By Clint Morris
â€˜â€™Titanicâ€™â€™ shipmates Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet and Kathy Bates take another trip together on a vessel bound to make just as much waves â€“ but will it be a direct hit like the former?
Though as far from James Cameronâ€™s diluted epic as you could get, director Sam Mendes (â€˜â€™American Beautyâ€™â€™) â€˜â€™Revolutionary Roadâ€™â€™ is, like the reigning Oscar champ of 1998, a rousing period drama that retells of a couple whose relationship is headed towards tragedy. But in this case, Leo and Kate arenâ€™t about to collide with a bitter, vast iceberg but a more feasible relationship killer â€“ the realization that dreams will remain just that, and love can liquefy over time.
Based on the book by Richard Yates, this is a tale of love lost, dreams dashed and unproductive defrayal â€“ and though it may be set in the 50s (think TVs â€œMad Menâ€), its tale will ring just as true with anyone whose experienced or known someone in a troublingly bad marriage.
April and Frank Wheeler (Winslet and Di Caprio) are a young, thriving couple living with their two children in a Connecticut suburb in the mid-1950s. Heâ€™s got a well-paid but boring office job; sheâ€™s the housewife mourning her hoped-for acting career. Determined not to turn into the type of boring suburbanites that surround them, the Wheelers decide to move to France where theyâ€™ll be free to discover their artistic sensibilities and live the life they canâ€™t live in America.
One thing leads to another and the trip doesnâ€™t come off. Instead, April and Frank remain in the suburbs â€“ inadvertently destroying their marriage, and themselves, in doing so.
Unlike â€˜â€™Titanicâ€™â€™, where the multi-million dollar effects (not to mention mock ship) were primarily the star, this is a performance piece for the actors first and foremost. And perform they do. DiCaprio is his usual dependable best as the once-determined now despondent Frank, whilst Winslet shines as the wide-eyed young bride whose world collapses around her â€“ leaving her with nothing but feelings of detestation, dejection and desperation.
The supporting performances, particularly by Michael Shannon as the outspoken fresh-from-the-mental-hospital-son of annoying real-estate agent Kathy Bates, are equally as admirable.
Shannon (â€œBefore the Devil Knows Youâ€™re Deadâ€), in particular, gives a career-changing turn here â€“ offering up a performance thatâ€™s both amusing and tragic. He may be the only one who speaks truths in the whole movie, and yet heâ€™s instantly deemed crazy for his blunt and boisterous ways. Shannon really gives the role his all. Heâ€™s actually the only light relief in the movie â€“ youâ€™ll welcome his introduction.
Mendesâ€™ film isnâ€™t for everyone â€“ itâ€™s indisputably disheartening and rather tragic, features characters that arenâ€™t easy to root for, and isnâ€™t exactly the kind of light and fluffy holiday fare that most like to see this time of year. Itâ€™s also rather noticeably lethargic at times â€“ and considering â€˜â€™Titanicâ€™â€™ ran for 3-hours plus and not once did anyone nitpick about that, thatâ€™s saying something. In addition, those that do head to it will no doubt be expecting something a little similar to Leo and Kateâ€™s previous fare â€“ at least in tone â€“ which they wonâ€™t get. This is a film for those with strong stomachs and even stronger relationships; itâ€™s a very unsentimental ride that promises no happy endings and no Celine Dion songs at the ass-end to see you smiling all the way home.
Well worth a look – just be sure you’re not expecting “Titanic 2 : The Ship Keeps Sinking”.