Revolutionary Road

Uri
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Postby Uri » Sat Jan 31, 2009 8:13 am

Damien wrote:I think DiCaprio is an immensely gifted actor, but I still have a hard time buying him in Adult Roles. To me, he still seems like he belongs in coming of age stories.

Totally agreed. It's not only his baby girl's face and the voice which has just broken. There's something strange about his posture which is especially evident when shot from behind. When they are on the beach and he steps into the sea, or when seen seated on a bench watching the children at the end, he looks like a lost little boy. Life isn't fair. Though he's a good actor, a handsome man with a fine, rich voice, Peter Dinklage will still have a very limited career. In a similar way, DiCaprio seems to be effective in very distinctive roles, but how many Catch Me If You Can there are on the horizon? I guess like Mickey Rooney, one day he will suddenly morph into an acceptable old man, but until then he'll struggle. (Ok, I'll be the one struggling, to accept him in man's role, that is).

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Postby Uri » Sat Jan 31, 2009 7:42 am

RR is only interesting for its missed opportunities and the wrong turns it takes. I haven't read the book. It was only translated and published here recently because of the film, but I can figure what its impact was 50 years ago. But many of the issues it covers have been dealt many times since it was published, so this time around, the film is indeed rather banal and pointless. But there is an aspect in it that I guess was suggested in the novel since it is mentioned in the movie, but not satisfyingly addressed. Damien rightly mentioned the lack of any real sense of social structure (and part of this is the fact that, strangely, the kids are non entities too, which, for the life of a suburb mom is extremely bizarre). But there are references, especially at the end to this couple as the kind of legendary Wheelers. And this is the key to the path that if taken, would have made for a much more interesting piece. This couple, based on what we see, are two boring, non distinguished people, she's a complete deluded fool, he possesses a semi self awareness, yet they conceive themselves as special, and more significantly, other do so too. Mrs. Givings (Bates) says she sensed that from the moment she met them. Shep and Milly, their neighbors, are in love with them – individually and as a couple. John Givings put them on a pedestal. That girl in the office who sleeps with Frank, takes it for granted that she means nothing to him. Yet the movie itself takes it as a given and doesn’t really explore it.

The reason is that this is all about something which is rarely fully addressed in Hollywood movies of this kind. It's this very uncomfortable, even risqué notion of what can be called the Politics of Beauty or the unacknowledged social use of sexual attraction. The Wheelers are admired solely for physically being the epitome of the false dream other have. And they believe they are special only because very good looking people are so used to be treated as unique creatures that they buy their own hype. But since admitting that a pretty exterior has its own benefits and privileges is something vane people will never do, and since this is a vanity project (Winslet herself said she saw it as an opportunity to showcase her talent, so hubby made it for her), the film turns a blind eye to this issue. So we get a movie like this, where big, beautiful movie stars supposedly portray "ordinary" people, their conflicts are meant to be seen as emblems of universals one. But what we get is a case of a shallow, self pitying, masturbatory celebration. The film sees nothing beyond these two people – it's stuck between them and suffocates. It would have been a far more interesting and rewarding movie had it been able to have a more distant, detached approach, but that means actually paying much more attention to other people and the way they view the Wheelers, and it might diminish the impact (and screen time) of Kate and Leo, so no thank you.

Unlike films such as Happy Go Lucky or The Visitor, in which actors, who are not known or at least are not "stars", can immerse within the characters they play, the casting of a star always carry some baggage in itself – it's the elephant in the room which the way it's addressed or ignored can be a major factor in whether the performance works or not. This year we actually had several such case studies. I've already stated I found Benjamin Button to be a very elaborate if expertly disguised examination of this issue, (tough no one seemed to agree), while The Wrestler (it seems, I haven't seem it yet) is a very straightforward one. In A Christmas Tale Catherine Deneuve plays a woman who was put on a pedestal all her life in a very reveling and smartly self deprecating way. On the other hand, Jolie's diva presence was totally wrong for The Changeling and was a major factor in its relative failure. In Doubt, Streep's smart, intentionally self contradicting performance used every inch of her own charisma/lack of star persona to the advantage of her character (winking at those who remember the old accusations she act only with her head and hands – perfect for a nun), while Hoffman was criticized, including by many here, precisely for lacking the star presence the character he was playing was striving for. It's a pity Revolutionary Road, which seem to be the perfect material for it, ironically failed to use its actors' stardom.




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Postby flipp525 » Fri Jan 30, 2009 7:47 pm

Mad Men is so much better, it's ridiculous.
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Postby Damien » Fri Jan 30, 2009 7:39 pm

I suppose there's something comforting in the fact that nearly a decade after American Beauty, Sam Mendes remains so glib, unprobing, cliched and smug in his treatment of American suburbia. Gives one a sense of continuity.

What a tedious exercise. Everything is black-and-white, the behavior arbitrary and not grounded in any recognizable reality. Plus we never learn who these two people are -- they're two blanks who are either inordinately happy or ludicrously unhappy. Who could care about these people? There's no context,. And there's no real sense of community -- don't they have friends besides the next door neighbors? If this pair sees themselves above everyone else in their sub urban town, why doesn't the decor of their house express that? A Nick Ray or a Sirk would have conveyed so much by having this classically Colonial house stuffed with 50s moderne, but that kind of visual expressiveness is way beyond the grasp of a hack like Mendes. And, predictably, the supporting characters are ridiculously broad. It's amazing how every week Mad Men explores this same general material with so much more nuance, depth, humor and richness.

And what is it that Sam Mendes does to Thomas Newman -- probably the most gifted contemporary film composes, when he works for Mendes he is absolutely irritating.

I will say that Roger Deakins's photography is superb -- its hues and tones perfectly capture the look of a color photo spread from a mid-50s copy of Look or Better Homes and Gardens. (How he got nominated for the utterly ordinary Reader and not this is beyond me.)

Should Winslet have been nominated for this or the other one? No. She acts MORE here, but she's not very good in either. I think DiCaprio is an immensely gifted actor, but I still have a hard time buying him in Adult Roles. To me, he still seems like he belongs in coming of age stories. Would have been nice to see what God (i.e. Ethan Hawke) might have done with the role.

Michael Shannon is annoying, but not in an interesting way. He's not as annoying here as he was in Bug, but then again he had a lot more screen time in the earlier movie.

And how I wish to God Kathy Bates would take early retirement.

Oh, the banality of it all . . .

3/10




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Postby cam » Thu Jan 29, 2009 1:01 pm

abcinyvr wrote:
Penelope wrote:Shannon plays the character all on one note. There was no depth to the character in the book and none in the movie.

Just saw RR this evening. Where did that nomination come from? I was expecting much more from the performance.

Just what we were thinking. I don't like Shannon--never have--and it is sort of insulting that his role is the only one nominated. I don't think Leo is right for this part, but I DO think Winslet is great! And Shep's part is so meaty and Harbour did a fine job. If there were to be two nominations for this film, I would be happy, as long as they were Winslet and Harbour.
Liked the film though. It is is pretty true to the book, but Leo doesn't handle Frank's passion very honestly, I thought.

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Postby abcinyvr » Thu Jan 29, 2009 12:37 am

Penelope wrote:Shannon plays the character all on one note. There was no depth to the character in the book and none in the movie.

Just saw RR this evening. Where did that nomination come from? I was expecting much more from the performance.

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Postby kaytodd » Sun Jan 18, 2009 11:25 am

A disappointment. But while the book was very well written I did not enjoy it as much as I thought I would because the story seemed dated and I guess it is inevitable that this would affect my reaction to the film. I suppose in the early 1960's April's intense obsession with going to a more "sophisticated" place like Paris to escape the "banalities" of American Suburbia would resonate with readers more so than today.

Good performances all around but I think Kate's is the only one deserving of an Oscar nom. But...(spoilers below)
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I was very disappointed in how Frank's and Shep's characters were handled in the end and these changes from the book probably robbed David Harbour, and possibly Leo, of an Oscar nom. I am thinking particularly of the scene near the end when Shep and Millie are talking with the family who moved into the Wheeler home. The film makes it appear that Shep's strong feelings about the Wheelers come solely from his pining for April. In the book, that scene leads eventually to a wonderful speech by Shep in which he tells how he is not only sad over what happened to April but also about what happened to Frank. Frank's fate at the end of the book is much more complex and it seems that it would not have been difficult or time consuming to have the film go in the same direction. I was not enjoying the film very much up to that point but the needless simplification of the ending as it concerned Frank and Shep makes this film on of my biggest disappointments of 2008.




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Postby rolotomasi99 » Thu Jan 08, 2009 10:37 am

Penelope wrote:Thomas Newman's score, which struck me as intrusive, didn't help.

i thought the exact same thing. some movies are better with moments of silence. this type of raw emotion would have done better with no film score.

i also agree about the cinematography. mendes three previous movies are remembered best for their cinematography, often being the only good thing about the entire film. here however the cinematography was gorgeous but did not draw attention to itself. great work by deakins.

overall, i would say this is mendes' most mature film. much like ZODIAC was for david fincher, i am happy to see mendes stop being so concerned with the visual aspects of the film (though by no means ignoring them), and instead focus on the emotional. mendes still has a ways to go before he is a great director, but this film convinced me he has the potential to be more than just a visual wunderkind.

i am do not think kate winslet has ever given a bad performance. she has definitely been in some bad movies (THE HOLIDAY and FINDING NEVERLAND), but she always gives the best performance out of all the actors of any movie she is in. here she truly was amazing. so many different line readings were just deliciously vicious, she nailed them perfectly. i have not seen THE READER, but if what i have heard about her being even better in that is true then she clearly deserves to win at least one oscar this year (if not two).

leo was also amazing. after TITANIC, i wrote him off as another pretty boy who had the potential of being a great actor but chose instead to be a big star. his performance in CATCH ME IF YOU CAN first made me rethink my opinion. THE AVIATOR cemented it for me, followed shortly by THE DEPARTED. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD has made me confident he will have a long and amazing career. his facial acting is really his speciality. the way he can contort his face to show pain, anger, or joy is quite extraordinay. leo did more acting with his eyes than brad pitt did with his entire body and a multi-million dollar fx crew behind him. i certainly hope leo is able to bump out brad from the oscar noms. penn, rourke, langella, jenkins, dicaprio would be the best lead actor line-up we have had since 2002.

i had michael shannon on my predictions list for awhile, but i doubt a nomination is happening. he had no beatrice straight level scene, and he is not big enough a name to secure a nomination from so little. i am not sure what i think of his performance itself. it seemed like he was channeling heath ledger playing the joker. his voice, line readings, and facial expressions seemed like they would be more at home in a comic book movie than this period drama. not a bad performance if that is the way the character is written, but it all felt very odd.

as for the overall film itself, i was impressed. maybe it was because i went in with low-expectations and i knew nothing of the book. i enjoyed the look of the film, i was blown away by the two lead performances, i found the screenplay nicely done, and admired mendes evolution as a director. i enjoyed it, and i feel like it is the type of movie film-lovers will discover in the years to come -- a little lost treasure from 2008.

also, the final scene of the movie and particularly the last image on the screen has to be one of the best moments of a film this year. absolutely hilarious and a perfect ending.
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Postby Eric » Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:45 am

Different strokes in this case, though I think we're both mixed at best on the film.

The most heated scenes of this movie just made me wish I were watching Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? instead.

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Postby Penelope » Sun Jan 04, 2009 1:32 am

Sorry, Eric, gotta disagree. Shannon plays the character all on one note. There was no depth to the character in the book and none in the movie.

To be honest, I found Harbour and Kathryn Hahn (as his wife) to be the most interesting characters in the film. Both actors gave so much subtext, something that was missing from the rest of the film.
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Postby Eric » Sun Jan 04, 2009 12:54 am

The guy's character is supposed to be obnoxious! He's saying what modern audiences would accept as the "truthful" analysis of every situation, but that doesn't preclude the fact that he's hiding behind mental illness to obfuscate the sad fact that he's basically just an asshole. As Shannon plays him, he's the most multi-dimensional character in the whole movie. The neighbor guy was a nice sadsack and all, but it's not exactly a performance brimming with depth, just convenient grief.



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Postby OscarGuy » Sun Jan 04, 2009 12:18 am

I'm right there with you guys on Harbour. Since I wasn't familiar with Michael Shannon and hadn't really looked at the cast list before tuning in, after all the positive notices I'd heard about Shannon, I, for a moment, thought perhaps the neighbor WAS the character they were talking about. But then I realized that I had seen Shannon before and I knew he was the obnoxious character that I despised so very quickly. Harbour is indeed fantastic in the film and, in a perfect world, he'd be up for some Supporting Actor consideration.
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Postby Eric » Sat Jan 03, 2009 10:01 pm

I probably liked Michael Shannon because he seemed like he came from a different movie -- one I would've much rather been watching than Revolutionary Road.

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Postby flipp525 » Sat Jan 03, 2009 9:59 pm

Penelope wrote:I can actually see why Michael Shannon isn't getting notice--the role, and the performance, are so obvious and calculated. Actually, I was much more impressed by David Harbour as the neighbor--a terrific performance, filled with longing.

That's good to hear. The character of Shep Campbell on the page is so much more compelling (and tragic) than the rather obvious sent-from-the-Gods-to-tell-us-the-truth-about-our-lives character of John Givings. Not having seen it yet, I had already mentioned in another thread that I thought David Harbour's character offered the possibility of more nuance and pathos out of this film's roster of male supporting characters.
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Postby Penelope » Sat Jan 03, 2009 9:39 pm

It is perhaps difficult for me to fully assess Revolutionary Road, partly because I'm still mulling it over in my mind, partly because I wasn't a huge fan of the book, and partly because, as others have pointed out, the film is mining material that is, I think, pretty nearly mined out.

In fact, while I was reading the 1961 book, I was often struck that this is material that had already been pretty much previously examined, though more melodramatically, in novels and films such as The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, By Love Possessed, From the Terrace, etc. I kept thinking, had the movie been made in 1962 or '63, at least a Sirk would've added a sense of irony or a Robson would've teased out the individual vs society theme.

But Mendes is all on the surface, so we just get the book as is. Smartly, however, the movie--aside from an occasional hand-held or StediCam shot--looks like it was shot in the early '60s--Roger Deakins' gorgeous cinematography has the sheen, polish and exquisite framing of those earlier films--indeed, this is one of the most beautiful big screen movies I've seen all year.

Still, it all comes down to the surface, and I still don't think there's much there. It could be argued that the seeming plastic quality of the first half of the movie is deliberate: the movie seemed to be going through the motions, and Leo and Kate as well. I was finding it a bit tedious, and thinking that something was just off (Thomas Newman's score, which struck me as intrusive, didn't help). Again, that may have been the point.

Anyway, the movie finally kicks into gear in the second half, and Leo and Kate come alive. I have some problems with Leo here--maybe it's just me, but I don't think he works well with period pieces (even, ahem, in Titanic, but his chemistry with The Goddess overcame that)--still, there's a forceful quality to his performance here that's very convincing. Kate has some terrific moments--her delivery of "Fuck who you want to" is bound to become a classic--but, in totality, I think she's better in The Reader (again, a LEAD performance, Academy, thank you very much).

I can actually see why Michael Shannon isn't getting notice--the role, and the performance, are so obvious and calculated. Actually, I was much more impressed by David Harbour as the neighbor--a terrific performance, filled with longing.

Even if the film is out of the running for Best Picture and Director, Leo and Kate are strong possibilities for nominations, as are the cinematography and the costumes.
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