A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this 1950s-set adult drama deals with themes that are probably too intense for younger teens. It explores a marriage on the brink of destruction, which can be painful to watch, and tackles subjects like infidelity, gender roles, abortion, and mental illness. The main characters fight constantly in long, drawn-out scenes and seem unaware of the effect their conflict is having on their children. There's also some nudity (bared breasts) and sex, as well as language, drinking, and era-accurate smoking.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
It takes a backbone to lead the life you want, declares April Wheeler (Kate Winslet), a twentysomething 1950s mother of two who's rediscovering her own spine in this forceful drama based on a novel by Richard Yates. Stuck in the 'burbs, her ennui increasing with each passing day and her marriage headed for the rocks, she begs her husband, Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio), to chuck it all and head to Paris. Meanwhile, Frank whiles away the days trying to do as little work as possible at the Manhattan office where his father once clocked hours. His discontent is growing, and he wonders why his life has become strained. April's plea steers him down the road not taken, but he's not as sure as his wife that he wants to take that route. Will what's meant to save them lead to their undoing?
Is it any good?
There's no doubting Winslet's acting prowess. Her April is wasted, exhausted, emotionally spent, and fighting to be alive. It's a sight to behold. As man-child Frank -- who can't quite reach his lost wife because he's lost himself -- DiCaprio starts out as if playacting but soon delivers a performance so raw that you forget who he is; by the movie's end, it feels as if we're intruding, but we can't look away -- he's that compelling. The rest of the cast is also strong.
But like April and Frank, who once seemed destined for a bright future, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD doesn't fulfill its promise. Though beautifully shot and well-acted, the film is hobbled by somewhat prosaic storytelling. Expository scenes come one after another, relieved by equally expository flashbacks. (AMC's Mad Men does this era so much better.) Yates' novel, on the other hand, is near perfect and heartbreakingly observant. Which isn't to say that our hearts aren't broken by the movie version; they are. But we recover quickly -- and with material as powerful as this, we really shouldn't be able to walk away intact.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the main characters' relationship/interactions make teens feel. What kind of parents were they? How do you think children are affected by a relationship like April and Frank's? Also, how does the era in which the story is set shape it? What were the 1950s and 1960s like for men and women? Were gender roles limited? Why did April and Frank -- and scores like them -- try to adapt? How did they try to retain their individuality? Were they successful?
- In theaters: December 26, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: June 2, 2009
- Cast: Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Leonardo DiCaprio
- Director: Sam Mendes
- Studio: Paramount Vantage
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language and some sexual content/nudity
- Last updated: December 2, 2020
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