It's hard to ignore the Oscar polish involved in Revolutionary Road; an Oscar-winning director, Sam Mendes, reunites the stars of the Oscar-gobbling Titanic. To that end, Mendes does his best to make the film look serious and prestigious. And if you give it a cursory glance it's possible to come away with the impression that it is indeed a great and important film. But in truth, it's both relentlessly grim and nearly pointless.
It's "nearly" pointless because the subject matter -- that the suburbs have mutated and destroyed the American spirit -- has already been covered, many, many times in far better films, ranging from scary (Blue Velvet) to romantic (Far from Heaven) to funny (Edward Scissorhands). In a way, those outside genre elements helped keep the material from becoming overbearing. For Revolutionary Road, Mendes and screenwriter Justin Haythe have adapted a novel by Richard Yates, which was groundbreaking for its time; Yates wrote it in 1961 when polite society just didn't discuss such things as infidelity, ennui, drugs and booze and insanity. But Mendes creates a period picture and thus fails to justify why the material is still relevant in 2008, especially when this stuff has by now become its own movie subgenre. (Click on "Suburban Dysfunction" at allmovie.com.) The main factor for Mendes is that it's an "important novel." Never mind why -- or when.