Revolutionary Road [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin & Noor Razzak (9th June 2009).
The Film

Adopting a novel or screenplay into a work of fiction is all about striking up a delicate balance between staying true to the original work and bringing something new to the table with a film. A direct and pure adaptation is great in terms of fan service, but may not have the power to really create something that’s great to watch. Frank Darabont’s adaptation of “The Mist” (2007) remained true to the original novella with room for tremendous expansion in the creation of the amazing looking monsters, while keeping the story almost exactly the same until a dramatic ending that had even Stephen King shocked. At the same time there are adaptations like Alfonso Cuarón’s “Children of Men” (2005) that draw from the novel to build into a larger piece, thematically similar yet changing the plot and characters of the story. Above all though these adaptations didn’t feel just like books on screen, or just a filmed play, they added something unique visually to the film’s adaptation that couldn’t have been present in the written form. When I first saw trailers for “Revolutionary Road” (2008) it looked like a 2 hour exercise in arguing, and didn’t get my interest. After I found out it was based on a critically acclaimed novel of the same name, it still didn’t do much for me until I saw Sam Mendes of “American Beauty” (1999) fame was directing, bringing me hope about something visually interesting between the shouting matches. Unfortunately the film falls into the trap of adaptation where it’s completely disengaging for people new to the work, it feels like a filmed play and Mendes doesn’t show the same kind of visual brilliance he flexed in “American Beauty.”

Set in 1950’s United States Suburbia, “Revolutionary Road” begins as Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) meet conversationally at a party, quickly appearing to jump into marriage and a family on revolutionary road in suburbia. Early on both Frank and April express their dreams of becoming more than just the typified image of 50’s life, April aspires to being an actress and Frank has always talked of Paris and France, but their suburban family life seems to be dragging them and their relationship down, cue shouting match. On Frank’s birthday, April suprises him with a plan to move to Paris with their savings where she’ll work as a secretary while Frank figures out what to do. Unfortunately their plans are botched as Frank is offered a raise and promotion at his office while April discovers that she is pregnant once again, causing Frank to cancel plans for travel based on these new developments, cue more shouting/arguing. Out of frustration and unhappiness, both seek affairs, while April gets a device to try and abort the child early on with the hopes of it giving them back their chance at happiness, but of course Frank disagrees and they argue about it.

My first impression of the film was just 2 hours of arguing, but instead I got 2 hours of unhappiness supplemented by arguing. In their attempt to capture the cruel side of 50’s Americana, it leaves me with a need to watch “Mad Men” (2007-Present), which deals with the same sort of issues but on a larger level, especially since it’s a TV show and thus has more episodes and time. Problematizing the idea of domesticity that was so popular at the time can easily be done through giving the kind of depth of character, while adding a sort of bizarre twist, that “Mad Men” manages to accomplish, while “Revolutionary Road” defines unhappiness in a couple fairly one-dimensionally. Kate Winslet’s role as the lonely and isolated housewife is an interesting and fair point, but they don’t really capitalize on either character, outside of the sheer drama of their arguments.

Both DiCaprio and Winslet’s presence in the film, as big name actors who are incredibly renowned for their chemistry while playing a couple that seems to have very little real chemistry screams Oscar-bait to me. All of the arguments, drama and yelling all seem like a straight shot at trying to achieve an Oscar, making the film all the more frustrating as it’s more about awards than story.

Overall, the most shocking part of the film was the fact that Sam Mendes didn’t manage to give out a great visual style to the film. Especially teamed with cinematographer Roger Deakins I expected a greater visual sense in the film. Technically it’s all there, lighting matches mood and generates tone for different scenes, but it all seems incredibly plain. I get that the film is supposed to show the monotony of the lifestyle but honestly the directing can do more and help bring me into the movie rather than just frustrating me even more. “Revolutionary Road” is a film where I walk away saying ‘I get it, but so what?’ as I haven’t really committed anything to characters or style involved in the film. I like the message that they’re trying to do in the plot, and the ending I thought made it more interesting, but not worth the 2 hour trip when I could watch just the pilot of “Mad Men” and get more out of it.

Video

Presented in the film's original ratio of 2.35:1 in high-definition 1080p 24/fps and mastered in AVC MPEG-4 compression, this image is excellent. The film's photography is masterfully created with deep and rich colors, an naturalistic lighting scheme that looks great in HD. The image is sharp and exhibits excellent depth, textures are well rendered, skin tones are natural and the overall print is free from any dirt and is as clean as a whistle. I was impressed with the overall image, and while there's some very minor noise amid the blacks there was hardly anything wrong with this image, nice one Paramount.

Audio

Three audio tracks are included in English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround mixed at 48kHz/24-bit, French Dolby Digital 5.1 surround and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 surround. For the purposes of this review I chose to view the film with its TrueHD audio, the film's audio is very dialogue heavy and although does not exhibit a wide range of sound effects the film's track is mostly made up of ambient and environmental sounds that place viewers amid the various locations. It's an effective and altogether subtle soundtrack that does a decent job of presenting the film, while at times can be front heavy, the score compensates by adding a further surround layer to the overall mix.
Optional subtitles are included in English, English for the hearing impaired, French, Portuguese and Spanish.

Extras

The disc comes equipped with a few essential extras, including an audio commentary, deleted scenes, a couple of featurettes and the film's theatrical trailer.

First is the audio commentary with director Sam Mendes and screenwriter Justin Haythe. Not being too interested in the film, I wasn’t looking too forward to the commentary, but these two actually do a good job of talking through the entire film and bringing up fairly interesting points along the way. There’s talk of different actors on the set, working with the many different people involved in the film, inspirations drawn from different photographs at the time, and various little insights into the film. In terms of a commentary track, it’s fairly good and gives some insight as to why Mendes decided to shoot the film so plainly, but doesn’t get me any more interested in the film than I was before and after I saw it.

“Lives of Quiet Desperation: The Making of Revolutionary Road” runs for 29 minutes and 1 second. This featurette covers the making-of the film from novel to film, from thematic angles from the perspective of all the major actors and crew members. People talk about what attracted them to their different roles and what lies at the heart of the different characters, getting everyone involved in the film, all matched up with clips and stills from the film as well as behind-the-scenes footage and the usual making of fodder. It’s fairly well put together for the making of that shows everything from finding the right house to the right costumes.

"Richard Yates: The Wages of Truth" featurette runs for 26 minutes 4 seconds and is an exclusive extra on this Blu-ray edition, this clip is an in-depth look at the author of the book as his family and friends look back on the man and his career. They comment on the themes of his books, being a lonely man who drank a lot from his upbringing into his adult life, the clip paints a rather depressing and dark portrait of the man behind the books and one the forgotten greats of American literature.

Finally are the deleted scenes, fifteen in all (ten of which are exclusive to this Blu-ray release and not on the DVD), with optional audio commentary with director Sam Mendes and screenwriter Justin Haythe:

- "Are You Ready April?" runs for 2 minutes 53 seconds, April gets ready in the dressing room, cuts to Frank outside as he checks his appearance in the car window as he enters the theatre. Meanwhile April is backstage before the show.
- “I’m Sorry” runs for 1 minute and 22 seconds, Frank wakes up and stops April from mowing the lawn, Sam Mendes talks about liking the scenes that got cut.
- "Don't Do That" runs for 1 minute 24 seconds, the kids get inquisitive and star to annoy Frank while he's digging in the yard.
- “Birthday” runs for 2 minutes and 50 seconds, Frank talks about a story in the war when he suddenly realized it was his birthday, Mendes and Haythe talk about it being a good moment.
- “Bit Shot” runs for 1 minute and 9 seconds, a full cut of Frank’s journey to work and flashback to his childhood, the duo talk about how the story of Frank’s father gets removed.
- "Hello" runs for 27 seconds, Frank takes notice of a girl who says hello to him.
- “Nothing’s Permanenet” runs for 1 minute and 17 seconds, April flashes back to when she and Frank first got their house, the duo talk about the pain of loosing the scene from the film.
- "Next Time" runs for 2 minutes 19 seconds, a young April is visited by her father.
- "Moving to Paris" runs for 40 seconds, April goes to the American Express office and informs them they are moving to Paris.
- "The Wheelers are Moving" runs for 2 minutes 10 seconds, Helen tells Howard that the Wheelers are moving to Paris and that he has no job there.
- "Just Friends" runs for 1 minute 4 seconds, Frank makes sure his indiscretion doesn't escalate into anything more.
- "A Nice Day in the City" runs for 1 minute 32 seconds, Frank remembers a day in the city with his dad.
- "Please Don't Leave" runs for 1 minute 30 seconds, Frank asks April not to leave and wonders if he's dreaming as he lies in bed.
- "Urgent Call" runs for 1 minute 14 seconds, Frank is told he has an urgent call for him while at work.
- “Dear Frank” runs for 3 minutes and 12 seconds, Frank returns home to where April died, Shep comes looking for him, Mendes talks about how they changed up the scene and why it was cut.

Finally the disc includes the film's original theatrical trailer which runs for 2 minutes 14 seconds.

Overall

The Film: D Video: A Audio: A Extras: B- Overall: C+

 


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