Move over Elm Street because “Revolutionary Road” is now, officially the scariest fictional street to live on.It’s hard to believe that a nice, suburban couple played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet could take away Freddy Krueger’s crown, but after about five minutes of Sam Mendes’ latest drama it becomes obvious: Freddy Krueger doesn’t have anything on the Wheelers.
That’s not to say that “Revolutionary Road” is a traditional horror movie, in fact it’s far from it. There isn’t any blood or gore. There aren’t any serial killers or ghosts to speak of. The thing that the film does have is two main characters that are stuck in a loveless marriage and trapped in a life that neither one of them wanted.
Frank and April Wheeler did what they thought they had to do: fall in love, get married, have kids and then move to the suburbs.
Once there, they spend the rest of the movie attempting to reconcile the lives they each dreamed of with the one that they now have. They lash out at each other in devastating verbal battles only to put on a smiling face when one of their children or the neighbors happen to be around. Gradually this facade begins to wear down as both Frank and April try to escape their American dream style prison.
“Revolutionary Road” plays with the most basic of human fears, something that is far scarier then some nut in a hockey mask, and that is isolation. The Wheelers are totally isolated from each other, so much so that April doesn’t even know what Frank does at the job that he hates so much.
She doesn’t know because he never bothered to tell her.
While watching “Revolutionary Road” its hard not to put yourself in the shoes of the main characters.
The thought of being trapped “til death do you part” with someone that you can’t stand, and having to lie about it to yourself and those around you, is an absolutely terrifying proposition.
Despite a few moments of melodrama, the film is a completely realistic look at a marriage that is being held together by duct tape.
“Revolutionary Road” features outstanding performances by both Winslet and DiCaprio. They were each nominated for a Golden Globe for their work on the film, though only Winslet took home a trophy.
In the upcoming weeks it is likely that the pair will also receive Oscar nods and their performances are certainly worthy.
The on-screen chemestry that they had in “Titanic” is again present, if not even stronger here.
In the hands of lesser actors “Revolutionary Road” wouldn’t have worked. The sparring matches between Frank and April often edge dangerously close to going too far over-the-top, but DiCaprio and Winslet toe that line without ever crossing it. They are the anchors of the movie.
Director Sam Mendes, whose impressive resume includes “Road to Perdition” and “American Beauty” shines once again here. He is known for his ability to get the most out of his actors and he accomplishes that once again.
He is also known for getting audiences to view a star actor in a different light. The most notable example of this is Tom Hanks’ turn in “Road to Perdition.” In the film, Hanks, one of Hollywood’s noted good guys plays a bad guy for one of the first times in his career. It’s no easy feat to turn Hanks into a killer but Mendes pulled it off.
In “Revolutionary Road” he is charged with an even more daunting task. He has to turn the star-crossed lovers from “Titanic,” the biggest movie of all time, into a disillusioned, worn out suburban family.
Yet again he is successful, and one is left to wonder what convention he will go after next.
The supporting cast of the movie is strong, led by Kathy Bates as a real estate agent who takes a shine to the Wheelers. Bates’ character insists on introducing the couple to her son John, a decision that sets off a chain of events that lead toward the climax of the film.
John, played expertly by Michael Shannon, is a former mathematical genius who has spent time in a mental institution.
He is the only character in the film that is able to see through the Wheeler’s public image, down to what is really going on with them. John lacks tact, but at the same time everything that he says to the Wheelers is the truth and he forces them to face that, no matter how much they try to hide from it.
Shannon is perfectly cast in the part, and he plays it with just the right amounts of menace and vulnerability. His name probably won’t come up during Oscar season, though it rightfully should.
“Revolutionary Road” is a horror film under the guise of an Oscar-bait drama. It plays on the fears inside us all, and even though it won’t have audiences screaming in theaters, it will stay with them long after the end credits roll.
Colin McGlinchey is a fourth-year student majoring in English with a minor in journalism. He can be reached at CM646588@wcupa.edu.