2009-01-30 / Entertainment/Lifestyles

MovieScope

'Revolutionary Road' - Titanic Upside Down
By Robert Snyder

Cynics seeking the downside of the "Titanic" romance between Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio may want to experience the Hell that is "Revolutionary Road."

Based on the Richard Yates novel, "Revolutionary Road" could also be companion piece to "American Beauty," in that, both are directed by Winslet's husband, Sam Mendes, and both paint decimating portraits of suburbia. Far from the Eisenhower Era-Ozzie and Harriet version of the American Dream, the Mendes' movies reveal the coiffed lawns and cookie-cutter capes to be places simmering with hate and pain. "Road" takes place in the 1950's, as Frank Wheeler (DiCaprio) and his "Town and Country" wife, April (Winslet), chafe in the "misery" of having two adorable kids, a perfect house and his upwardly-mobile, but boring job. She is a frustrated actress forced to stay at home and be June Cleaver (Beaver's mom, remember?). Their dream is to go to France and live the bohemian life that they believe is better suited to their suppressed freewheeling ways.

The fact is, they're really nothing special. Frank secretly knows this, but April is fantasy-obsessed and tumbles into a maniac-depressive world of delusion. The acting is exceptional, with fights worthy of Burton and Taylor in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" However, one actor, Michael Shannon, almost steals the show as a mentally unbalanced neighbor, who throws lightning bolts of perception at the Wheeler wackiness.

The question is, was '50's suburbia so awful? I grew up during that time on Long Island, and had a wonderful time. But then I was a kid with two loving parents. What did I know? For a dose of intense downer drama, go see "Revolutionary Road." Or, show a DVD of "Titanic" and recall when Kate and Leo had it better on a sinking ship.

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