Revolutionary Road (2008)

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Released 19-May-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Director Sam Mendes and Screenwriter Justin Haythe
Featurette-Making Of-Lives of Quiet Desperation: The Making of Revolutionary Road
Deleted Scenes-with optional commentary by Sam Mendes and Justin Haythe
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 114:18
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (57:31) Cast & Crew
Start Up Ads Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Sam Mendes
Studio
Distributor

Paramount Home Entertainment
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio
Kate Winslet
Michael Shannon
Ryan Simpkins
Ty Simpkins
Kathy Bates
Richard Easton
David Harbour
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Thomas Newman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Dutch
English
Danish
Norwegian
Swedish
Finnish
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes, the film is set in the 1950s.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

    Revolutionary Road is Sam Mendes' fourth feature film after his breakout success with his debut feature film, American Beauty. Revolutionary Road may be thought of as a companion piece for American Beauty as it revisits similar social themes. Below I will list some key comparisons between the two films, but these should only be compared after the film has been viewed. Unlike American Beauty, Revolutionary Road is a set piece drama staged in the mid-1950s, and for this reason the themes are not as easily accessible to a mainstream audience as they were for American Beauty.

    The movie was adapted from a 1961 novel of the same name by author Richard Yates. The novel was a finalist for the 1962 United States National Book Award alongside Joseph Heller's Catch-22 and Walker Percy's The Moviegoer. All three novels are listed in Time Magazine's 2005 list of the 100 best English language novels from 1923 to the present. What made Revolutionary Road a critical success was it's theme of suburban life and the conflict between societal expectations to conform in the workplace, in the community setting and in marriage. The movie mainly explores this issue within the realms of marriage, specifically in the lives of a young couple, Frank and April Wheeler.

    This film was the first opportunity for Leonardo DiCaprio (Frank Wheeler) and Kate Winslet (April Wheeler) to star in a movie together since James Cameron's 1997 film, Titanic. Although Leonardo DiCaprio has won a Golden Globe for Best Actor for Martin Scorsese's The Aviator, his acting seems to mature with every film, especially in his last two Scorsese films and in his lead role in Edward Zwick's Blood Diamond. His performance as Frank Wheeler proves that an Academy Award for Best Actor is not far away. Kate Winslet won the Academy Award for Best Actress for The Reader and under the rules for nomination she could not also be nominated for her performance in this film. However, her role as April Wheeler was indeed superlative, it was no surprise when she picked up the Golden Globe for Best Actress for her role in this film. Kathy Bates, who played Margaret "Molly" Brown in Titanic, plays the supporting role of Helen Givings, a local neighbour and real estate agent. Michael Shannon, who plays John Givings, a gifted mathematician who has had a nervous breakdown, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in this film. His role is critical in exposing the conflict between Frank and April in the film's second act.

    Revolutionary Road can be compared as a companion piece to American Beauty for the reasons listed below:(SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read)

    

    * April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) and Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) are both films' protagonists. They represent people who do not want to conform to the suburban way of life, they want to be independent of their expected roles but this causes conflict in the lives of the people around them.

    * Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Carolyn Burnham (Annette Bening) play spouses who are resistant to their spouses desire to be independent. They both want to conform to their societal roles.

    * Both Frank Wheeler and Carolyn Burnham conduct extra-marital affairs that are career-related and are ultimately empty and meaningless.

    * Both April Wheeler and Lester Burnham react with indifference when they find out about their spouse's affair.

    * Both April Wheeler and Lester Burnham show unrequited love towards a neighbour who admires their independent spirit but is not brave enough to challenge their own suburban way-of-life. In Revolutionary Road Shep Campbell (David Harbour) is unhappy with his marriage and inwardly he seeks a wife like April, in American Beauty Frank Fitts (Chris Cooper) is outwardly a right-wing, conservative Colonel within the United States Marine Corps, inwardly he is not what he seems to be.

    * The neighbours in Revolutionary Road are all the same, with some wishing to be different, in American Beauty the neighbours come from different backgrounds (e.g. the gay couple, the right-wing military family) who inwardly all want to be the same.

    * Both John Givings (Michael Shannon) and Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) represent the objective narrators of each film. Each supporting character plays a role which justifies the position of the main protagonist. In John Givings' case, this is evident in his scenes in the Wheeler household as he questions Frank when he backs down from his plan to leave suburban Connecticut and emigrate to Paris, France. For Ricky Fitts it can be seen from his unlikely friendship with Lester Burnham and his relationship with his daughter, Jane Burnham (Thora Birch). Both supporting characters are influential during both films' second acts.

    * Both April Wheeler and Lester Burnham are "spiritually" dead to the suburban lifestyle that surrounds them. As a consequence of this, they both end up physically dead by the end of both films.

    

    In light of these key observations I believe it is obvious that screenwriter Alan Ball adapted Revolutionary Road into a contemporary setting when he wrote the screenplay for American Beauty, although one can also see the influence of Vladimir Nobokov's Lolita. The theme of emptiness in the suburban way-of-life may have been more easily understood by audiences when American Beauty came out in late 1999, early 2000 than it did when Richard Yates published his novel in 1961. The 1950s represented prosperity and expansion, the side-effects of this cultural phenomenon wasn't evident until the late 1960s when people started to question their values and expectations. In Revolutionary Road the audience has to delve deeper to see this theme, as portrayed in the personal lives of the young couple of the book and film, Frank and April Wheeler.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Revolutionary Road was shot entirely on location. Cinematographer Roger Deakins had the challenge of balancing light and reflection when shooting the film on location, overall he did a good job, as expected from a cinematographer who has been nominated for an Academy Award for cinematography eight times. Deakins also is the main cinematographer for the Coen brothers, and this film is his second collaboration with Sam Mendes after Conrad Hall did Mendes' first two films. Hall picked up an Oscar for both his films he did with Sam Mendes (he also won an award for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid thirty years before) but sadly passed away in 2003.

    The aspect ratio of the film is 2:35:1. It is 16x9 enhanced for widescreen televisions.

    The film is sharp in close-up and middle-distance shots, but there is a Gibb effect evident in long distance shots around the outline of background objects and during the opening and closing credits. The film has an average bitrate of 5.6 mb/sec, but as the film is 114 minutes long, Paramount has compressed the main feature onto DVD onto 4.75gb of space. This is just over the length of one layer on a DVD. As a result, low level noise can be seen in the background during darker scenes.

    Colour is muted throughout the film. This was a creative decision by the filmmakers in support of the main theme of the film of conformity.

    There are no film to video artefacts in the transfer, but due to the aforementioned compression ratio of the main feature, macro-blocking artefacts are a side effect of low level noise evident in the film during darker scenes.

    Subtitles are white and are available in English, Danish, Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, Swedish and English for the hearing impaired. I also enjoyed the subtitles for the director's commentary in English. I'm not sure why DVD producers do not include this feature onto their movies more often!

    RSDL change occurs at 57:31 during a scene change. It is not too noticeable.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Thomas Newman has composed the score for all four of Sam Mendes' films. The Revolutionary Road soundtrack is very similar to American Beauty, with a six-note motif that is sparse and subtle, supporting the film's theme of emptiness.

    There are three audio tracks. The first is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track encoded at 448kbps. The second is also a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, it is an English audio descriptive track encoded at 448kbps. The third track is a Dolby Digital 2.0 surround-encoded track at 192 kbps containing the director's and screenwriter's commentary.

    Dialogue is clear and concise and is mixed for the center channel, as is the usual standard for DVD transfers. There are no audio synchronisation issues.

    The main theme-motifs from composer Thomas Newman are used in the soundtrack for most of the film. These motifs are subtle. The soundtrack only becomes emphatic when the the main cast attend a dance at a restaurant named Vito's restaurant.

    As Revolutionary Road is a dialogue-driven film, there is not much surround channel usage in the soundtrack, except when the band in Vito's restaurant plays some jazz-inspired numbers.

    The subwoofer is utilised to support the bass sounds during the dance scenes in Vito's restaurant.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary with Director Sam Mendes and Screenwriter Justin Haythe

This commentary is both informative and entertaining. From the opening credits until the last five minutes of the film, there are no gaps in the commentary. To compare how much dialogue is spoken by director Sam Mendes and screenwriter Justin Haythe in comparison to the dialogue of the main feature, the subtitles for the commentary takes up 20 mb of space on the DVD, the subtitles for the main feature take up 9 mb. The commentary is dominated by Sam Mendes. Among the themes discussed include the challenges of shooting on location, the process of adapting the book into a screenplay, the acting performances and related subtle improvisations and the editing process, especially during the film's first and third acts.

Featurette-Making Of-Lives of Quiet Desperation: The Making of Revolutionary Road (29:01)

This featurette expands upon the subjects mentioned in the commentary. The main cast all share their view on the main themes of Richard Yates novel, the producers discuss their involvement in the picture and the production designer shares how fortunate it was that the Wheeler and Campbell houses are so close together in the film, in support of the claustrophobic theme of 1950s suburbs. The challenge of shooting in small places in the houses is covered as is also set design and the planning required to transform modern locations into 1950s sets.

Deleted Scenes (19:08)

There are five deleted scenes that can be played individually or together in sequence. There is an option to play these deleted scenes with commentary by Mendes and Haythe. I advocate to do so as this allows the viewer to understand the creative process as to why these scenes were left out of the final cut of the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

Revolutionary Road will be released on DVD in Region 1 (USA) on the 2nd of June, 2009 and Region 2 (United Kingdom) on the 29th of June, 2009. These Paramount releases on DVD are identical to our own, with the exact same extras. The Region 1 (USA) release will also contain a Dolby Digital 5.1 French and Spanish dub track.

Summary

    Like Baz Luhrmann's Australia, Revolutionary Road is a good film which lacks a cultural reference point relevant to contemporary audiences.This is because it is difficult for modern day audiences to conceive of 1950s America as a socially unhappy time, on the contrary the 1950s represented growth and expansion and was prosperous. If you compare these films to Disney Pixar's 2008 production, Wall-E you can quite easily understand what I mean (i.e. the environmental theme of Wall-E is highly relevant for modern day audiences). Nevertheless, the fine acting by Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and Michael Shannon provides the film an objective voice in support of the themes from Richard Yates 1961 novel, namely that materialism should not come at the cost of independence and freedom.

    Revolutionary Road may in time come to be seen as an equal and comparable companion piece for American Beauty. This remains to be seen, it depends upon the career advancement of Sam Mendes in relation to his future projects. In the meantime, if you want to enjoy an emotionally-gripping drama that makes you question your inward motivations and is confronting now as it was in 1961 when Richard Yates' novel was first published, then you shouldn't go too much past Revolutionary Road.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© John Stivaktas (I like my bio)
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S550, using HDMI output
DisplaySamsung LA46A650 46 Inch LCD TV Series 6 FullHD 1080P 100Hz. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderSony STR-K1000P. Calibrated with THX Optimizer.
AmplificationSony HTDDW1000
SpeakersSony 6.2 Surround (Left, Front, Right, Surround Left, Surround Back, Surround Right, 2 subwoofers)

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