra Schutt
Costume Design by Albert Wolsky
Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Wheeler
Kate Winslet as April Wheeler
Michael Shannon as John Givings
Ryan Simpkins as Jennifer Wheeler
Ty Simpkins as Michael Wheeler
Kathy Bates as Mrs. Helen Givings
Richard Easton as Mr. Howard Givings
David Harbour as Shep Campbell
Kathryn Hahn as Milly Campbell
Zoe Kazan as Maureen Grube
Dylan Baker as Jack Ordway
Keith Reddin as Ted Bandy
Academy Award® nominee Leonardo DiCaprio* and Academy Award® winner Kate Winslet** reunite for two powerful, groundbreaking performances in Revolutionary Road. Based on the bestseller by Richard Yates, this mesmerizing and moving story follows the lives of a passionate young couple living in suburban Connecticut who decide to risk everything to pursue their dreams. They’re willing to break away from the ordinary – but can they do it without breaking apart? Acclaimed by critics, Revolutionary Road is hailed as “…a masterpiece.” (Mick LaSalle, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE)
In 1962, author Richard Yates wrote his first novel titled “Revolutionary Road”. The book would receive critical acclaim and Time has it listed as one of the top 100 best English-language novels written from 1923 to the present.
Many people consider it one of the best books they have ever read, as it was one of the few books that deconstructs the 1950’s nuclear family of living the American dream. Where everything looks so right about a family who moves to the suburbs, gets the nice house and lives happily ever after. Yates wanted to show that these families were not perfect, that behind-the-scenes, not everything was perfect. “Revolutionary Road” is what author Richard Yates has explained as “the tattered remnants of the American Dream”.
It took 46 years for this book to be adapted to film and with a screenplay written by Justin Haythe (“The Clearing”), Director Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”, “Road to Perdition”, “Jarhead”, etc.) and his wife, actress Kate Winslett (“Titanic”, “Finding Neverland”, “All the Kings Men”, “Little Children”) who loved the book, eventually got her dear friend, actor Leonardo DiCaprio (“Titanic”, “Gangs of New York”, “The Departed”, “Body of Lies”, etc.) to read the script and become part of the film.
“Revolutionary Road” would also include world renown cinematographer Roger Deakins (“A Beautiful Mind”, “Fargo”, “The Big Lebowski”, “A Beautiful Mind”, “No Country for Old Men” to name a few) and composer Thomas Newman (“Road to Perdition”, “Finding Nemo”, “Cinderella Man”, “Jarhead”, “Wall-E”, etc.) to be major key members to the crew. The film was received well by critics and earned Kate Winslet a Golden Globe Award for “Best Actress”.
The film takes place in 1955 and focuses on the Wheeler family, primarily husband Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his wife April (Kate Winslet). A couple who live in a suburb of Connecticut and see themselves so cutting edge and not the typical suburban couple.
For April Wheeler, she is starting to have enough of this suburban lifestyle. As an actress, having to perform plays at the local school, she feels that living in this home while taking care of the children and her husband working a 10 hour job that he hates is hurting their marriage. She yearns for the years when they first met. When Frank was full of energy and talked about going to Paris while in the military and when the two were very much in love.
She dreams about when she and her husband met their local Realtor Helen Givings (Kathy Bates) and how they moved into their new home and just keeps reminiscing of the past.
But so much has changed since they moved into the home on Revolutionary Road. Now with children, their lives are no different from anyone else living on the block. She despises the life of living this so-called “American Dream” which she clearly never has bought into.
As for Frank, he works the same job where his father had worked. Similar position at Knox Business Machines and absolutely hates it. His relationship with his wife is deteriorating and so, he finds solace by seducing his secretary on his 30th birthday. (Note: It’s important to note that in the 1950’s, married couples did not divorce, many couples lived together despite their problems. Tthe American Dream of how married couples should be, was happy married couples and typically many couples kept their troubles in their home and not in public.)
When Frank arrives home, his wife April and his two children wish him a happy birthday but his wife also has come up with a plan. Since they have saved up, they will live a new life. Move to Paris where she can get a job working as a secretary at a Government office and take care of the family and just enjoy life. The two are so enthusiastic about doing this and their relationship seems to be positive again.
Both have their mindset now on Paris which they plan to move in a few months. When they tell their friends and neighbors, Shep Campbell (David Harbour) and Milly Campbell (Kathryn Hahn), both appear surprised and shocked by the announcement. Both have fun seeing how people react that they are moving to Paris and Frank is just happy that he can quit his job and his family will have this good life. Their friends think they are being immature and not smart about their decision but both Frank and April feel they are back to their cutting edge lifestyle.
That is until Frank’s talent at work gets notied by the higher ups and is offered a promotion and higher pay and April reveals that she is pregnant. April hears about an abortion kit and wants to use it, so they can pursue their lives in Paris but Frank is against it and decides to stay put. April’s dreams of leaving the suburban life has been destroyed and the life of the Wheeler family will never be the same again.
“Revolutionary Road” was a tour de force when released back in 1962. The family lifestyle of achieving that “American Dream” was a facade that many families bought into. About how life should be. Author Richard Yates wrote about the so-called perfect family life that no one wanted to talk about at the time and to give a voice to those who were too scared to come out and say their family life was not perfect. Yates who had his own problems with life as a child and also having failed marriages wrote about the new American tragedy and let’s people know, that “American Dream” is over.
The book which was brilliantly written and so real, that many felt the impact of what Yates had to write. And longtime overdue, over 45 years later, finally a film based on the book has been created.
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“Revolutionary Road” is featured in 1080p High Definition. It’s also a film that was not shot in a studio lot and filmed entirely outdoors and indoors in actual homes with natural lighting. And what better to capture the destruction of marriage but most importantly, young love in the 1950’s none other than popular cinematographer Roger Deakins.
Colors are vibrant, warm and they really come out strong. Blacks are nice and deep but greens, blues and earth tones really do come out in the film. Picture quality is clear, detailed and warm when it needs to be and dark when it needs to be. There are no dust and white specks, nor are their any compression artifacts. Overall, beautiful cinematography from Roger Deakins equates to wonderful picture quality. I have not been disappointed by any of his films that he shot on camera and were released on Blu-ray. Wonderful work!
As for the audio, “Revolutionary Road” is featured in English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD (and also French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital). The film is primarily front channel driven. Dialogue is crystal clear and everything is understandable. So, arguments and anger (typically seen and heard when Frank takes his anger out on his car or objects) is heard quite clearly.
There is very good directional use of audio panning through your two front speakers but overall, this is not a film to expect low frequency bass or utilization of the rear surrounds. I will say that the music by composer Thomas Newman really does come alive throughout the film. The music showcases the loving couple and heightens to their instability and that life can have its highs but its lows. The music really does enhance such scenes and overall, audio quality is quite satisfactory for a film like this.
Subtitles are featured in English, English SDH, French, Spanish and Portuguese.
“Revolutionary Road” features the following special features:
- Commentary with Director Sam Mendes and Screenwriter Justin Haythe – The commentary by the two are well done and informative. The two discuss everything from adapting the novel to film and the differences between the two. Sam talks about working with his wife Kate in the film and working with the other talents in the film.
- Lies of Quiet Desperation: The Making of Revolutionary Road – (29:00) A featurette that goes into details of how Sam Mendes came to become the director of the film, how Kate Winslet was such a big fan of the film that she wanted to do this film but also work with her husband. Mendes talks about preparing himself working with his wife and says that even if he was not married to her, she would be his first choice. Winslet talks about how she got Leonardo DiCaprio to consider the script and interviews with the talents and crew. This featurette is presented in High Definition.
- Richard Yates: The Wings of Truth – (26:04) A featurette celebrating the life of author Richard Yates in HD. Interviews with the family and friends about Richard and the difficulties he had growing up, being picked on by kids who called him a sissy because he was a momma’s boy but changed his life and joined the military. When he returned back home, he had to take care of his mother and his father was rarely there. So, by working jobs and taking care of his mother, he had to forgo college (which was a big regret for him) and became a writer. We learn how alcohol was important to writers and how Yates became an alcoholic and also we learn about his temper. But we also learn about the positive sides of Yates through his various children and also really interesting tidbits of his personal life.
- Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary by Director Sam Mendes and Screenwriter Justin Haythe – (25:14) A total of 14 deleted scenes with optional commentary. There are a few scenes that the director wish he didn’t cut. Also, a powerful ending for the character Frank Wheeler which was not used in the film. These deleted scenes are featured in HD.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:12) The original theatrical trailer in HD.
“Revolutionary Road” is an extremely powerful film and also a tragic love story. The performances by Kate Winslet and Leonardo Di Caprio were outstanding and the emotions and the chemistry these two talents bring to each other is quite amazing. Just watching the scenes of both DiCaprio and Winslet arguing and just seeing how their characters are truly suffering, is painful.
Winslet was absolutely fabulous and I think that working with DiCaprio on “Titanic”, these two talents know how to work together and make things happen on screen. Most of all, I think that working with her husband, Director Sam Mendes for the first time brought a certain carefulness and also a heightened elegance for the film. It could of worked terribly but fortunately, it worked quite well.
With Yates original novel and to the screenplay adaption, this film storyline of a loving marriage slowly being destroyed is a theme that was very relevant then, is quite relevant now. I can see why the book shocked people then and why the movie shocked people now because it was so candid about the destruction of the “American Life” and it seemed so real. For many young couples, marriage in the beginning seems so right. The decisions made to have things work right, it’s almost the idea of how our parents or even grandparents have lived their lives and I see it passed down to today’s generation. Marriage, children, big house, work late, and yet somehow trying to achieve that dream, for many… that love and that life that may have started so awesome in the beginning and then things quickly change.
Frank and April Wheeler thought they wouldn’t be like that. Frank was a military man who experienced life and said to himself, he would not be like his father and work a dead end job that he hated. April was an actress from the city who had dreams. But somehow these two decided to leave the city and make it happen in the suburbs and tried to tell themselves they were better. But when life becomes the same chore day in and day out, you’re no different from everyone else. The way the film ended (which I won’t spoil for you) was sheer genius on Yates’s part and it works effectively in the film.
The Blu-ray gave us great clarity, detail and overall bringing out the beautiful cinematography by Roger Deakins in balance with the screenplay by Justin Haythe and music by Thomas Newman. Last, Director Sam Mendes who managed to catch our attention with his dark film “American Beauty” is able to give us another film that shows us the unflattering life of a married couple on the brink of disaster.
If I had any qualms about the film, there are deleted scenes that you will see on the Blu-ray. Scenes that I felt were quite pivotal and wish they kept in the film. Nevertheless, “Revolutionary Road” is not an easy film to watch. As some may want to watch a film about a positive family life and hoping that this family can meet the challenges and survive, this film doesn’t go that direction. Especially if you’re in a relationship or are married, this film may be an eye opener for you. It’s also a film that one may not want to watch twice, which may lead to your decision if it’s worth owning or not.
Despite how the film ends, there are those who can get a jolt by watching this film, especially if their own families have their own problems. It’s literally an eye opener and as mentioned, as relevant as this film was in 1962, is relevant today.
Another wonderful film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet! “Revolutionary Road” is a film worth checking out.
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