One of the very best films to come out in the last couple of years hits DVD today and you haven’t seen it. Why Revolutionary Road, Sam Mendes’ tragically beautiful adaptation of Richard Yates’ novel, failed to connect with moviegoers is a question that has many answers: In an era of hope, it was too depressing; the core audience of 25-to-54-year-olds didn’t want to see their internal fears visualized with such damning reality; and, despite the presence of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, it just wasn’t Titanic. Whatever the reason, though, the fact remains that with just under $23 million in box office receipts and only three nominations from the Academy, Revolutionary Road will go on the ledger as a failure. But, fear not! Your disregard of this lovely film can be rectified starting today. Here are three reasons why you should add Revolutionary Road to your Netflix queue, post-haste.
Kate Winslet is actually the lead!
Unlike her overrated and Oscar-winning performance in The Reader, where she is barely onscreen for half the film, Ms. Winslet is the full-fledged lead in Revolutionary Road. In fact, part of us imagines she actually won her coveted Academy Award for Revolutionary Road anyway, if only because the work is so strong. As April Wheeler, Ms. Winslet is towering; this performance is the female equivalent of Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood. At turns manic, infuriating, sympathetic and downright crazy, Ms. Winslet has never been better. And like any truly great performance, she lifts her co-stars—notably Leonardo DiCaprio—to places that outweigh their talent.
Michael Shannon is the future of creepy!
It was fitting that Christopher Walken was the actor to honor Michael Shannon during the Supporting Actor nominee roll call at the Oscars; in the next 10 years, Mr. Shannon will end up getting all the roles that Mr. Walken used to get when he was younger. His performance in Revolutionary Road is vintage Walken—we’re talking Deer Hunter-level subtly and wild-eyed menace. Frankly, it’s hard to even see this as a performance—we simply believe some part of Michael Shannon was the deranged truth teller that he portrays. As crazy as that sounds, we don’t think a higher compliment could be given.
The movie treads where Richard Yates fears!
We’re not going to sit here and tell you that the movie was better than the book, but … we kinda dug the ending to Mr. Mendes’ film a bit more than what was on the page. Spoilers if you haven’t read the book in the last, oh, 40 years: Thanks to April’s suicide note (“Dear Frank, Whatever happens, please don’t blame yourself”), we always felt Mr. Yates let Frank off the hook a tad too easily. Mr. Mendes, on the other hand, has none of this: April never leaves a note, so Frank is never absolved of responsibility for her death. The bleakness of the ending surprised us then and it still sits with us now. We never thought Mr. Mendes had a movie like this in him, but he’s clearly turned a corner as an artist; suffice it to say, we can’t wait to see what he does with the admittedly more happy-looking Away We Go.