Reel Review: ‘Revolutionary Road’ asks, answers the tough questions

I think most people would agree that “Revolutionary Road” is a well-made film. You’d expect so with Sam Mendes (“American Beauty”) directing his endlessly talented wife Kate Winslet alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, in the duo’s first film together since the epic “Titanic.”

But this is no blockbuster romance designed to warm your heart. In fact, I had a difficult time deciding how to review this movie. Not because I didn’t love it (I did), but because of why I loved it.

“Revolutionary Road” asks tough questions of its main characters, April and Frank. The kind of questions about our dreams and disappointments that we usually don’t have the guts to ask, often because they elicit answers we don’t want to hear - and sometimes maybe shouldn’t.

It’s the mid-1950s and April and Frank Wheeler (Winslet and DiCaprio) are settled in their perfect suburban home. Frank takes the train to work, while April stays home with their two children. It seems ideal but, as we’ve learned by now, it almost never is.

April wants a more authentic life and she persuades Frank that their family can escape and create a better one somewhere else. As their departure comes closer, the demands and expectations of reality creep back into their lives and we watch them struggle while their relationship degrades more and more with every emotional turn.

I won’t lie to you. A lot of this is hard to watch, mostly because the performances by the leads are truly terrific. (Winslet just won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in “Revolutionary Road”). But there are moments of well-placed levity and insight, particularly involving Kathy Bates and Michael Shannon, who plays Bates’ emotionally disturbed son (likely the most emotionally honest among them, though at times overbearingly so).

I loved this movie because I responded to it on a very personal level. Long after the last credit rolled I was still pondering my own life and asking myself some of those tough questions.

For some (like me), this kind of personal purging is a welcomed exercise. For others, it’s an absolute nightmare. I suppose it depends upon where you are in your own life, and how much you really want to contemplate it at the cineplex on a Saturday night.

‘Revolutionary Road’

  • Directed by Sam Mendes
  • Written by Justin Haythe (screenplay) and Richard Yates (novel)
  • Rated R
  • Grade: A
  • Now playing