Tag Archives: "Revolutionary Road"

Kate rocks; ‘The Reader,’ not so much…

Actress Kate Winslet arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar party ...

Associated Press photo

Kate Winslet holds her statue for Best Actress for her performance in “The Reader” last month.

I love Kate Winslet — she was great in “Little Children” and “Revolutionary Road” — but today I saw “The Reader,” for which she won Best Actress (because she won Best Actress for it), and she should have won for her much better performance in “Revolutionary Road.”

“The Reader” starts out promisingly with the tale of a love affair between a 15-year-old boy (played masterfully by David Kross) and a much older German woman named Hanna Schmitz (Winslet), but then the film gradually devolves to the point where it becomes a preachy lecture (rather literally) on how horrible the Holocaust (in which Hanna later becomes embroiled) was.

And “The Reader” doesn’t delve much into Hanna’s psyche as to why she did what she did when she worked for the Nazis, and we are left with the feeling that this isn’t because the filmmakers left it to us to figure it out for ourselves, but because the filmmakers didn’t know how to develop Hanna’s character on film. Indeed, about the only change that the character of Hannah goes through in “The Reader” is increasingly bad makeup jobs on Winslet as her character ages.

Ralph Fiennes adds little to “The Reader” as Michael Berg, Hanna’s teen lover all grown up — the grown-up Michael’s involvement with the even older Hannah lacks passion, heart and even rhyme or reason (why doesn’t he respond to her letters from prison when he is sending her recorded audiotapes there, and why doesn’t he visit her in prison?) — but hey, if Ralph Fiennes is in your movie and your movie is about the Holocaust, you’re sure to win an Oscar, right?

“The Reader” director Stephen Daldry, who also directed “Billy Elliot,” seems to do better with younger actors, such as with Kross, whose performance in “The Reader” rivals Winslet’s (if it doesn’t exceed it), and with Jamie Bell, whose kick-ass performance as the title character in “Billy Elliot” unfortunately didn’t launch the career for Bell that it should have. Daldry with “The Reader” seemed unable to elicit much from Fiennes and not enough from Winslet; directing youth might be more his forte. 

All of this aside, did we really need another Holocaust movie?

The Nazis executed about six million Jews in the Holocaust, one of history’s most horrific events.

We get it.

Straight-on Holocaust movies like “Schindler’s List” are been there, done that, so the majority of the crop of more recent Holocaust-themed films seem to be more tangential, such as “The Pianist,” “The Counterfeiters” and “The Reader.”

Still, the genre of the Holocaust/Nazi movie has been exhausted, and the plethora of Holocaust/Nazi films now are serving only to make the historical event more trivial rather than to make it more poignant.

While I know that Holocaust/Nazi movies have “Academy Award nomination” written all over them, I beg Hollywood: Please stop…

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Relationship movie

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in DreamWorks Pictures' Revolutionary Road

Sinking together again: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in a scene from “Revolutionary Road,” the scene in which they first meet and believe that one day they can be the king and the queen of the world. (Instead, they end up mired in 1950s suburbia.)

They talk about date movies, but “Revolutionary Road” is what I’ll call a great relationship movie.

My boyfriend and I, who have been together for more than a year now, are both in our first “real” same-sex relationship, and we are learning all of the lessons that you learn in a relationship, whether you are straight or gay, male or female. These are the lessons that make or break your relationship, depending upon whether you successfully negotiate them or not.

There have been a few times in the course of the past 15 months that I thought that our relationship was facing its imminent demise; this past week I really thought that it was the end, but we pulled through. So we saw “Revolutionary Road” last night in what was great timing; we saw the film when we really needed to see it.

“Revolutionary Road” can be taken as a cautionary tale about letting a relationship go on automatic pilot, about failing in a relationship to communicate constantly — you easily can under-communicate, but arguably you never can over-communicate — and about allowing resentments to build until there is the inevitable volcanic explosion.

“Revolutionary Road” also examines the pressures of what happens in a relationship when one of the partners wants to go in one direction and the other wants to go in another. And the film tackles the problem of whether wishing to get away from it all is a brave, bold move or whether it’s a cowardly move to run away from it all, and whether being happy with what you have is the wisdom of being happy with you have or is resignation, defeat.

With its witty, insightful dialogue and great drama — and plenty of (usually darkly) hilarious moments — no review could do “Revolutionary Road” justice, so I won’t try too hard to do so.

“Revolutionary Road” arguably is too dark — one could argue, I suppose, that even stifled life in the conservative 1950s wasn’t that bad (I don’t know because I wasn’t there) — but it seems to me that if “Road” weren’t as dark as it is, the lessons that it has to teach wouldn’t sink in as deeply, and “Road” is directed by Sam Mendes, who brought us the dark “American Beauty.” Would we expect less of a film by Mendes?

Speaking of “American Beauty,” “Revolutionary Road” feels like a mixture of some movies that we’ve seen before, including “American Beauty,” of course, but also “Far from Heaven,” with its very un-“Leave-It-to-Beaver”-like portrayal of the 1950s, and even “Brokeback Mountain,” because both “Revolutionary Road” and “Brokeback Mountain” co-star David Harbour, who in “Brokeback” played Randall, the working stiff with the annoying, rather clueless wife who presumably has a homosexual extramarital affair with Jake Gyllenhaal’s character of Jack, and who in “Road” plays Shep, a working stiff with the rather annoying, clueless wife who has a heterosexual extramarital affair with his neighbor April Wheeler, the character played by Kate Winslet.

Speaking of Winslet, it’s great to see Winslet and Leonard DiCaprio back together again, this time as married couple April and Frank Wheeler in the dystopian 1950s, and I noted while watching it that “Revolutionary Road” has at least one sly reference to “Titanic” (which was a great date movie…). I would tell you what it is, but I won’t; if you see the film and figure it out, feel free to leave the answer in the comments portion of this post.

For the great performances of Winslet and DiCaprio, it’s co-star Michael Shannon, as psychiatric patient on furlough John Givings, who steals the show, however; I expect him to at least be nominated for Best Supporting Actor (if he hasn’t already been; are the Oscar nominations out yet? I should know that…).

It’s true that the point that it’s the “crazy” man who actually is the sanest character in the film is fairly beaten into the ground, but the dialogue among the John Givings character, the Frank and April Wheeler characters and the characters of John Givings’ parents (Kathy Bates plays his mother) alone makes “Road” worth watching. It’s masterful dialogue that is rare these days. 

My grade: A-

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