Revolutionary Road is one of the glitziest depressing movies I've ever seen. The film wanders around the world of its characters, loudly presenting every issue at hand. On a positive note, it is well-handled, smartly-balanced, and precise with what it wants to say. The film bypasses conventional detours, presenting instead a realistic, throbbing viewpoint. Unfortunately, the movie is, how shall I put it...boring. I use that word in severe risk of sounding juvenile in my critique, but I hope the expansion of that critique proves otherwise.
Let me place the film where it stands. It's 1950's America. Frank and April Wheeler are happily married in the most modular way--they have the perfect home, perfect community, perfect kids. They live life "the American way". They aren't happy, though. Frank hates his job; April hates the routine. Spontaneously, she suggests that they leave for Paris. She will get a job there, and he will have time to figure out what he really wants to do with his life. They start planning their move. Work ties, miscommunication, and an undeniable sense of uncertainty create problems between both Alice and her dream and her husband.
The big selling point with Revolutionary Road is the reuniting of Titanic stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. I'll be the first to say that I felt they had little chemistry in that film, and they don't have any in this one either. Chemistry, however, isn't exactly a necessity in a film like this. Each star shines individually and neither outplay each other. Winslet gives the better performance, but, then again, her character is better written.
The camerawork for this picture is intensely intimate. The film never shies away from lingering on shots. The framing and colors are beautifully under-saturated. The rhythm of the picture is engrossing. The score is immersively rich. Revolutionary Road boasts many solid technical achievements.
Underneath every emotion in this picture, there is a consistent theme: breaking from conformity. Alice is upset that they have "bought into the same, ridiculous delusion" as everyone else about what they 'need'. What inspires every emotion in the picture is a desire to achieve a personal definition. They want to break free from conformity, but their ties with it hold more than they want to admit. They have been shaped by their fears of risk. This battle throughout the whole film is intriguing.
BUT. The filmmakers don't stick to this theme. The film wanders endlessly around trivial emotions about their love for each other, abortion, neighbors, and their breaking relationship. While all of these matters do come into play, the picture overemphasizes their individual worth. The film is really about their own personal battles, and should become reflected in these elements. Because the movie channels the reverse (using the underlying problem--conformity--to reflect the more generic issues--love, relationships, etc.), nothing pushes the movie. Nothing supports its ventures.
THAT is why the picture seems so tedious. The central point to this picture becomes scattered. Scenes drag on and on and on. We see things coming minutes before they are ever played out. Nothing ever catches us by surprise or sweeps us into emotional chaos. Revolutionary Road is so precise with its details that it leaves out the broad strokes of purpose and meaning.
This is a complex picture that drools with appeal--from its Oscar-caliber names to its high production values. Its complexity was its own curse. Revolutionary Road is a self-obsessed picture that secures solid results on many levels, but falls short on some of the most basic. This is a strongly-executed, misdirected picture.