2009 Oscar Ritual : REVOLUTIONARY ROAD
February 6, 2009, at Movies 16, Allen, Texas
Nominated for Best Supporting Actor (Michael Shannon) and Costume Design
I recently read a critical review of Revolutionary Road which stated that some of its appeal was lost to a post-Mad Men audience, and I have to say that I agree with that assessment. Mad Men has so brilliantly presented the dissatisfaction of 1960s surburbia that very few others could come close to its level of quality and genius. Revolutionary Road does not present any further insight into this microcosm of history, and that is regrettable. Were we to judge its merit solely on story and setting, the film would have little more to offer its viewers. Thankfully, this is not where its merit lies.
The value of Revolutionary Road is the performances of its cast. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio hold nothing back in expressing the discontent of their characters’ lives. They rant and rage and flail and stew with every fiber of their beings, and watching them in this passion play is like peering into a neighbor’s window. I was disturbed at the sight of them yet too engaged to look away and too invested to not see where their relationship would go. Every second of their performances held me rapt, whether singularly onscreen or together. I found it impossible to choose a side. Winslet’s April was completely justified in her ideals and in her desires, and DiCaprio’s Frank was equally in the right for wanting to do what he felt was best for his family. That the two could not find a point at which to meet is the heartbreak of the film. And it is what ultimately brings a tragic conclusion.
The cast of Revolutionary Road is phenomenal, from the two stars down through every supporting player. Michael Shannon, the only Oscar nominee from this film, had two scenes in the entire production, but his moments are the most memorable and most profound of the film. He brings the Truth that no one is willing to admit out loud. Kathy Bates is equally wonderful in the role of Shannon’s mother, and it is her great restraint in the role that is most impressive. She epitomizes the women of that era who placed a smiling face over the anguish that was going on behind closed doors. And every other cast member plays a role that brings commentary to that period of time in that particular setting of life. Every person is deserving of praise, for it is these performances that elevate the film above its label of period drama. It is the performances that give the movie its depth and force viewers to examine their own relationships. And that is what the best movies are meant to do.
image from Rotten Tomatoes