By: Alex Phuong (A Toast) –
Jack and Rose are back! (sort of…)
After the release of James Cameron’s epic romantic drama Titanic (1997), Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet became A-list celebrities practically overnight. Kate Winslet received her second Academy Award nomination for playing Rose, and Leonardo DiCaprio became a teen heartthrob as well as a respected star. Their on-screen chemistry and real-life friendship were so strong that it is really no surprise that they would collaborate again on another major motion picture. Jack and Rose really did reunite, but this time in a period drama based on an acclaimed novel. Revolutionary Road remains one of the best films of 2008, especially since the acting between Leo and Kate was so strong, just like when Jack and Rose fell in love way back on the Titanic back in 1912 (or in 1997, depending if you want to use the film’s release date or not).
Part of the brilliance of Revolutionary Road is the superb acting and the historically accurate art direction. Michael Shannon received an Oscar nomination for his supporting role as “John Givings” and was a real contender even though everybody agreed that Heath Ledger delivered one of the best performances ever captured on film as the Joker in The Dark Knight that same year. The production design is actually very interesting because one of the main themes of this film and the original novel is how they both explore the differences between illusion versus reality. The overall look of the film makes it appear as if Frank and April Wheeler have an idealized lifestyle in the so-called “happy days” of 1950s America, but Frank and April both have to deal with turmoil as the plot progresses. Such a clever execution in terms of the overall style of the film suggests that things are not always what they seem. The production team really knew how to be critical of the “American Dream,” especially since the original novel suggests that such a “dream” really is just too beautiful to be real (much like other major works of American literature).
Besides the symbolic design, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio both gave career-defining performances as they brought to life Richard Yates’s characters to on-screen. The awards season in early 2009 was a special time for Kate Winslet because she received critical acclaim for both this film and The Reader. Kate Winslet herself looked and felt stunned after winning two Golden Globe awards on the same night. Even though Kate Winslet finally won her first Oscar for The Reader, she still gave a dazzling performance as April Wheeler in this film, especially since she was directed by her then-husband Sam Mendes, the acclaimed Oscar-winning director of the famous “Best Picture” winner American Beauty (1999). Coincidentally, American Beauty also explores the theme about how the supposedly idealized perception of American suburbia really is anything but “perfect,” so it is safe to say that some classics in American literature and film both appear to shatter the “American Dream” as nothing more than a mere myth.
Kurt Vonnegut, the author of Slaughterhouse-Five, compared Richard Yates’s celebrated novel to The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Revolutionary Road is much more than simply a dramatic film, though, because it is able to strip bare false pretenses to reveal shocking truths about reality itself. A funny coincidence is that Leonardo DiCaprio actually played Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann’s lavish adaptation of The Great Gatsby in 2013. DiCaprio might have only received a Golden Globe nomination for playing Frank Wheeler in Revolutionary Road, but it is nice to know that Jack and Rose are finally Oscar winners after the world fell in love with the splendor and grandeur of Titanic (1997).
Revolutionary Road (2008) Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time April Wheeler yearns to live in Paris
Take a Drink: every time the word “crazy” is spoken
Drink a Shot: during every intense scene between Frank and April Wheeler (which might or might not include questions asked angrily and/or rhetorically)