Just how entertaining is the dissection of a bad marriage?
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is a classic and “War of the Roses” was hilarious. But this is just depressing.
The Wheelers are a self-absorbed, middle-class couple who – in the mid-1950s – move to a lovely house in Connecticut on a tranquil cul-de-sac called Revolutionary Road. Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) commutes to Manhattan as a low-level salesman for Knox Business Machines where, years ago, his father worked; he gulps martini lunches with the guys and occasionally dallies with a compliant secretary (Zoe Kazan). Meanwhile, April (Kate Winslet) struggles to fit into the boring, submissive, stereotypical housewife mold, caring for their two children (who are rarely seen).
Disillusionment soon sets in, as infidelities surface, along with bitter recriminations. Impulsively, April proposes chucking their mundane life and escaping to Paris, shocking their neighbors (David Harbour, Kathryn Hahn) and realtor (Kathy Bates) who often visits with her outspoken, mentally disturbed son (Michael Shannon). But Frank finds the promise of a promotion into the new field of computers too tantalizing to resist, particularly when April discovers she’s unexpectedly pregnant again.
Working from screenwriter Justin Haythe’s adaptation of Richard Yates’ novel about conformity and consumerism, British director Sam Mendes occasionally evokes the candid black humor that typified his similarly themed “American Beauty,” back in 1999, while other snippets are remarkably similar to AMC’s TV series “Mad Men.”
But Mendes’s formidable ace-in-the-hole is his talented real-life wife, Kate Winslet, whose every glance, every gesture embody her desperation and frustration with the chunky man-child played by her “Titanic” co-star Leonardo DiCaprio.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Revolutionary Road” is a hopelessly bleak, disturbingly detached 7, resembling all too many other downbeat suburban-angst melodramas.