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Revolutionary Road is a 2008 Britishmarker-Americanmarker drama film directed by Sam Mendes and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. The screenplay by Justin Haythe is based on the 1961 novel of the same name by Richard Yates. The film opened in limited release on December 26, 2008, and expanded wide on January 23, 2009. This is the first film in which DiCaprio and Winslet have co-starred since the 1997 Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox film, Titanic.


The film opens with Frank and April meeting at a party. Frank tells April about his job, and April says that she wants to be an actress. Years later, having married, Frank and April leave from a theatre after a play had finished. April, who was an actress in the play, apparently did not do well. She is very upset, and when Frank tries to comfort her, April refuses to discuss it and a bitter argument ensues.

In 1955, Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April Wheeler (Kate Winslet) move to Revolutionary Road in one of New York Citymarker's wealthy Connecticutmarker suburbs. April is dissatisfied with her life as a suburban housewife, and Frank despises his marketing job at Knox Business Machines, where his late father worked for 20 years in a similar position. The Wheelers feel they are unique and special, but trapped in the conformity of life in the suburbs, where they moved while April was pregnant with their first of two children. Their bitter arguments continue.

On Frank's thirtieth birthday he seduces a young secretary from his office. When he returns home late, April surprises him with a birthday cake and a proposal that they move to Parismarker, with April working as a secretary to support the family so that Frank can discover what he truly wants to do with his life. Frank is reluctant at first but ultimately embraces the idea, and the renewed optimism breathes fresh life into their relationship. Colleagues and friends react politely to the couple's decision, but privately consider it to be immature and impractical.

Meanwhile, Frank's talent at his job earns him some recognition, and April becomes pregnant again. April wants an abortion and has bought a device she has heard is safe if used in the first 12 weeks; Frank disapproves, however. Later, Frank is offered a promotion and raise at work. Eventually he tells April that for the sake of the unborn baby he has decided not to go to Paris. Later April has sex with their neighbor and friend, Shep Campbell (David Harbour).

The Wheelers are friends with local realtor Helen Givings (Kathy Bates) and her husband Howard, who occasionally visit with their adult son John (Michael Shannon), a former mathematician who is now under psychiatric care in a mental institution. John has no inhibition about asking the Wheelers direct personal questions and offering his blunt assessment of their dissatisfaction with marriage, work, and life; his parents are horrified, but the Wheelers admire him for his candor. However, when John learns the Wheelers have canceled their move to Paris, he becomes agitated and begins to insult them, saying he feels sorry for them and their unborn baby. This leads to an argument, in which April tells Frank she does not love him anymore, and in fact hates him. Frank tells April he wishes she had chosen an abortion.

April runs into the woods and asks to be left alone. She returns and, the next morning, calmly acts the part of a supportive housewife. When Frank leaves for the day she attempts to perform an abortion with her device, even though more than 12 weeks have passed. The procedure goes wrong, however, and she dies later that day in the hospital. Frank moves to the city with the children, now devoted to them, we are told. Shep and his wife entertain the new occupants of the Wheeler home and discuss the fate of the former occupants, but Shep cannot bear it and privately asks his wife to not mention them again. The film ends with Helen Givings and her husband Howard (Richard Easton) discussing the new neighbors. Helen then starts to ramble on of her disapproval of the Wheelers as Howard turns down his hearing aid as to drown out his wife's voice.

Principal cast


After Richard Yates' novel was published in 1961, director John Frankenheimer considered filming it, but opted to make The Manchurian Candidate instead. Samuel Goldwyn Jr., expressed an interest in making it into a film but others in his studio convinced him that it lacked commercial prospects. In 1965, producer Albert Ruddy bought the rights but did not like the book's ending, and wanted to obscure April's death with "tricky camerawork". He became involved in adapting The Godfather and, five years later, while a writer-in-residence at Wichita State Universitymarker, Yates offered to adapt his work for the screen. Ruddy had other projects lined up at the time and demurred, eventually selling the rights to actor Patrick O'Neal. The actor loved the book and spent the rest of his life trying to finish a workable screenplay. Yates read O'Neal's treatment of his novel and found it "godawful", but O'Neal refused the writer's repeated offers to buy back the rights. Yates died in 1992, O'Neal two years later.

The project remained in limbo until 2001 when Todd Field expressed interest in adapting it for the screen. However, when told by the O'Neal estate he would be required to shoot O'Neal's script as written, Field stepped away from the material and opted to make Little Children instead. David Thompson eventually purchased the rights for BBC Films. In March 2007, BBC Films established a partnership with DreamWorksmarker, and the rights to the film's worldwide distribution were assigned to Paramount Pictures, owner of DreamWorks. On February 14, 2008, Paramount announced that Paramount Vantage was "taking over distribution duties on Revolutionary Road". The BBC hired Justin Haythe to write the screenplay because, according to the screenwriter, he was "hugely affordable".

Kate Winslet sent producer Scott Rudin the script and he told her that her husband, director Sam Mendes, would be perfect to direct it. She gave Mendes Yates' novel and told him, "I really want to play this part". He read Haythe's script and then the book in quick succession. Haythe's first draft was very faithful to the novel, using large parts of Yates' own language, but Mendes told him to find ways to externalize what Frank and April do not say to each other.

Once Leonardo DiCaprio agreed to do the film, it went almost immediately into production. DiCaprio said that he saw his character as "unheroic" and "slightly cowardly" and that he was "willing to be just a product of his environment". DiCaprio prepared for the role by watching several documentaries about the 1950s and the origin of suburbs. He said that the film was not meant to be a romance and that he and Winslet intentionally avoided films that show them in romantic roles since Titanic. Both actors were reluctant to make films similar to Titanic because "we just knew it would be a fundamental mistake to try to repeat any of those themes". To prepare for the role, Winslet read The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan.

Mendes had the cast rehearse for three-and-a-half weeks before principal photography and shot everything in sequence and on location. Actor Michael Shannon said that he did not feel that on the set of the film there were any stars, but "a group of people united by a passion for the material and wanting to honor the book". He said that Winslet and DiCaprio could only make such a good performance as a couple, because they had developed a friendship since their work on Titanic. For Shannon, it was more important to prepare for the moment when he walked on the set than being concerned about the movie stars he was working with. On the fight scenes between him and Winslet, DiCaprio said, "So much of what happens between Frank and April in this film is what's left unsaid. I actually found it a real joy to do those fight scenes because finally, these people were letting each other have it." The shoot was so emotionally and physically exhausting for DiCaprio that he postponed his next film for two months.

Mendes wanted to create a claustrophobic dynamic and shot all of the Wheeler house interiors in an actual house in Darien, Connecticutmarker. DiCaprio remembers, "it was many months in this house and there was no escaping the environment. I think it fed into the performances." They could not film in a period accurate house because it would have been too small to shoot inside. Production Designer Kristi Zea is responsible for the "iconic, nostalgic images of quaint Americana", although she says that was "absolutely the antithesis of what we wanted to do". Zea chose for the set of this film furnishings that "that middle-class America would be buying at that time".

During the post-production phase, Mendes cut 18 scenes, or 20 minutes to achieve a less literal version that he saw as more in the spirit of Yates' novel.


Revolutionary Road had a limited release in the United States at three theaters on December 26, 2008, and a wide release at 1,058 theaters on January 23, 2009. Revolutionary Road has earned $22.9 million at the domestic box office and $51.7 million internationally for a worldwide total of $74.6 million.

Critical reception

Revolutionary Road has received generally positive reviews from critics. It holds a 69% rating from critics on review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 190 reviews, with the consensus being "Brilliantly acted and emotionally powerful, Revolutionary Road is a handsome adaptation of Richard Yates' celebrated novel". Metacritic lists it with a 69 out of 100, which indicates "generally favorable reviews", based on 38 reviews.

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said,

Joe Neumaier of the New York Daily News said

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave Revolutionary Road four stars out of four, commending the acting and screenplay and calling the film "so good it is devastating". He said of Winslet and DiCaprio, "[t]hey are so good, they stop being actors and become the people I grew up around."

Todd McCarthy of Variety called the film "faithful, intelligent, admirably acted, superbly shot" and added, "It also offers a near-perfect case study of the ways in which film is incapable of capturing certain crucial literary qualities, in this case the very things that elevate the book from being a merely insightful study of a deteriorating marriage into a remarkable one... Even when the dramatic temperature is cranked up to high, the picture's underpinnings seem only partly present, to the point where one suspects that what it's reaching for dramatically might be all but unattainable — perhaps approachable only by Pinter at his peak." McCarthy later significantly qualified his review, calling Revolutionary Road "problematic" and that it "has some issues that just won't go away". He concludes that Revolutionary Road suffers in comparison to Billy Wilder's The Apartment and Richard Quine's Strangers When We Meet because of its "narrow vision", even arguing that the television series Mad Men handles the issues of conformity, frustration, and hypocrisy "with more panache and precision".

David Ansen of Newsweek said the film "is lushly, impeccably mounted — perhaps too much so. Mendes, a superb stage director, has an innately theatrical style: everything pops off the screen a little bigger and bolder than life, but the effect, rather than intensifying the emotions, calls attention to itself. Instead of losing myself in the story, I often felt on the outside looking in, appreciating the craftsmanship, but one step removed from the agony on display. Revolutionary Road is impressive, but it feels like a classic encased in amber."

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly graded the film B+ and commented,

Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter called the film a "didactic, emotionally overblown critique of the soulless suburbs" and added, "Revolutionary Road is, essentially, a repeat for Mendes of American Beauty... Once more, the suburbs are well-upholstered nightmares and its denizens clueless — other than one estranged male. Clearly, this environment attracts the dramatic sensibilities of this theater-trained director. Everything is boldly indicated to the audience from arch acting styles to the wink-wink, nod-nod of its design. Indeed his actors play the subtext with such fury that the text virtually disappears. Subtlety is not one of Mendes' strong suits."

Rex Reed of The New York Observer called the film "a flawless, moment-to-moment autopsy of a marriage on the rocks and an indictment of the American Dream gone sour" and "a profound, intelligent and deeply heartfelt work that raises the bar of filmmaking to exhilarating."

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called the film "raw and riveting" and commented, "Directed with extraordinary skill by Sam Mendes, who warms the chill in the Yates-faithful script by Justin Haythe, the film is a tough road well worth traveling . . . DiCaprio is in peak form, bringing layers of buried emotion to a defeated man. And the glorious Winslet defines what makes an actress great, blazing commitment to a character and the range to make every nuance felt."

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle voted the film as his best of 2008. He commented, "Finally, this is a movie that can and should be seen more than once. Watch it one time through her eyes. Watch it again through his eyes. It works both ways. It works in every way. This is a great American film."

Top ten lists

The film appeared on several critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008.

Awards and nominations

  • By missing out on an Academy Award nomination, Kate Winslet became only the second actress to win the Golden Globe for Best Lead Actress in a Drama without receiving a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for the same role. Due to the difference in rules between the Golden Globes and Academy Awards, Winslet's performance in The Reader was considered a leading one by The Academy, despite winning the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for the same performance. According to Academy rules, an actor or actress may receive only one nomination in a single category. Due to Winslet's performance in The Reader being nominated, her performance in this film became ineligible.

Award Category Recipient(s) Outcome
Academy Awards Best Art Direction Debra Schutt and Kristi Zea Nominated
Best Costume Design Albert Wolsky Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Michael Shannon Nominated
BAFTA Awards Best Actress Kate Winslet nominated
Best Costume Design Albert Wolsky Nominated
Best Production Design Debra Schutt and Kristi Zea Nominated
Best Screenplay – Adapted Justin Haythe Nominated
Costume Designers Guild Excellence in Period Costume Design Albert Wolsky Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Leonardo DiCaprio Nominated
Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Kate Winslet Won
Best Director – Motion Picture Sam Mendes Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role – Motion Picture Kate Winslet Nominated
Satellite Awards Top 10 Films of 2008 Won
Best Art Direction and Production Design Kristi Zea, Teresa Carriker-Thayer, John Kasarda, and Nicholas Lundy Nominated
Best Film – Drama Nominated
Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Leonardo DiCaprio Nominated
Best Screenplay – Adapted Justin Haythe Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Michael Shannon Won
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Best Actress Kate Winslet Won
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Best Actress Kate Winslet
(for Revolutionary Road and The Reader)

DVD Release

Revolutionary Road was released in the Region 1 (US and Canada) area on June 2, 2009. Entertainment Weekly gave the DVD an "A-" rating and felt that director Sam Mendes gave an "insightful" audio commentary.

The DVD includes deleted scenes which give more depth in clarity to the theme and the characters. They include a flashback of April's to the time when the couple decides to buy the house on Revolutionary Road. The scene shows a pregnant April and Frank being very loving towards each other. They stand for the first time in front of the picture window and April comments that "there's no escaping the picture window." Frank comments that one picture window won't ruin their personalities. This is the same window she stands in front of after the abortion in the final scene and, as the director puts it, becomes a symbol of her entrapment. Another scene shows April mowing the lawn the morning after their fight on the side of the road. Frank comes out and says she doesn't need to mow the lawn and then gives a halfway sincere apology about last night, but April isn't fully willing to accept it. Another scene shows Frank riding the train to work and having a flashback to his childhood and riding on the train with his father to his work. His father comments that he's going to be a big shot now. Another scene shows Frank and April at Shep's house with him and his wife having drinks. Frank comments that tomorrow is going to be his 30th birthday. He then recalls a story of being in the war where he loses all track of the date and while everyone is laying down to sleep he remembers that it's his birthday. Everyone in his battalion sings him Happy Birthday. April looks at him with pity and when Frank asks her why she says that he told that story last year. In the final deleted scene Frank is shown running into the house after he finds out April has died. It is night time and he goes upstairs and discovers the bathtub where the abortion is shown although the actual bathtub is not shown. Shep then comes in the house and calls his name and begins looking for him, but Frank hides behind the door and isn't discovered. Shep leaves and Frank wanders downstairs and discovers a note from April on the table. It reads, "Whatever happens, don't blame yourself. I love you." Frank reads it and begins to cry.


  1. "Trivia." Revolutionary Road at
  2. McCarthy, Todd. "Revolutionary Road." Variety. November 17, 2008.
  3. McCarthy, Todd. "'50s Melodrama Hard to Capture on Film," Variety. January 8, 2009.
  4. Ansen, David. "Revolutionary Road." Newsweek. November 28, 2008.
  5. Honeycutt, Kirk. "Film Review: Revolutionary Road." The Hollywood Reporter. November 17, 2008.
  6. Reed, Rex. "Love Asunder." New York Observer. December 16, 2008.
  7. Travers, Peter. "Revolutionary Road." Rolling Stone. December 25, 2008.
  8. LaSalle, Mick. "Movie Review: 'Revolutionary Road' Year's Best." San Francisco Chronicle. January 2, 2009.

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