Revolutionary Road (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Sam Mendes|
|Produced by||Bobby Cohen
|Screenplay by||Justin Haythe|
|Based on||Revolutionary Road
by Richard Yates
Jay O. Sanders
|Music by||Thomas Newman|
|Editing by||Tariq Anwar|
|Studio||BBC Films & DreamWorks|
|Distributed by||Paramount Vantage (US)
UIP (most of Europe)
|Running time||119 minutes|
Revolutionary Road is a 2008 Anglo-American drama film, based on the 1961 novel of the same name by Richard Yates, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. Her performance earned Kate Winslet a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress, and the film was nominated for a further three Golden Globes, four BAFTA's and three Oscars.
The film premiered in Los Angeles on 15 December 2008, followed by a limited U.S. release on 26 December 2008 and a wide U.S. release on 23 January 2009. In most other countries it was released between 15 and 30 January 2009.
In the late 1940s, Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) meets April (Kate Winslet) at a party. He is a longshoreman, hoping to be a cashier; she wants to be an actress. Frank later secures a sales position with Knox Machines, for which his father worked for twenty years, and he and April marry. In 1955, the Wheelers move to 115 Revolutionary Road in suburban Connecticut when April becomes pregnant. Frank and April settle into the normality of suburban life while bringing up their children, Michael and Jennifer.
The couple become close friends with their realtor Helen Givings (Kathy Bates) and her husband Howard Givings (Richard Easton), and neighbor Milly Campbell (Kathryn Hahn) and her husband Shep (David Harbour). To their friends, the Wheelers are the perfect couple, but their relationship is troubled. April fails to make a career out of acting, while Frank hates the tedium of his work. April wants new scenery and a chance to support the family so that Frank can find his passion.
April recalls how Frank talked about moving back to Paris. With a failed career, she believes that Paris is the solution to their problems. She suggests they move. Initially Frank laughs off the idea, but then begins considering it. The only person who understands the Wheelers' decision is John (Michael Shannon), Helen's troubled son. Frank admits to John that they indeed are running away from the "hopeless emptiness" of their repetitive lifestyle.
As the couple prepares to move, they are forced to reconsider. Frank, propelled by a carefree attitude brought on by the thought of Paris, turns in a sarcastic piece of work to his boss. To his surprise, his work is considered brilliant by company executives and he is offered a promotion. April becomes pregnant again. Frank discovers that April is contemplating having an abortion. He is furious and starts screaming at April, leading to a serious altercation. April is desperate to move to Paris, but Frank is disgusted by the thought of abortion, causing him to feel that moving to Paris is an unrealistic dream. The next day Frank takes the promotion and tries to accept his uneventful life. At the end of an evening at a jazz bar with Milly and Shep, a car blocks in one of the cars the couples came in. April suggests that Frank and Milly head home to release the babysitters at each house while she and Shep wait for the blocking car's driver to return. They re-enter the jazz bar, eventually dancing feverishly with each other, then making love in the car. Shep professes his long-held love for April, but she rejects his interest.
The following morning, Frank confesses to having had an affair with an assistant at his office, hoping to reconcile with April. To his surprise, April responds apathetically and tells him it does not matter as her love for him has gone, which he does not believe. The Givings come over for dinner, and John lambastes Frank for crushing April's hope, as well as his acceptance of his circumstances, accusing Frank of intentionally getting April pregnant to destroy the idea of moving to Paris, and saying that April allowed him to do it so that she would feel her husband was "a real man". Frank gets angry, nearly attacks John and the Givings hurry out. April and Frank have another fight, which causes April to flee the house.
Frank spends the night in a drunken stupor, but is shocked to find April in the kitchen the next morning calmly making breakfast. The couple have a pleasant breakfast, with April asking Frank about work and Frank seeming enthusiastic as he describes how the large computer purchase he is making will help many businesses. April's mood seems to have improved, but after bidding goodbye to Frank, she breaks down and prepares to perform her own vacuum aspiration abortion, which proves fatal. Shep goes to the hospital to support Frank, who hysterically tells him that "she did it to herself." April dies in the hospital due to complications following the abortion.
A new couple buys the house and we hear Milly telling the story of the Wheelers to the new owners, telling them how Frank moved to the city and is still working with computers, devoting every spare moment of his life to his children. Shep quietly tells Milly that he doesn't want to talk about the Wheelers anymore.
Helen tells Howard that she thinks the new couple that moved in are the first people she has ever found suitable for the home. Howard asks why she does not give credit to the Wheelers, and she says they were too whimsical, trying and neurotic. As she continues discussing what she did not like about the Wheelers, Howard turns off his hearing aid.
- Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Wheeler
- Kate Winslet as April Wheeler
- Dylan Baker as Jack Ordway
- Zoe Kazan as Maureen Grube
- Kathy Bates as Helen Givings
- Michael Shannon as John Givings, Jr.
- Kathryn Hahn as Milly Campbell
- David Harbour as Shep Campbell
- Richard Easton as Howard Givings
- Jay O. Sanders as Bart Pollock
After Richard Yates' novel was published in 1961, director John Frankenheimer considered filming it, but opted to make The Manchurian Candidate instead. Samuel Goldwyn Jr., expressed an interest in making it into a film but others in his studio convinced him that it lacked commercial prospects. In 1965, producer Albert S. Ruddy bought the rights but did not like the book's ending, and wanted to obscure April's death with "tricky camerawork". He became involved in adapting The Godfather and, five years later, while a writer-in-residence at Wichita State University, Yates offered to adapt his work for the screen. Ruddy had other projects lined up at the time and demurred, eventually selling the rights to actor Patrick O'Neal. The actor loved the book and spent the rest of his life trying to finish a workable screenplay. Yates read O'Neal's treatment of his novel and found it "godawful", but O'Neal refused the writer's repeated offers to buy back the rights. Yates died in 1992, O'Neal two years later.
The project remained in limbo until 2001 when Todd Field expressed interest in adapting it for the screen. However, when told by the O'Neal estate he would be required to shoot O'Neal's script as written, Field stepped away from the material and opted to make Little Children instead. David Thompson eventually purchased the rights for BBC Films. In March 2007, BBC Films established a partnership with DreamWorks, and the rights to the film's worldwide distribution were assigned to Paramount Pictures, owner of DreamWorks. On 14 February 2008, Paramount announced that Paramount Vantage was "taking over distribution duties on Revolutionary Road". The BBC hired Justin Haythe to write the screenplay because, according to the screenwriter, he was "hugely affordable".
Kate Winslet sent producer Scott Rudin the script and he told her that her then husband, director Sam Mendes, would be perfect to direct it. She gave Mendes Yates' novel and told him, "I really want to play this part". He read Haythe's script and then the book in quick succession. Haythe's first draft was very faithful to the novel, using large parts of Yates' own language, but Mendes told him to find ways to externalize what Frank and April do not say to each other.
Once Leonardo DiCaprio agreed to do the film, it went almost immediately into production. DiCaprio said that he saw his character as "unheroic" and "slightly cowardly" and that he was "willing to be just a product of his environment". DiCaprio prepared for the role by watching several documentaries about the 1950s and the origin of suburbs. He said that the film was not meant to be a romance and that he and Winslet intentionally avoided films that show them in romantic roles since Titanic. Both actors were reluctant to make films similar to Titanic because "we just knew it would be a fundamental mistake to try to repeat any of those themes". To prepare for the role, Winslet read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan.
Mendes had the cast rehearse for three-and-a-half weeks before principal photography and shot everything in sequence and on location. Actor Michael Shannon said that he did not feel that on the set of the film there were any stars, but "a group of people united by a passion for the material and wanting to honor the book". He said that Winslet and DiCaprio could only make such a good performance as a couple because they had developed a friendship since their work on Titanic. For Shannon, it was more important to prepare for the moment when he walked on the set than being concerned about the movie stars he was working with. On the fight scenes between him and Winslet, DiCaprio said, "So much of what happens between Frank and April in this film is what's left unsaid. I actually found it a real joy to do those fight scenes because finally, these people were letting each other have it." The shoot was so emotionally and physically exhausting for DiCaprio that he postponed his next film for two months.
Mendes wanted to create a claustrophobic dynamic and shot all of the Wheeler house interiors in an actual house in Darien, Connecticut. DiCaprio remembers, "it was many months in this house and there was no escaping the environment. I think it fed into the performances." They could not film in a period accurate house because it would have been too small to shoot inside. Production Designer Kristi Zea is responsible for the "iconic, nostalgic images of quaint Americana", although she says that was "absolutely the antithesis of what we wanted to do". Zea chose for the set of this film furnishings that "middle-class America would be buying at that time".
Revolutionary Road had a limited release in the United States at three theatres on December 26, 2008, and a wide release at 1,058 theatres on January 23, 2009. Revolutionary Road has earned $22.9 million at the domestic box office and $51.7 million internationally for a worldwide total of $74.6 million.
Critical reception 
Revolutionary Road has received generally positive reviews from critics.
|“||It takes the skill of stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio and director Sam Mendes to get this film to a place where it involves and moves us—which it finally does—but it is a near thing... Justin Haythe's screenplay does many good things, but it can't escape the arch lingo of the time... and that in turn makes the film's concerns initially feel dated and outmoded as well... Encouraged by Mendes' artful direction, his gift for eliciting naturalness, the core of this film finally cries out to us today, makes us see that the notion of characters struggling with life, with the despair of betraying their best selves because of what society will or won't allow, is as gripping and relevant now as it ever was. Or ever will be.||”|
Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News said:
|“||[the film] comes close but falls short of capturing Richard Yates' terrific novel... the movie—two-thirds Mad Men, one-third American Beauty, with a John Cheever chaser—works best when focusing on the personal. Thankfully, it's there that Mendes and screenwriter Justin Haythe catch some of Yates' weighty ideas, and where Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet succeed in doing the heavy lifting... DiCaprio, round-shouldered and sleepy-eyed, and Winslet, watchful and alert, raise up each other and everything around them. Never once shadowed by Titanic, they suggest, often wordlessly, the box the Wheelers have found themselves in. Whereas the novel is told mostly from Frank's viewpoint, the movie is just as much April's, and Winslet, whether fighting back or fighting back tears, is sensational.||”|
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Revolutionary Road four stars out of four, commending the acting and screenplay and calling the film "so good it is devastating". He said of Winslet and DiCaprio, "they are so good, they stop being actors and become the people I grew up around."
Todd McCarthy of Variety called the film "faithful, intelligent, admirably acted, superbly shot" and added, "It also offers a near-perfect case study of the ways in which film is incapable of capturing certain crucial literary qualities, in this case the very things that elevate the book from being a merely insightful study of a deteriorating marriage into a remarkable one... Even when the dramatic temperature is cranked up too high, the picture's underpinnings seem only partly present, to the point where one suspects that what it's reaching for dramatically might be all but unattainable—perhaps approachable only by Pinter at his peak." McCarthy later significantly qualified his review, calling Revolutionary Road "problematic" and that it "has some issues that just won't go away". He concludes that Revolutionary Road suffers in comparison to Billy Wilder's The Apartment and Richard Quine's Strangers When We Meet because of its "narrow vision", even arguing that the television series Mad Men handles the issues of conformity, frustration, and hypocrisy "with more panache and precision".
David Ansen of Newsweek said the film "is lushly, impeccably mounted—perhaps too much so. Mendes, a superb stage director, has an innately theatrical style: everything pops off the screen a little bigger and bolder than life, but the effect, rather than intensifying the emotions, calls attention to itself. Instead of losing myself in the story, I often felt on the outside looking in, appreciating the craftsmanship, but one step removed from the agony on display. Revolutionary Road is impressive, but it feels like a classic encased in amber."
|“||The film is lavishly dark—some might say too dark—yet I'd suggest it has a different limitation: For all its shattering domestic discord, there's something remote and aestheticized about it. April brings a private well of conflict to her middle-class prison, but Winslet is so meticulous in her telegraphed despair that she intrigues us, moves us, yet never quite touches our unguarded nerves.||”|
Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter called the film a "didactic, emotionally overblown critique of the soulless suburbs" and added, "Revolutionary Road is, essentially, a repeat for Mendes of American Beauty... Once more, the suburbs are well-upholstered nightmares and its denizens clueless—other than one estranged male. Clearly, this environment attracts the dramatic sensibilities of this theater-trained director. Everything is boldly indicated to the audience from arch acting styles to the wink-wink, nod-nod of its design. Indeed his actors play the subtext with such fury that the text virtually disappears. Subtlety is not one of Mendes' strong suits."
Rex Reed of The New York Observer called the film "a flawless, moment-to-moment autopsy of a marriage on the rocks and an indictment of the American Dream gone sour" and "a profound, intelligent and deeply heartfelt work that raises the bar of filmmaking to exhilarating."
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the film "raw and riveting" and commented, "Directed with extraordinary skill by Sam Mendes, who warms the chill in the Yates-faithful script by Justin Haythe, the film is a tough road well worth traveling . . . DiCaprio is in peak form, bringing layers of buried emotion to a defeated man. And the glorious Winslet defines what makes an actress great, blazing commitment to a character and the range to make every nuance felt."
Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle voted the film as his best of 2008. He commented, "Finally, this is a movie that can and should be seen more than once. Watch it one time through her eyes. Watch it again through his eyes. It works both ways. It works in every way. This is a great American film."
It holds a 69% rating from critics on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 190 reviews, with the consensus being "Brilliantly acted and emotionally powerful, Revolutionary Road is a handsome adaptation of Richard Yates' celebrated novel". Metacritic lists it with a 69 out of 100, which indicates "generally favorable reviews", based on 38 reviews.
Top ten lists 
The film appeared on several critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008.
- 1st – Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
- 6th – Joe Neumaier, New York Daily News
- 6th – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
- 7th – Lou Lumenick, New York Post
- 8th – James Berardinelli, ReelViews
- 9th – David Denby, The New Yorker
- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times (Ebert gave an alphabetical top 20 list)
According to Academy rules, an actor or actress may receive only one nomination per category, and due to the difference in rules between the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, Kate Winslet's role in The Reader was considered a leading one by the Academy, while the Golden Globe regarded it a supporting role. So, as Winslet's performance in The Reader had been nominated for Best Actress in 2008 by the Academy, her performance in Revolutionary Road couldn't be nominated.
- "Revolutionary Road (2008)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2012-08-16.
- Bailey, Blake (2007-06-26). "Revolutionary Road—the Movie". Slate.com. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- McGrath, Charles (2008-12-14). "Kate! Leo! Gloom! Doom! Can It Work?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- "Revolutionary Road (2008) – Trivia". IMDb. Retrieved 2011-05-20.
- McClintock, Pamela (2007-03-22). "DiCaprio, Winslet to Star in Road". Variety. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- McClintock, Pamela (2008-02-14). "New Dates for Eight Under Par". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- Knegt, Peter (2008-12-22). "Plumbing the Depths of Revolutionary Road: Sam Mendes on Yates, Kate, and the Pressures of Awards". indieWIRE. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- Guzman, Rafer (2009-01-19). "In Revolutionary Road, Leo DiCaprio just an ordinary guy". Slate.com. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- Wong, Grace (2009-01-23). "DiCaprio reveals joys of fighting with Winslet". CNN. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- Cochrane, Kira (2008-12-19). "I did have moments where I'd say, Oh my God ...". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- Wood, Gaby (2008-12-14). "How Sam became The Man". The Observer. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- Copley, Rich (2009-01-22). "Michael Shannon's small part in Revolutionary Road made a big impact". The State. Retrieved 2009-05-27.[dead link]
- Hillis, Aaron (2009-01-06). "Revolutionary Road – Evoke an era of suburban life without overdoing it". Variety. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- Turan, Kenneth. "'Revolutionary Road': Strong Performances Steer This 1950s Marital Drama Out of a Period-Picture Trap." Los Angeles Times. December 26, 2008.[dead link]
- Joe Neumaier (2008-12-24). "Neumaier, Joe. "Revolutionary Road: Beauty is in the Details of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet's Reunion Movie 'Revolutionary Road'." New York Daily News. December 24, 2008". NYDailyNews.com. Retrieved 2010-07-31.
- Roger Ebert (2008-12-30). "Revolutionary Road :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2009-01-23.
- By (2008-11-17). "McCarthy, Todd. "Revolutionary Road." Variety. November 17, 2008". Variety.com. Retrieved 2010-07-31.[dead link]
- "McCarthy, Todd. "'50s Melodrama Hard to Capture on Film," Variety. January 8, 2009". Variety.com. 2009-01-08. Retrieved 2010-07-31.
- David Ansen (2008-11-28). "Ansen, David. "Revolutionary Road." Newsweek. November 28, 2008". NewsWeek.com. Retrieved 2010-07-31.
- Owen Gleiberman (2008-12-24). "Gleiberman, Owen. "Revolutionary Road." Entertainment Weekly. November 28, 2008". EW.com. Retrieved 2010-07-31.
- Honeycutt, Kirk (2008-11-17). ""Film Review: Revolutionary Road." The Hollywood Reporter. November 17, 2008". HollywoodReporter.com. Retrieved 2010-07-31.[dead link]
- "Reed, Rex. "Love Asunder." New York Observer. December 16, 2008". Observer.com. 2008-12-16. Retrieved 2010-07-31.
- Travers, Peter. "Revolutionary Road." Rolling Stone. December 25, 2008.[dead link]
- Mick LaSalle, Chronicle Movie Critic (2009-01-02). "LaSalle, Mick. "Movie Review: 'Revolutionary Road' Year's Best." San Francisco Chronicle. January 2, 2009". SFGate.com. Retrieved 2010-07-31.
- "'Revolutionary Road' Movie Reviews". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
- "'Revolutionary Road' Reviews, Ratings, Credits". Metacritic. Retrieved 2009-01-27.
- "Metacritic: 2008 Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. Retrieved January 11, 2009.[dead link]
- IMDb: Awards for Revolutionary Road Retrieved 2012-01-03
- Official website
- Revolutionary Road at the Internet Movie Database
- Revolutionary Road at AllRovi
- Revolutionary Road at Rotten Tomatoes
- Revolutionary Road at Metacritic
- Revolutionary Road at Box Office Mojo