‘Revolutionary Road’ — snubbed today, sure to be remembered forever

Posted by · 7:58 am · December 23rd, 2008

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Revolutionary RoadOne of the biggest surprises of the awards season for me is the fact that “Revolutionary Road” is being all but forgotten by many critics groups and has certainly slipped off the Oscar radar as a result. Is the film deserving?  Absolutley.  I think it is one of the best films of the year and among the finest I have seen this decade, but for whatever reason — and who can explain these things — it has not gotten a great deal of press.

This is a major accomplishment, a work of art superbly directed by Sam Mendes who in eight years has become one of the most exciting directors in modern cinema. Though I count myself among those who though his breakthrough film “American Beauty” was very good but also radically over-praised, his follow-up, “Road to Perdition,” was superb and should have been among the nominees for Best Picture and Best Director in 2002, vastly superior to “Chicago.”

His third film, “Jarhead,”  was darkly beautiful to look at but didn’t quite work with audiences who are still not interested in films about Afghanistan or Iraq (whichever installment).  Mendes possesses a gift with actors, one of those directors like Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and more recently, Paul Thomas Anderson.  He’s able to bring out their best work.  It seems no surprise he married an actress.

He is also patient with a narrative, allowing it to unfold with the knowledge the audience connects with the actors.  With “Revolutionary Road,” he has cranked out a crowning achievement in a career just getting started, and yet like so many other masterworks, it may slip through the cracks, barely noticed.

Leonardo DiCaprio is a revelation and again makes clear he is simply the finest young actor in movies, perhaps the greatest actor to emerge since Marlon Brando — and I stand by that.  DiCaprio will never be caught giving a forced or false performance as every line he utters seems authentic, as though he were speaking it for the first time.  Quietly he slips under the skin of his character.  The comments about his beauty are getting old; where is the rule saying good-looking men cannot be great actors?  In “Road,” he also offers his career-best work.

This is an actor who was astounding as a mentally challenged young man way back in “Who’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” and magnificent in “The Aviator,” “Blood Diamond” and “The Departed.”  There is an Oscar in his future, without question.  But not this year.

Kate Winlet is the finest young actress working in film and she has been for a long time now. For just over a decade Winslet has graced the screen and given an array of superb performances beginning with Peter Jackson’s haunting “Heavenly Creatures” and Ang Lee’s “Sense and Sensibility” before riding a sinking boat to an Oscar nomination in 1997 opposite DiCaprio.  While her best work (until “Road”) was “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” she was also superb in “Little Children” and “Iris,” displaying a range that rivals that of Meryl Streep. This year she is a double threat for nominations, certainly a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actress in “The Reader” and very likely for Best Actress in “Revolutionary Road.”

In the film, Winslet and DiCaprio are a young couple caught in a dysfunctional marriage that could lead them to become George and Martha in ‘Whoi’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.” Their desperation in trying to escape is deeply moving and tragic because their love for one another is most apparent.  It’s all very powerful stuff, uncomfortably real and sometimes agonizing to watch and that is precisely why the film may not be catching with critics.  It is getting respect, but not the adoration it so deserves.

How sad, because in years to come, “Revolutionary Road” will be discussed as one of the great American movies of the decade. How often has this happened over the last 35 years?  “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (snubbed for Best Picture nomination), “Manhattan” (which might be Woody Allen’s best work), “Prince of the City,” “Once Upon a Time in America,” and more recently, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford,” a bonafide masterwork of modern cinema.  The list is endless.

What are some modern marvels, snubbed in their time but standing the test of longevity?  Have at it in the comments section.

→ 35 Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

35 responses so far

  • 1 12-23-2008 at 8:34 am

    R.M. said...

    There IS no way of telling whether “Revolutionary Road” will end up being one of the greatest and most remembered classics of the decade… And sorry, “The Assassination of Jesse James” is hardly one of the greatest and most remembered classics so far this decade – it is a classic to those who look like it as a classic, but that’s hardly a crowd of millions. Not yet, anyway…

  • 2 12-23-2008 at 8:46 am

    Zan said...

    How about your greatest movie of all time, John: Citizen Kane?

  • 3 12-23-2008 at 8:46 am

    McGuff said...

    I think, for me, P.T. Anderson’s “Magnolia” is a good example here. It got a touch of Academy support, but not Best Picture, even though it probably was the best even in the decade’s deepest year. Magnolia seems the type of film that will have film professors having their students dissect for years to come — PTA can do that to you.

    The Assassination of Jesse James is an inspired choice, but I think it’s more wishcasting than it is fact. I do the same last year about a pair of directorial debuts: “Away From Her” by Sarah Polley and “Gone Baby Gone” by Ben Affleck. The latter left my friends and I in debate for a week, it seemed. The former was beautiful storytelling of an illness we seem slow to learn anything about.

    If I had to wishcast on anything this decade, it would probably be “The Painted Veil.” I see it on HBO all the time now, which is surely a good sign for it to have lasting value. A masterpiece in cinematography and score, the movie is also Naomi Watts career-defining performance, and I say that as someone that has the deepest admiration for her work in “21 Grams” and “Mulholland Drive.” The Painted Veil was just stupendous, but a lack of studio support meant it had no chance at Oscar recognition.

  • 4 12-23-2008 at 9:35 am

    Dan said...

    I think Punch Drunk Love is one of the better examples you’re going for, not Magnolia

    Anywho, Revolutionary Road was awful. Case in point: Leo DiCaprio comes home after fucking his secretary to a surprise birthday party that his wife, Kate Winslet and their children set up. They sing happy birthday and he cries. Cut to a rain shower. Cut to him crying in the shower… Yes, Sam Mendes you are a genius…
    Capable photography and lighting -and still it feels like the 50s segment from The Hours – didn’t help much in keeping my eyes on the screen. Michael Shannon’s few scenes were bright spots, yet even then his character was a ridiculously blatant external force to fuel DiCaprio and Winslet’s inner turmoils.

  • 5 12-23-2008 at 9:36 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    The Painted Veil was on my top 10 list in 2006. A brilliant overlooked film.

    Nothing wrong with wishcasting. But I think in the case of Jesse James, it’ll come to pass.

  • 6 12-23-2008 at 9:39 am

    Dan said...

    but if you want a good translation of 50s suburban melodrama to today, see Far From Heaven. Very good movie

  • 7 12-23-2008 at 10:05 am

    Xavi Rodriguez said...

    Far from heaven is a marvellous film…

    And another point: A lot of the criticism about Revolutionary Road comes to the comparation with an excellent TV serie. “Mad Men” is fantastic and shows the real life in 50s.

  • 8 12-23-2008 at 10:12 am

    Silencio said...

    I think The Fountain will gain fans in the future. As well as In America (my all-time 2nd favorite).

  • 9 12-23-2008 at 10:18 am

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Silencio: When I interview Aronofsky for that Wrestler/Raging Bull/On the Waterfront piece, he told me they’ll be going back to The Fountain for an extended DVD cut soon. Woo-hoo! I think this has been reported elsewhere by now, so you might already know.

  • 10 12-23-2008 at 10:53 am

    Scott Ward said...

    I think this film could definitely attain classic status one day, if only for the fact that Dicaprio (who is this generation’s Bogart, you wait and see) and Winslet (who,as she is now, will be seen as one of the top actresses of this time).

    With the pairing of a couple like this, you can be nearly assured that the movie will live on no matter its reception today.

  • 11 12-23-2008 at 11:14 am

    Speaking English said...

    “A.I. Artificial Intelligence.”

    I don’t know if it’s going to become a classic, necessarily, but it was a movie that was considered a major disappointment when it was released in 2001, but for me is something of a flawed masterpiece when looking back on it. Its vision is tremendous, its scope and storytelling transcendent, and its emotional pull nothing short of gratifying. It feels not unlike a certain “Space Odyssey” to me.

  • 12 12-23-2008 at 11:17 am

    Chad said...

    Revolutionary Road will be remembered alright.

    “Let’s put it plain,” begins Andrew Tracy in Reverse Shot: “in any sane world, Revolutionary Road would be laughed off as a joyless embarrassment before we moved on to more pressing business. Yet while this latest Oscar-baiting turkey will doubtlessly find its ultimate fate in the critical memory hole, the reason for the season demands that we speak of it as if it deserved serious consideration; as if this is a case of ‘flaws’ in an otherwise worthy whole. Make no mistake, though: this is folly of a grand order, though any potential glee one might take in skewering it is deflated by the ruthlessly enervating experience of sitting through it.”

  • 13 12-23-2008 at 11:54 am

    Scott Ward said...

    Oh, sorry Chad, we all didn’t know that Andrew Tracy didn’t like it. After all, he is the sultan of criticism. So John, I guess your post and your opinion are both completely irrelevent now.

    Chad, did you even read the fucking post by John? We all know that the movie is not receiving warm critical success. The last thing you needed to do was provide us with another critic who didn’t like the movie. The discussion is about whether or not we think Revolutionary Road will become some type of classic, or at least if it will be remembered in the decades to come. If your opinion differs, that’s fine. But posting an opinion by some barely known critic is stupid.

  • 14 12-23-2008 at 12:14 pm

    Chad said...

    I did read John’s post. I also read the quote I posted and if you did too you would know that I didn’t post it just to quote a negative review. It was to post an opinion completely opposite of John’s that says the movie is getting more credit than it deserves now and in time will be completely forgotten.

  • 15 12-23-2008 at 1:07 pm

    daveylow said...

    The Painted Veil is a movie I constantly recommend to my friends and movie lovers to watch. I told a friend of mine who worked as a film editor for more than 20 years to run to the theater to see it and she loved it. Sad that so few people watched it in the theaters.

    Someone above mentioned Punch Drunk Love. I hated almost every minute of that film, except for Emily Watson.

  • 16 12-23-2008 at 1:20 pm

    michael mckay said...

    The Assassination of Jesse James is one of the greatest westerns ever made.

    However, I disagree that Road To Perdition was better then Chicago, and the Academy clearly didn’t see it that way either.

    I agree with Silencio on The Fountain. This movie brought me to tears. Another film I really admire, that got completely overlooked by everyone, was Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. That film is extraordinary (Kubrick once said the novel the film is based on could never be filmed…but, in fact, he turned out to be wrong). I also think very highly of Youth Without Youth.

  • 17 12-23-2008 at 1:23 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Chad: If you have to dig so deep as to quote Reverse Shot, of all things, you kind of proved John’s point.

  • 18 12-23-2008 at 1:38 pm

    Foreigner said...

    Beautifully written, and a relief that someone has the energy, will and perhaps courage to take the longer view. The stuck-in-the-here-and-now groupthink gets a little suffocating at times.

  • 19 12-23-2008 at 2:36 pm

    Chad said...

    It may seem different, but I don’t have the time or inclination to dig up posts to rebut John. I happened to read that right before checking In Contention and thought it was funny to see two such different views. I haven’t even seen Revolutionary Road myself. Such is the nature of tone-free internet comments I suppose.

  • 20 12-23-2008 at 2:42 pm

    Kristopher Tapley said...

    Just joshin’ ya, kiddo.

  • 21 12-23-2008 at 2:43 pm

    Helena said...

    Personally I liked the movie very much, and I have read many positive reviews for the film at “RR” site.

  • 22 12-23-2008 at 2:50 pm

    Helena said...

    Oops…meant to say Rotten Tomatoes site :)

    Chad, yes, do check it our for yourself and form your own opinion.

  • 23 12-23-2008 at 3:26 pm

    M.Harris said...

    I agree with you John.I think Mendes is one of the most exciting directors in cinema and that he has a gift with working with actors.”American Beauty” speaks for itself,Road to Perdition was I think a little underrated and “Jarhead” which I thought was good… I got tired of some film critics saying in a negative way ” it’s a war movie with no war.” It was more of a character study than a guns blazing war movie.

  • 24 12-23-2008 at 4:35 pm

    Michael said...

    The film is great, Leonardo DiCaprio being ignored for his remarable performance should be a flat out crime.

  • 25 12-23-2008 at 4:49 pm

    John Foote said...

    Speaking English I too admire “A.I.” a great deal and believe in the years to come it will be considered one of Spielberg’s most daring films – I am currently writing a book about his films and this is among those gaining high praise — great to hear.

  • 26 12-23-2008 at 4:50 pm

    John Foote said...

    And Chad, though I normally enjoy your posts, I am shocked you would comment on a film you have not yet seen, in particular use another’s comments to do so — see it then come back at me if you think you should.

  • 27 12-29-2008 at 10:01 am

    Silencio said...

    Kris, I didn’t know there would be an extended cut. Damn them, stealing all my money. (Though it’ll pale in comparison to the money I forked out for Pan’s Labyrinth. That was ridiculous, and worth it.)

  • 28 12-29-2008 at 10:09 am

    Silencio said...

    Oh yeah, John, when it comes to Spielberg, I think Minority Report will definitely gain traction. So good. I still think about its questions.

  • 29 1-02-2009 at 10:11 am

    blizzards14 said...

    I think RR will be a classic.

    Its just so sad how the movie ended. I didn’t see it coming. Their love is apparent. Its fucking depressing. However, when the old man surreptitiously turning off his earing aid, bam! I think its the perfect way to end the film.

    I think its genius but the editing is flawed.

    Stellar and brave performance.
    Winslet is the Bette Davis of our generation and no matter how you hated this film, I know you will agree with me.

  • 30 1-15-2009 at 6:34 pm

    samantha said...

    why did the old man turn off his earing aid???

  • 31 1-24-2009 at 5:11 pm

    nadine said...

    one word: roger ebert

    if he says a movie is good…you know the movie is fucking good.

    “This film is so good it is devastating”

  • 32 1-24-2009 at 10:52 pm

    jojo said...

    i agree completely with nadine… “This film is so good it is devastating”

    a classic for sure and in my opinion one of the best films of the year.

    last year Into the Wild got completely snubbed. an amazing film of one (young) man’s odyssey.

  • 33 3-28-2010 at 10:17 am

    trevor said...

    I watched revolutionary road last night, and I thought it was a terrible movie. I thought the movie itself played like a stage production. The acting was hammy. The dialogue made no sense, or was so completly vague you had no idea what the characters were talking about. April kept mentioning the ‘hopelessness’ of the suburbs. What was she talking about? If she wanted to be an actress, she could take classes, practice in her house, or keep trying. One bad review and she quits? Talk about perceverence. And we don’t even see her act bad, we’re ‘told’ that she acted poorly. Isn’t the first rule of writing, or storytelling, show, don’t tell? Mendes does the same think with Frank. We’re told he’s doing a shitty job at work, but never shown it. Then suddenly his work is well received and he’s talking to the CEO. So which is it, terrible, or excellent?

    I couldn’t feel bad for any of the characters. All of their problems were trite and contrived. Hate your job? With 10% unemployment, there’s a lot of people that are worse off. Hate taking out the garbage? At least you have garbage. Most people in the world, especially in the 50’s, were so poor aroudn the world garbage was used to create fire, the thought of throwing garbage away in a third world country sounds preposterous.

    There were two sex scenes, both lasting 10 seconds, and both without any multiple camera angles. Just a straight shot, for 10 seconds, the guy gets off, and thats it.

    Mad Men did a much better job with all of the same themes, and Don Draper is certainly not the loser that dicaprio’s character is.

    Does is say anything about the 50’s? No.

    Did April have Asberger’s syndrome? The way she talked to her friends about leaving the ‘hopelessness’ of the suburbs was insulting, as she was telling people that were staying behind. Why not just say you want to go because you have sick family their? Why not lie, since you’ll never see this people again. Oh, but you have to make them feel bad about their supposedly terrible lives while you better your own, right?

    The music was damn awful. The same track on loop, probably cost the producers $15 to have someone compose the same 10 seconds over and over again. It isn’t menacing. It does not add to the tension. It made me want to mute the TV. The best scene of the entire film was when the realtor’s husband turned off his hearing aid. If only I had been so lucky to turn down the background music.

    Does anyone really think this movie is good? Please tell me why you think so. I’ve read a lot of reviews, but I haven’t read one specific positive thing about this movie. Just that it was good in a vague sort of way, much like the dialogue of the film.

    I think this film is going to get lost to time, not remembered. Who wants to watch a film about people being depressed for no reason? How many times can you watch a woman give herself an abortion without puking? How many times can you look at Kathy Bates in zombie makeup, saying hammy lines like, “No Frank he’s not well!!!” “Take one step closer and i’ll screem” (one step closer) “AHHHH.” that scene made me burst out laughing.

    Don’t waste your time with this movie, unless you want to riff on it. There’s plenty of time for you to do that.

  • 34 3-28-2010 at 1:40 pm

    jojo said...

    Hi Trevor,

    RR is a subtle story and if you did not enjoy it – that is, of course, fine. You are entitled to your own opinion. And I won’t get into a debate with you or lobby a campaign about why you “should” like it. You did not and that is okay. Some people liked Forest Gump some people did not…that is just how it goes with movies – either you can relate to a story or a character or you cannot.

    My take – RR is the story is one woman’s devastating realization she is not living her dream. Suburbia was – in this particular story – not how she envisioned her life. And because she was unhappy it wore on her, stifled her, she grew restless and hopeless. She longed for the freedom of her youth, her craft of acting, and the dreams her and Frank fantasized about together in their not so distant past. She had become a suburban cliché, and, speaking from my own experience of the same issue, the story was told beautifully. Suburban living is fine for some people and is not for others… just as city living is attractive to some people and not for others… “country” living, etc. and maybe having a sense of wanderlust is what seemed more natural to her rather than cocktail parties with her neighbors in the burbs. I feel the story also explores/depicts the struggles within love relationships, not just theirs but also that of their neighbors. Maybe it is mostly women who can relate to April’s character (which would seem more natural, I don’t know). I can only offer that possibility, as I am a woman. A 40-year-old woman who is happily married but also struggles with carving out my own existence in life and feeling “alive” in doing so. I (like April) recognize the hopelessness in life. But I also notice the sheer beauty of it, and I have lived enough of my own to know that not everyday is xmas.

    This is just my quick synopsis… or my “interpretation-of” and also “the-reasons-why” I liked it. I felt the book was also beautiful. And in it you might find some of the nuance details you were looking for in the movie. It seems it might be difficult to translate a book to film. But in this case I feel SM did an amazing job. The fact that I love Nina Simone made me love it all the more. This film (for me) will go down as one of the most memorable. And – on another note – the book is told more from the perspective of the husband.

    Lastly, to answer your question, I do enjoy movies that explore the human condition. You could say the darker side. And maybe I am the minority. But you also have people who enjoy movies with people getting shot up left and right… one person’s taste for a genre over another are opinions and will always be subjective. Each person’s life experience is vastly different from that of his or her neighbor’s.

    I wish you happy trails in your future movie going experiences.