From perfect match to cage match

Posted on 31 Dec 2008 at 1:48pm
By Steve Warren Contributing Writer

‘Revolutionary Road’ will make you think twice about wanting to get married

B
Director: Sam Mendes
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates and Dylan Baker
Opens: Friday, Jan. 2 at the Angelika Dallas.
1 hr. 59 min.        R



MISS BUSYBODY: SMU alum Kathy Bates plays nosy neighbor Mrs. Givings.

If enough young people see "Revolutionary Road" the marriage rate should drop significantly. It could even inspire constitutional amendments to defend the sanctity of marriage by forbidding heterosexuals to engage in it.

If you’re already married, this movie will make you see that the problems in your relationship aren’t as bad as you think.

"Revolutionary Road" is the story of one marriage that goes south, while a couple of others in the background don’t look ideal either. It begins in the late 1940s, when Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) meet and fall in love.

Cut to 1955.

Can this marriage be saved? Should it? Could they ever have loved each other?

April gave up her dreams of becoming an actress to take care of their modest suburban home on Revolutionary Road and raise their two kids. Frank is commuting to a job he hates.

It’s a life of "hopeless emptiness," occasionally relieved for Frank by getting out of his cubicle for an afternoon tryst with a girl from the secretarial pool (Zoe Kazan). April tries acting in a community theater production at the local high school but it doesn’t go well.

A woman of unpredictable moods, April comes up with a plan for "our one chance." They’ll chuck it all and move to Paris. She can get a good job as a secretary, and Frank will have time to find out what he wants to be.

The idea draws a variety of reactions — mostly jealousy. There are Frank’s co-workers, notably the flamboyant Jack (Dylan Baker); next-door neighbors Milly (Kathryn Hahn) and Shep Campbell (David Harbour) (Shep has a yen for April); and their real estate agent, Helen Givings (Kathy Bates), her husband Howard (Richard Easton) and their son John (Michael Shannon), who describes himself as "a certified lunatic." Being insane (he’s not kidding), John is the only one not afraid to speak the truth.

Two potential roadblocks arise during the summer before the Wheelers are scheduled to leave. Frank accidentally impresses a higher-up in the company (Jay O. Sanders), who offers him a much better job. April becomes pregnant again, although she’s willing — nay, eager — to abort the child.

Their lives, which had been going in separate directions, are suddenly on a collision course. In her bad moods, April has gone from indifference toward Frank to outright loathing.

While neither partner is totally blameless, I can’t imagine anyone finding April the more sympathetic spouse, but I can imagine women feeling the same way toward Frank. At least he gets to dip into the secretarial pool for relief while April’s stuck in the house.

The source novel by Richard Yates was published in 1961, when it was timely rather than nostalgic. The period setting (somewhat overdone, as in shots of hordes of hat-wearing commuters) allows director Sam Mendes to combine the scathing take on The Suburbia of his "American Beauty" with the sexism, smoking and other attributes of the era that make "Mad Men" so popular.

DiCaprio and Winslet give impeccable, older and wiser performances. Shannon is the subject of much award speculation but he’s a bit over-the-top for my taste. On the other hand, I enjoyed Bates in a relatively subdued mode.

GAY FANTASIA

PUCKISH CHARM: A queer love potion gets splashed across town.

On Thursday, Out Takes Dallas screens "Were the World Mine," a queer musical re-imagining of "A Midsummer’s Night Dream."

Like a mash-up of "High School Musical" and "Dead Poets Society," the school’s gay dude gets tapped by his drama teacher to play Shakespeare’s fairy, Puck. After discovering the play’s love potion, our queer pupil turns his closed-minded town gay and casts a love spell on the town’s hunk-a-licious jock. After he reluctantly restores the town’s free will, he’s amazed with the surprising results.

Included in the cast is Robin Williams’ 18-year-old daughter Zelda.
Screens Jan. 8 at 7:30 p.m. at the Magnolia Theatre in the West Village.

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