Monday, January 5, 2009

Mad Men (and Women)

Some pre-Oscar cramming going on in
This week it's Revolutionary Road.
There's a number of things working for this picture.
Casting for one thing. Leonardo DiCarpio sometimes comes across a little too impish, too baby-faced.
Here it works for him, this sad-sack tale of a married couple who can't sit comfortably in the 1950's conformist lifestyle.
To see Leo sitting in his suit and fedora, it seems big on him. Awkward, but perhaps that's the point. The lifestyle doesn't fit right.
The Titanic duo are back with Kate Winslet playing April, the long-suffering wife straining to find the man she loved when she met him.

Based on the novel by Richard Yates and directed by Sam Mendes the movie is American Beauty-esque. This is about the tyranny of conformity. The dark side of the suburbs, this time with more smoking and hats. And speaking of hats, the art direction and cinematography is impeccable. The movie has a suffocating feel of neatness. Every house looks like the perfect 1950's pad. There are many memorable shots, my fav may be a long shot, the camera staying on the married couple as they silently clomp down an empty school hallway. The click clack of their hard-soled shoes on the linoleum says a lot.

This is not a happy movie. But the filmmakers should be applauded for going as dark as they do. There are also some standout performances. Leo and Kate are great. I found Kate's intensity here terrifying, an intelligent woman, horrified with her lot in life and refusing to settle.

Also another actor to keep an eye out for is Michael Shannon. He plays John, the son of the couple's real estate agent. John is a mathematician but he's having trouble and spent some time in the local sanitarium.

When John drops by the couple's house (on Revolutionary Road, hence the title) he's the voice of reason, spitting and sputtering the truth that few care to admit. It's an amazing, scene-stealing performance. One that's Heath Ledger-like in it's intensity.

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