It took some time, but I finally had the opportunity to see Sam Mendes’ film adaptation of Richard Yates’ Revolutionary Road, starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as April and Frank Wheeler, a young couple living in suburban hell in 1950s America. I posted about the book last year, so I won’t get into the plot here except where warranted for comparison’s sake.
DiCaprio is an excellent actor, but I’ve felt for some time that he suffers from his youthful experience and watching him tackle the role of Frank, I was reminded of my reservations. But it almost works in his favour. Frank is walking the line between youthful passion and optimism and the reserved acceptance that comes with settling down, and that DiCaprio’s baby face is finally starting to take on some lines and depth underscores this beautifully. As with the book, I sympathized with his character more, but Winslet’s take on April allowed me to empathize with the character in a way that I wasn’t able to before.
DiCaprio and Winslet have famously worked together before, as the star-crossed lovers of James Cameron’s 1997 mega-hit, Titanic. I had no trouble divorcing my memory of that film from Revolutionary Road, except when it came to the casting of Kathy Bates. In the earlier film, she took on the role of the infamous, unsinkable Molly Brown. Seeing her onscreen with her Titanic co-stars kept reminding me that this was a movie, when I wanted to get lost in the story, sad and hopeless as it may have been. It’s important to note that this has nothing to do with Bates; I just felt that casting her was a poor choice. Better, and possibly one of the best casting choices of Revolutionary Road was Michael Shannon as John Givings, the mentally ill son of Bates’ character, who despite his own issues, has incredible perception when it comes to the Wheelers.
Overall, I was impressed with how faithful Mendes stayed to the book; it is one of the better film adaptations I’ve seen of literary works. That said, it’s not a film that inspires repeated viewings.