Banal life, beautiful film

Winslet is perfection in Revolutionary Road

REVIEW Outwardly perfect, glamorous Frank (Leonardo Di Caprio) and April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) are the envy of fellow post-World War II nesters in an Eisenhower era suburban cul-de-sac. They've done everything right — including attracting each other as alpha-species mates. But they're dissatisfied. Shouldn't life have amounted to more than meaningless Madison Avenue employment, housewifery, Connecticut commuterdom, the little trap of two young children and a mortgage? Flashbacks aside, this adaptation of Richard Yates' exceptional 1962 novel commences as the Wheelers realize they can no longer stand each other — or the "I am special, an artist" images of self that failed them both. Sobered from her thespian dreams, April decides they should move lock, stock, and preschool barrel to Paris, where Frank can figure out his true muse while she brings home the bacon as ambassadorial paper-pusher. But this briefly, mutually revivifying idyll proves an illusory scarecrow that only points them back toward a cornfield of inescapable banality. Yates' book is genius; this adaptation by director Sam Mendes and scenarist Justin Haythe is as good as a translation of profoundly character-internalized fiction can be. It's awfully handsome and accomplished prestige filmmaking of a stripe many will find simply, depressingly, off-putting. Winslet is perfection as usual; Di Caprio's stubborn boyishness here heightens a portrait of retro swagger masking immature insecurity. Kathy Bates as a stressfully happy-faced realtor and Michael Shannon as her crazy son — whose worst insanity is telling "normal" people exactly what they're thinking — add yea more concision to an intelligent, beautifully crafted downer that exploits its stars to far greater reward than Titanic (1997).

REVOLUTIONARY ROAD opens Fri/2 in Bay Area theaters.

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