I have one word for Sam Mendes' film Revolutionary Road: stunning. It's that good. It's that - I'm not sure what to say - stark, honest, nuanced, blistering.
Mendes takes us back to the 'burbs. It has been two films (Jarhead, Road to Perdition) since Mendes' directorial Oscar for American Beauty. American Beauty was, in a way, a movie about bullshit. The characters weren't bad, but enmeshed in bullshit which disconnected them from actual desires. Harry Frankfurt has argued that bullshit is more detrimental than lying, for at least the liar has some connection to the truth. Whereas American Beauty began with an established family firmly enmeshed in a bullshit existence, Revolutionary Road starts with a young couple who is trying to avoid transforming into the family in American Beauty. American Beauty has a comedic element insofar as Lester Burnham can laugh at and play with the absurdity surrounding him at the bottom of the well. Revolutionary Road has a greater sense of both gravity, as we watch a couple as they attempt not to fall down the well, and reality insofar as bullshit is not yet their governing paradigm.
The film takes place in the 1950s, depicting a young couple who meet, marry and create a suburban life with all the trappings and a healthy sense of desperation. Frank and April Wheeler are the product of gifted performances by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. One can't help but think about Titanic. One can't help but think that love - whether a love like that portrayed in Titanic or otherwise - cannot bear the desire for salvation that people place on its shoulders. Fixing the Wheeler's problems also means upsetting a negotiated set of expectations, cultural and private. The couple demonstrates what happens when people are utterly unsatisfied with their lives and want the person they love to save them but realize that they cannot. The result: hate and love swirl together as one feels one's life hanging in the balance. If you've been there, these emotional performances will astound you with their nuance. It's not an easy movie to watch - it speaks too bluntly and with too much honesty and wades too deeply into the relational and structural contours of our human existence - but it is, in a word, stunning.