Arguably the best movie of 2008, “Revolutionary Road” arrives on DVD this week.
Passed over by the Oscars and semi-ignored by many of the major critics’ groups, Sam Mendes’ searing look at a couple going under in late ‘50s suburbia has even more of an impact on the small screen. The intimacy of home viewing adds considerably to the growing claustrophobia that envelops both the movie and the main characters, expertly played by Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet (yes, Winslet did win an Oscar, but it was for the infinitely inferior “The Reader.”’)
Based on Richard Yates’ 1961 cult novel about being buried alive in the ‘burbs, the movie reunites those crazy “Titanic” kids, casting them this time as a slightly-Bohemian couple (they meet in Greenwich Village) now condemned to a life of gray flannel suits and neighbors like Kathy Bates who drop in for a morning cup of coffee and DON”T LEAVE.
A flicker of hope appears in their shared dream of moving to Paris, but it leads to …. well, icebergs come in all shapes and sizes.
Di Caprio and Winslet chart the movie’s intricate course of rage, frustration and sorrow with pinprick acuity. The showy scenes go to Michael Shannon as Bates’ adult son, fresh from a stint in what was then casually referred to as the “looney bin.” The Academy recognized him with a best supporting nomination (he lost to Heath Ledger’s ghost), but told everyone else to basically piss off, as the British say.
Ignore the Academy. Get the film. Extras include commentary by Mendes, a “making of” featurette and a few deleted scenes.
And if you’re in the mood for a double dose of marital strife, rent “Shoot the Moon,” starring Diane Keaton and Albert Finney, or the ultimate until-death-do-us-part picture, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
I don’t know about you but until I saw “Defiance,” I never knew a thing about the Bielski brothers who saved hundreds of Jewish lives during World War II.
Perhaps that’s why I found it easier to overlook some basic structural problems in the movie that has … finally … been made about them.
When the Nazis invaded Belorussia, the brothers, who were farmers, not city folk, took to the woods they knew so well. There, they hid out from the Germans from 1941 until he end of the war. During those years, they were joined by other Jews seeking to escape the concentration camps.
Daniel Craig — yes, 007 himself — plays the oldest brother and the leader while Liev Schreiber is his more explosive younger brother and Jamie Bell (“Billy Elliot,” all grown up) is the very youngest, who proves to be every bit as capable as his older siblings. Creating a mini-village in the midst of the forest, the brothers soon discover there are other enemies than the Germans. The weather, for one; each other, for another. Edward Zwick (“Blood Diamond,” “Glory”) skillfully explores the tensions that come from within as well as from without as these essentially urban people, more trained in studying the Old Testament than hammering nails, struggle to adapt — and survive. One helpful ploy the men come up with: the notion of forest wives, as in mistresses for the moment.
The film feels long and a bit unbalanced, as if Zwick had so much good stuff to tell, he couldn’t decide what to take out.
Still, it’s an amazing and little-known story of unparalleled heroism — well-acted and smartly directed. Extras include the usual “making of¯” short, plus interviews with the children of some of the survivors. And yeah, you’ve seen plenty of Holocaust stories, but you haven’t seen one like this. Promise.