The first hook of a scene is a verbal slugfest. April Wheeler (Kate Winslet), the aspiring actress and wife, has just bombed in a play. Husband Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) tenders a talk of heart-to-heart, but the effort ratchets her irritability.

“Just me leave me alone!” she yells. Pissed off too, Frank proceeds to open the can of worms: “It strikes me that there’s a considerable amount of bullshit going on here. And there’s just a few things I’d like to clear up.”

There are many “clearing up” vituperations in “Revolutionary Road.” Frank and April go at it with raw, punishing conviction. Are we supposed to side with someone? Maybe we secretly have to. But I propose that you observe first before deciding.

To me, the film somehow achieves a rare feat – it does not make me judge as to who’s right but made me understand both sides. I get April, who wants to get out of the crippling suburban life (circa 1950s). It is suffocating her and the family. She’s reasonable in wanting change (perhaps a move to Paris is the solution).

Frank is somehow right too. Things are looking up at work – even though he secretly hates it. Why simply throw that all away? A little more patience might give way to a better future. Will he really fare better in France? But then, sometimes you have to put trust and faith on your spouse, and vice versa. It seems that the husband and wife are endlessly making deals with each other.

The performances are superb. Kate Winslet excels in these dramatic “desperate housewife” roles. (She was also excellent in “Little Children” as a suburban mom). April is a complicated character and Winslet is unafraid to go the edge with the character. Also in great form is DiCaprio, who is a stunning surprise here. After seeing him play a string of tough guy roles, it refreshing to see him more vulnerable. He has met his match with Winslet and the way he crumbles in a couple of scenes is pretty spectacular.

While the movie is uniformly good, I couldn’t get into the subplots where one involved an antisocial (Michael Shannon). They seem like detours to the blistering DiCaprio-Winslet chemistry. Director Sam Mendes would have made a stronger impact had he driven the movie head-on towards the dead-end marriage.

Grade: B+

Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Michael Shannon, Kathryn Hahn, David Harbour, Zoe Kazan and Kathy Bates
Based on the novel by
Richard Yates
Screenplay by
Justin Haythe
Directed by
Sam Mendes
Rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity