An acclaimed novel from the 1960s about suburban American life in the 1950s is now a film, reuniting Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet for the first time since their ill-fated romance in Titanic. Here's a look at Revolutionary Road.
Frank and April meet and marry in the heady years right after World War II. They have great dreams and ambitions, but before long Frank has a job in the city, commuting every day from their home on "Revolutionary Road" in the lifeless suburbs where, for April, each dull day is a carbon copy of the one before.
"I feel that April is a heroine, but I do believe that this was a woman who was taken to an emotional brink in her pursuit of happiness and I think it literally sent her mad, I really do," says Kate Winslet, who plays April. Winslet says April's desire to break away from conformity and her unwillingness to give up their dreams ultimately drives a wedge between her and Frank.
"They have forgotten to communicate with each other for some time and it's only when April says 'We can't go on pretending that this is the life we wanted' that they are both then truly forced to question exactly that," Winslet explains. "For April it is very clear that this isn't the life she expected for herself and Frank is then forced to question it too. It's at that point they realize that maybe they aren't the people they were when they first met and they are wanting different things from life. April ultimately is so determined to find happiness, to feel something again other than what she has, that she is prepared to risk everything in order to get that, which, to me is a very heroic act."
Leonardo DiCaprio does not believe Frank is a bad person, but, instead is caught in a trap between his aspirations and the realities of his life.
"I just loved playing a character that just slightly fell short of his ambitions," DiCaprio says. "I thought it was just a compelling thing to do. He just did not have the courage, at the end of the day, to follow through with the life he wanted. He would be happier conforming to his existence.
"He is a product of his environment and doesn't have the courage to manifest any sort of tangible change in his life," the actor adds. "My character is my father's son. I want to conform to my environment."
The director is Sam Mendes, whose films include American Beauty, also a harsh commentary on suburban life. Mendes believes this film too, like the 1962 Richard Yates novel on which it is based, speaks across the decades to contemporary audiences.
"For me, the book and the movie start with this giant canvas, which is New York and suburban Connecticut in the '50's: Grand Central Station and the crowded streets and the hats and the period is writ large; but then gradually as the movie goes on that falls away …layer after layer of it, the world, the other characters, the community …until all that's left is two people, a man and woman, in an empty room," Mendes explains. "That is what the film is about, ultimately. It is not about the 1950's and I don't think the plight of women in the '50's is so different than the plight of many, many women that we now know. I think that to make a period film you have to believe that it is not just about the period. You have to believe it is a universal story."
The screenplay for Revolutionary Road is by Justin Haythe. The cast features Oscar-winner Kathy Bates and Michael Shannon, who earned a supporting actor Oscar nomination for his portrayal of a mental patient whose caustic comments reveal more truths about the tragedy than the other characters are willing to admit.
The musical score for Revolutionary Road is by Thomas Newman.