Suburbia isn’t exactly the most literary setting for all things profound—and then that’s always the point. Richard Yates’ 1961 book, Revolutionary Road, sought to demonstrate that the idyllic outward appearance of these so-called safe havens in reality only masks the natural pain that comes with living by rote formula. To his literary merit, Yates was far more soothsayer than anachronism in his one great book, as the message of spiritual dormancy is arguably a million times more applicable in today’s world of homogenization and sedated existence. Thus, perfect timing. Sam Mendes’ movie features Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio as an idealistic couple (Frank and April Wheeler) only beginning to understand the prisons they’ve created for themselves in the 1950s. In keeping with Yates’ astute prose, Mendes finds plenty of meaning in the details—there’s no mistaking what’s being inferred in every sigh, every long pause. The centerpiece is hypocrisy, but also the dangers of complying by convenience. Mendes once again does a fine job directing—his American Beauty is comparable—as nobody humors through the anguish of conformity with such a watchful, caring eye as him. Revolutionary Road is the rare successful adaptation that stays true to the book, yet manages to use the medium of film to heighten its emotional impact at the same time.
EXTRAS: Commentary with Mendes and screenwriter Justin Haythe; deleted scenes; “Lives in Quiet Desperation,” the making of Revolutionary Road.