Release Date: Dec. 26
With “Revolutionary Road,” director Sam Mendes returns to the suburban milieu of quiet desperation that earned him an Oscar for “American Beauty.” To date, that earlier film, which also won the Acad’s top honor and was the Brit theater maestro’s film debut, has been considered Mendes’ high-water mark. Subsequent efforts, while boasting impeccable production values, have failed to strike the chord that made “American Beauty” the zeitgeist film of 1999.
Based on the acclaimed and influential 1961 novel by Richard Yates, “Road” centers around Frank Wheeler, an aspiring writer who sells out to Madison Avenue, and his restless wife April, who give “Mad Men’s” Don and Betty Draper a run for their money when it comes to the acute sense of malaise they suffer. And translating Yates’ by turns sardonic, poetically insightful and brutally honest prose into fully fleshed-out movie drama no doubt stood as Mendes and screenwriter Justin Haythe’s biggest challenge.
Much has been made of this film marking the reunion of “Titanic” co-stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, but one must assume that the complexity of the Wheelers makes “Titanic’s” young lovers cardboard cut-outs in comparison. Winslet and DiCaprio have amassed six Oscar noms between them since “Titanic” (eight total in their careers). Key supporting turns in “Road” include Michael Shannon, whose role as John Givings has already been flagged by the New York Times as providing “some of the movie’s most thrilling fireworks,” while Oscar winner Kathy Bates plays his mother Helen.
The film marks Mendes’ fourth collaboration with composer Thomas Newman, who earned Oscar nominations for “Beauty” and Mendes’ follow-up, “Road to Perdition.” Roger Deakins, who became Mendes’ cinematographer of choice after Conrad Hall passed away, seems capable of finding just the right style and tone for any genre he tackles, as proved by his work in Mendes’ “Jarhead” and his Oscar-nominated lensing of last year’s “No Country for Old Men” and “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” Production designer Kristi Zea (“The Departed”), editor Tariq Anwar (“American Beauty”) and two-time Oscar winning costume designer Albert Wolsky round out a stellar below-the-line crew.