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Frank and April, a married couple in the 1950s, have always seen themselves as special, different, ready and willing to live their lives based on higher ideals. So, as soon as they move into their new house on Revolutionary Road, they proudly declare their independence from the suburban inertia that surrounds them and determine never to be trapped by the social confines of their era. Yet for all their charm, beauty and irreverence, the Wheelers find themselves becoming exactly what they didn't expect: a good man with a routine job whose nerve has gone missing; a less-than-happy homemaker starving for fulfillment and passion; an American family with lost dreams, like any other. Driven to change their fates, April hatches an audacious plan to start all over again, to leave the comforts of Connecticut behind for the great unknown of Paris. But when the plan is put in motion, each spouse is pushed to extremes--one to escape whatever the cost, the other to save all that they have, no matter the compromises.
For more about Revolutionary Road and the Revolutionary Road Blu-ray release, see Revolutionary Road Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 23, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Michael Shannon, Kathryn Hahn, David Harbour
Director: Sam Mendes
» See full cast & crew
Revolutionary Road Blu-ray Review
Powerful, dark, and troubling...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 23, 2009
Anyone who hasn't had a heated argument with the love of their life has yet to meet the love of their life. The naive among you may initially shake your heads in disbelief, but a relationship is only as strong as its breaking point. Tempers sometimes flare, feelings are hurt, and devotion is questioned. Yet somehow, through it all, it's possible to build a bond that will survive almost anything. For those currently experiencing the peaks and valleys of such unflinching commitment, Revolutionary Road -- acclaimed director Sam Mendes' unsettling look behind the curtain of a troubled marriage in '50s suburbia -- will be a disquieting cautionary tale; a bleak and disturbing exploration of waning affection and wandering eyes. However, anyone who's endured divorce, infidelity, or worse will find the award-winning film to be a different beast entirely; an unflinching, all-too-familiar examination of a destructive relationship, a family in crisis, and a crumbling home.
Based on the 1961 Richard Yates' novel of the same name, Revolutionary Road tells the story of Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April Wheeler (Kate Winslet), two self-absorbed suburbanites growing dissatisfied with their pedestrian lives and cookie-cutter marriage. While the disgruntled family man turns his attention to other women at the office, April concocts a rather desperate plan to move the family to Paris where she hopes she and Frank can reignite their passion. But when an unexpected pregnancy and the promise of a promotion interferes with their latest delusions of grandeur, their marriage begins to fall apart. Contempt quickly replaces compassion, pessimism overcomes hope, and uncontrollable anger eliminates any chance of a renewed relationship. Before long, Frank and April are pushed to their limit, trampled by tragedy, and faced with a series of impossible choices that will change the course of their lives forever.
I can't even begin to describe how difficult it is to sit through Revolutionary Road. Similar to Irreversible and Requiem for a Dream before it, Mendes' marital meditation mines the dark depths of human depravity and presents an increasingly selfish series of heart-wrenching encounters and exchanges sure to leave anyone with a soul squirming in their seat. It may not assault the viewer with stomach-churning imagery or the physical disintegration of its characters, but it made me extremely uneasy on more than once occasion. It wasn't just the shocking casualness with which April approaches abortion either: screenwriter Justin Haythe pits Frank and April against each other in such a way that every argument, embrace, and abusive response feels all too real. To that end, DiCaprio and Winslet deliver stunning, Oscar-worthy performances, both of which require the former Titanic lovers to shed their attractive shells and conjure up some of the most vile, nauseating emotions that graced the screen in 2008. It still amazes me that Winslet was nominated for an Academy Award for her work in The Reader: her handling of an illiterate concentration camp guard was commendable to be sure, but she sinks her all into April and delivers the sort of career-defining performance actors are remembered for.
Mendes keeps it all within reason of course, never allowing Frank and April's relationship to seem contrived or exaggerated in any way. In fact, I can't imagine Revolutionary Road coming together as strongly or concisely under the direction of any other filmmaker. Mendes meticulous hand is so present, so utterly involved in everything that occurs on screen that it elevates Yates' classic American novel to new heights. His camera lingers and retreats exactly when it should, every frame of his composition is staggeringly precise, and his use of static shots and measured cuts amplifies each venomous bile Frank and April spew into their marriage. His film isn't exactly accessible per se -- as predictable and tame as it appears to be at first glance, it steadily evolves (or devolves as it were) into a disheartening suburban nightmare -- but Mendes' only hurdle seems to be finding ways to keep his audience invested in the ugly, festering wounds being splayed out for all to see.
Ultimately, Revolutionary Road isn't a film you'll necessarily enjoy sitting through: it's challenging, unforgiving, and relentless. However, Mendes' masterful direction and DiCaprio and Winslet's startling performances make it one of the finer films that were grossly overlooked during the 2008 awards season.
Revolutionary Road Blu-ray, Video Quality
Edge enhancement is the only thing that disrupts Paramount's sublime 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer, a near-perfect high definition presentation that deftly compliments the tone of Mendes' film and the complexities of Frank and April's splintering marriage. Depending on the state of the relationship, Roger Deakins' palette drifts from warm and healthy to bleak and colorless without ever losing its confident stride. Contrast is stark but comfortable throughout, enhancing the already alluring depth of field and granting each frame increased dimensionality. While whites are occasionally overblown, skintones remain natural, black levels are quite striking, and shadows invade the foregrounds with measured grace. Detail is impeccable as well: fine textures have been preserved (despite many a scene's challenging lighting source or low intensity), object definition is stunning, and overall clarity is satisfying and stable. More importantly, the technical transfer is extremely proficient. I didn't detect any artifacting, source anomalies, color banding, noise reduction, or troublesome crushing. Revolutionary Road may be difficult to sit through, but it isn't tough to watch. Paramount has delivered in every regard, producing a rich, mesmerizing presentation that should please filmfans and videophiles alike.
Revolutionary Road Blu-ray, Audio Quality
It may not be as instantly gratifying as Paramount's exquisite video transfer, but Revolutionary Road's Dolby TrueHD 5.1 surround track effectively and efficiently sets the soundstage for the heartache and heartbreak that plagues Frank and April's marriage. Dialogue is crisp, clean, and perfectly prioritized: arguments convincingly shatter the silence of a quiet room, barbed whispers are sharp and intelligible, and casual conversations are handled with ease. Sure, low-end presence and rear speaker aggression are repressed by the very nature of the film, but nuanced LFE support adds a welcome sense of weight to the soundscape, while a carefully-honed soundfield simmers with subtle ambience and immersive acoustics. I wasn't exactly looking over my shoulder every ten minutes, wondering if someone had walked into my home theater, but I did feel as if I was inhabiting each environment and interior space as the film barreled towards its inevitable conclusion. More importantly, directionality (as subdued and intangible as it can be) is consistent and precise, pans (despite the track's front-heavy sonics) allow voices to dance from channel to channel, and dynamics (while sometimes underwhelming) are relatively satisfying. All things considered, Paramount's faithful Dolby TrueHD mix will string you along and draw you in, leaving even the most stringent audiophiles with very little to complain about.
Revolutionary Road Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Revolutionary Road includes the same, engrossing special features as its standard DVD counterpart (albeit in high definition). The package isn't necessarily expansive, but it is extensive, offering a series of engaging supplements that deconstructs and explores every aspect of the film.
Revolutionary Road Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Revolutionary Road is a sobering reminder of how fleeting love can be when faced with the monotony of everyday life and the allure of forbidden fruit. It's a disquieting performance piece to be sure, but its real power lies in its unflinching script, its unsettling confrontations, and Mendes' searing direction. Thankfully, Paramount has given the film everything it deserves and more with an excellent Blu-ray release that features a striking video transfer, a stirring TrueHD audio track, and an impressive supplemental package. I can't say I'll ever have the courage to plow through the film again, but this disc will nevertheless earn a coveted spot in my personal collection.
Revolutionary Road: Other Editions
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• Paramount's Oscar Winners/Nominees Get Blu-ray Dates - March 19, 2009
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