Sunday, 10 July 2011

Sunday Openings: Revolutionary Road

I’ve already covered Revolutionary Road in Scene On A Sunday when I looked at the final argument between April and Frank. But, this is Sunday Openings, so I guess I’m allowed to revisit. There’s a pervading sense of claustrophobia through the entire film, our main couple are trapped in suburbia; so it makes sense that the opening is cosmopolitan and liberated.
 The first shots are of the city and seem at odds with any random scene from the heart of the film. Think of Mrs. Givings and then think of these shots which seems to come from some film ready to tell us about sophisticated city people. It’s not a mistake, of course, because that’s what Frank and April wish they could be – worthy of that sort of sophistication that seem to have lost; but let’s stay on the opening.

And we move into the house party.

The location established we move inside, and the first person we spot is April. That, right there, is my favourite shot of the scene above. I’ve already spoken about how much I love Kate’s smoking in this film and she looks so glamorous. For such an eclectic actress, I wish that Kate would do a film where she really allows herself to let go and be as glamorous as she could. What makes those potentially maudlin dreams of April work is that we can imagine a life where Kate could be the glamorous actress April had hoped she’d become. This makes her failed dreams so much more devastating.
And Leo there, above, with his boyishness.

He glances her way almost by mistake. I like to think that Sam Mendes was going crazy shooting these shots of Kate here, his wife at the time. It's as if he's making love to her with his camera. She looks exquisite.
That's another gorgeous shot of her, there. She's so confident when she looks across the room to meet his gaze, below.
And he seems mesmerised...but, then, who wouldn't be? And with that smirk of hers we switch to their conversation.
Frank (OS: “So, what do you do?”

April: “I’m studying to be an actress. You?”

Frank: “I’m a longshoreman.”

April: “No, I mean really.”
Frank: “I mean really, too. Although, starting next Monday. I’ll be doing something a little more glamorous.”

April: “What’s that?”
Frank: “Night cashier at a cafeteria”

April: “I don’t mean how you make money. I mean, what are you interested in.”

Frank: “Honey, if I had the answer to that one I bet I’d bore us both to death in half an hour.

 Mendes and Justin Hayte (the writer) seem to milking the Titanic romance here. I'd imagine that dissenters would be unmoved by the overly romantic opening, even as it segues into that romantic dance sequence.
And the final shot of vignette switches to a tense Frank in the present.
I love to go in for over-analysis and for me, I find that Revolutionary Road is saturated with layers upon layers. It’s not clear whether what we just saw is a memory or real. The thing about memories is that they always seem better in retrospect and taking into context what we come to know about April – and Frank, especially – they’re the type of people who dream big. The glossiness of that flashback that opens the seem is the sort of clichéd meet-cutes that real people only dream which makes us wonder if it was as lovely in reality. Surely, if April was really as glamorous as she seems at the opening she’d have been a successful actress? But, we don’t know any of this yet. We’ve got an opening that hooks us, and then we get the eyes of a hardened Frank lost in thought.

A shot of a play that seems to have underwhelmed its audience...
And we get a shot of April, acting, but from all evidence unsuccessfully. 
As far as hooking the audience goes Mendes and co. accomplish it in under 3 minutes because immediately we’re wondering – what went wrong? And, for me, the rest of Revolutionary Road makes good on that promise giving us a play by play of what did.

What do you think of the film's opening?


Jose said...

Ugh, they are so pretentious twats, it makes sense how doomed they become by the end and I love how Mendes tells us "this is what's coming up", take it or leave NOW!

Dan O. said...

Such a powerful film that Mendes really does know how to keep going the whole time! Great analysis!

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

jose you're so mean to them. but, yeah, they ARE pretentious. i love how at times how mendes shoots them making it seem as if kate and leo are playing dress-up. this is a much darker film than people give it credit for.

dan MENDES is a power-house. he does underrated work, here.