Stars: *** 1/2
Rating: R for language and nudity
Run Time: 1 hour, 59 minutes
Kate and Leo may be the Bogie and Bacall of their generation and their second shared effort (following “Titanic”) positively oozes quality chemistry.
Not the kind of chemistry that makes for happy endings. Winslet and DiCaprio are literally at each other’s throats as April and Frank Wheeler, the classic 1950s golden couple who suddenly find the luster lost from their white picket fence union.
Through a series of deft flashbacks director Sam Mendes builds a case for suburban ennui, a stifling boredom compounded by two kids and dead end jobs. No honeymoon period in this examination of domestic gloom; a sometimes quiet sometimes rageful unraveling of dignity, pride and shallow sense of self.
Mendes focuses on the subtleties; the 50s landscape in shades of grey and beige with no spark of color to augment joy. When the couple attempt to get “the special back” by pitching it all and moving to Paris the futility of the plan is positively painful.
Kate and Leo bounce off one another like blazing comets, all heat and light and friction. Smaller roles lend dramatic clout; Kathy Bates as a busybody realtor, Michael Shannon as her schizophrenic mathematician son (Oscar!) and Dylan Baker as Frank’s jealous, washed-up co-worker who knows his time has passed.
Scripting, much from Richard Yates’ 1961 novel of the same name, is spot on, everyone bleeding dissatisfaction and expressing such with a hopeless emptiness that hurts.
The build-up gains slow momentum but once “Road” finds its rhythm it’s positively devastating.