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Revolutionary Road - Blu-ray DVD / drama DVD / Academy Award-nominated DVD review
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 2 stars
Featuring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Richard Easton, Michael Shannon
Director: Sam Mendes Studio: Paramount
DVD release: 02 June 2009 Runtime: 119 min.
(1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 2.40:1, Audio tracks (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 - English; Dolby Digital 5.1 - French, Spanish), Subtitles (English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese), Commentary (dir. Sam Mendes, screenwriter Justin Haythe), Lives of Quite Desperation: The Making of Revolutionary Road (HD), Deleted scenes (w/ optional commentary by Mendes and Haythe [HD]), Richard Yates: The Wages of Truth (HD)
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation."
- Thoreau.
It's the 1950s when Frank and April meet at a party. She's attracted to his wild side, the fact that he's been to Paris. He makes her laugh. They marry, and when their family begins to grow, they move to the suburbs. Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) works for Knox Business Machines writing technical manuals. Every weekday, he rides the train to the city, where he and the other hat-wearing gray suits flood like lemmings through Grand Central Station on their way to perform their meaningless drudgery. It's the same work his father did for ages, and Frank knows that if he doesn't get out soon, he'll die there.

April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) seems practically trapped in the house on Revolutionary Road. Her job is to keep up appearances, keep house, and socialize with the other neighborhood ladies, but she yearns for escape. To that end, she acts in community theater. She's better than this. She can do so much more.

One day during an awkward get-together with real estate lady Helen Givings (Kathy Bates), Helen asks if it would be okay to bring her son John by sometime for socializing. John has been in an asylum, and Helen thinks normal socializing would be good for him. Helen holds the Wheelers in high esteem; they just seem so pleasant and normal. Maybe some of that'll rub off on John.

When the Givings come over with John (Michael Shannon) for a visit, it becomes clear pretty quickly that there's no filter between his thoughts and his mouth. This makes for some socially awkward moments, but John's not insane. He astutely sees through the veneer of Frank and April's suburban existence. When Frank and April reveal their plans to drop out of polite American society and move to Paris, John is the only one who recognizes the appeal. Frank is sick of the rat race; April is sick of not being challenged. They're tired of hopeless emptiness. John says, "Now you've said it. Plenty of people are onto the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness."

The Wheelers are at the fork in the road where their lives will be set when Frank is offered a bigger job with more pay. That would mean an end to their Paris plans. They can live more comfortably by selling their soul to the establishment, or they can be brave and risk giving up the comfort to live in the lights of Paris.

Kristi Zea does an excellent job with the production design in Revolutionary Road. The Wheelers' home could have been owned by my grandparents. I marveled, and I swear I could watch the entire film for the production design alone. Once established, I just sank into the 1950s as one would a warm bath - a warm, smoke-filled bath.

Roger Deakins does some beautiful cinematography, and Blu-ray really shows it off. It's not a fantasy 1950's America a la Pleasantville, but a realistic depiction of what the '50s looked like.

While the arguments and rough patches encountered in Frank and April's marriage are intense and would normally repulse me, I find myself wanting to see this film again, so compelling are the characters and environments. One of Sam Mendes's best films.
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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