- Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role
- Achievement in Art Direction
- Achievement in Costume Design
A review by SpacedCowboy
The Academy got the nominations partially right for this film, inasmuch as the nominations the film did not get: adapted screenplay, director, picture. Especially adapted screenplay (although I’ll admit that the adaptation itself wasn’t particularly bad, it’s just that the source material was so damn annoying).
Here is the plot synopsis from imdb.com:
It’s 1955. Frank and April Wheeler, in the seventh year of their marriage, have fallen into a life that appears to most as being perfect. They live in the Connecticut suburbs with two young children. Frank commutes to New York City where he works in an office job while April stays at home as a housewife. But they’re not happy. April has forgone her dream of becoming an actress, and Frank hates his job – one where he places little effort – although he has never figured out what his passion in life is. One day, April suggests that they move to Paris – a city where Frank visited during the war and loved, but where April has never been – as a means to rejuvenate their life. April’s plan: she would be the breadwinner, getting a lucrative secretarial job for one of the major international organizations, while Frank would have free time to find himself and whatever his passion. Initially skeptical, Frank ultimately agrees to April’s plan. When circumstances change around the Wheelers, April decides she will do whatever she has to to get herself out of her unhappy existence.
First, what worked: the acting. I was surprised that the Academy overlooked Kate Winslett in this performance, and nominated her performance in “The Reader” instead. As always, she gave a thoughtful, multilayered, honest, complete performance in “Revolutionary Road” whereas in contrast I found her to be rather monotonic in “The Reader”. Kate knows how to act, and this was, I think, a difficult role to play. I mean, how do you play someone who has no direction, and is lost, and yet make that performance interesting? She did, and did it well.
Similarly our boy Leo was fun to watch. I will admit a problem in that he has that … something that makes it difficult to believe him – he sort of looks like Leo acting instead of Frank Wheeler. But I think that’s more due to the intangible aura that is around him, as opposed to his acting abilities. I see the same thing when I watch a Clark Gable movie, and I don’t think it’s his fault either. There is almost a cliche that surrounds his persona, and it makes it hard to see past the actor. Jack Nicholson has this too (although for many years he in particular has been playing a parody of himself and he isn’t trying to be anyone other than Jack). In any case, I think Leo gave it his all in this film, and did a good job. I’ve felt this in just about every film I’ve seen him in – Leo can act, and always gives it his all, even when the source material is weak. And it was fun to see him reunited with Winslett!
My main problem with the film is that the story itself was not very compelling. I’ll admit I have very little patience for stories about people who have all the assets in the world, but are “suffering” due to their own inability to take control of their life. Full disclosure: this is a particular pet peeve of my own since I see some of myself in that scenario, or at least how I used to be. I used to think that there was no way for me to make a difference in the world, and that I was trapped in the famous life of “quiet desperation”. But you know what? Something changed. I grew the hell up. It wasn’t difficult, and in fact, I think it happens to most people. And I just don’t find stories about people who can’t take control of their lives when nothing but their own inertia stops them. Puh-lease. I have little sympathy, and you’ll have to admit, you have a problem when your protagonists have nothing going for them that makes you want them to succeed.
For the nods the film did get: I am a bit surprised about both art direction and costumes. Watching the films, I had a noticed an impression that everything seemed … modern. Sure there were the period time elements in the sets and clothes, but, somehow, it just didn’t seem believable to me. Maybe that’s the fault of the cinematographer, and maybe the costumes and art direction were fine. But bottom line: somehow those elements just didn’t work for me.
For the supporting acting nod to Michael Shannon – I can see that, I guess. I’m not sure it was his performance in particular that was riveting, rather than the contrast his character provided in the story, but it was well done in any case. I don’t think it deserves the award, but I am not opposed to the nomination.
Finally, I think I saw at least two homages to the last Kate & Leo project (“Titanic” in case you’ve been living in a cave for the last 20 years): the flyer for the ocean liner they were to take to France showed a vessel that looked a lot like the Titanic; and in Kate’s love making scene in the car, I was reminded of her famous handprint she left in the steam on the car window. Dig it.