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"Revolutionary Road"

Directed by Sam Mendes.
Written by Justin Haythe.  Based on the novel by Richard Yates.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates and Michael Shannon.
Release Year:  2008
Review Date:  1/27/09


As one of the three girls walking out of the theater near me said while leaving "Revolutionary Road":

"Now I REALLY never want to get married!"

So goes, then, the main problem with this very well-acted film: it's maybe in a category beyond negative, because it goes for the jugular in such a way during its final 20 minutes that you almost can't believe the implosion could happen.  I mean, I get that some marriages don't work out, but in the case of Frank and April Wheeler (Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet), their marriage is a roller coaster during just one summer after seven years of being together that I was actually laughing by the time it was over.

I don't think that was the intention, but then again, I haven't read the Richard Yates novel to know for sure.

It's July 1955 on a quiet street in a quiet suburban town somewhere.  Frank is a business machines salesperson, and he hates his work life.  Long commute, shitty boss, long days, only enough money to stay in his quaint house with his two young children...this, after dreaming of living in France and having a life less ordinary.  April's got it worse--she doesn't work, hates life, has a nosy neighbor (Kathy Bates) and two friends (David Harbour and Kathryn Hahn) who help define her sad existence.  But, April decides one day while cleaning the house that the thing they SHOULD do is...move to Paris!  As the two begin plans to leave the country for good, a lot of stuff happens, and many other things help push their relationship to the brink.

There's no doubt that your blood will boil if you are someone who has "settled" for a life VERY ordinary...I imagine that if you had "dreams" years ago but decided to buy the house in Fairfax where you could raise a family and then die quietly, then this movie is really going to be tough on you.  The performances by everyone are great, and while I don't think anyone really deserved an Oscar nod besides Leo (he didn't get one), the ensemble is very consistent throughout.  I thought the problem were the half-dozen or so ridiculously-over-the-top sequences when either Leo, Winslet, Hahn, Bates or Michael Shannon (playing a certifiable crazy man) completely loses it.  Those scenes don't even fit what is happening here, and when the explosions happen, you are left with mixed feelings; on the one hand, damn, that was a great exchange.  Then, almost immediately:

Damn...would anyone ever really do that?

Maybe they would...but, they felt contrived and ultimately brought the product down for me.  That, and sometimes, you almost can't believe how depressing a movie like this can be.  Even as someone that has lived out some dreams and done some settling, you sometimes imagine yourself moving to Paris while the movie is still running, and ten minutes later, you're like, "yeah, that shit is NEVER gonna happen...".  Cool, but not cool, you know?

The movie is good, but it was not as strong as the other Oscar-nominted Best Picture films, so I'm not sure why some people say that this movie got robbed.  But, you need to see it--ideally, without your spouse/partner--because you get to see pros acting their asses off.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/28/09