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  • Feature: Revolutionary Road

    Mon, 22 Dec 2008 14:12:40

    Feature: Revolutionary Road - Kate and Leo reunite on-screen for the first time since their <i>Titanic</i> blockbuster

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    Reunited and it feels so…bad! Both Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio shot to fame as doomed lovers Jack and Rose in Titanic. The duo's chemistry had movie buffs and industry insiders alike speculating when the pair would reunite on-screen. Fast forward 11 years. Winslet and DiCaprio are a little older and a lot more experienced, having become seasoned, Academy Award-nominated veterans. They chose Revolutionary Road, in which they play crumbling couple Frank and April Wheeler, as their reunion vehicle simply because it was so far removed from their initial coupling.

    "Kate and I remained close friends," says DiCaprio, sporting a light goatee. "We've both been looking for the right project and this was it, due to the fact that Sam Mendes was attached to this project and that this was a great piece of material and a departure from what we did before. We knew we needed to try something unique."

    Says DiCaprio, 'We don't approach filmmaking as we did in our early twenties. We're like adults.'

    In the decade since Kate and Leo last played a super-couple, they've both changed. Neither hides their obvious affection for the other as they sit side-by-side in a brightly lit hotel conference room on a chilly day in New York City. "Kate has always had this pursuit of excellence," DiCaprio continues, commenting on his co-star's growth. "She cares about the movie being great. What has changed is that we don't approach the filmmaking experience as we did in our early twenties. We don't look at the directors and producers as parental figures. For lack of a better term, we’re like adults."

    Winslet is equally positive about her co-star. Beaming in an all-black ensemble, with her blonde hair pulled into a loose ponytail and shaggy bangs swept to the side, she smiles as she reflects on how Leo has changed, saying, "He's nicer than he was, if that's possible. He's a funnier than he was, if that's possible. He's a better actor than he was, if that's possible. I loved playing some of the difficult scenes, knowing the trust we have. There were no boundaries. It was a real gift to do off-camera dialogue for him and to have to stop myself from crying, seeing someone for whom I have so much respect doing things as an actor that I have never seen him do before."

    While Kate and Leo clearly have nothing but love for one another, their characters, the troubled Wheelers, aren't quite so lucky. In the film, the pair are like alpha animals battling in the jungle: they clash and bicker constantly because both realize that life in the suburbs isn't what they had originally imagined.

    Winslet exhibits great affection for her character, which she found, at times, was difficult. “They have forgotten to communicate with one another for quite some time," the actress theorizes. "April says, 'We can't go pretending that this is the life we wanted,' and they realize that maybe they aren't the people they were when they first met, and, ultimately, April is determined to find happiness. She is prepared to risk everything in order to go to Paris. To me, that's a heroic act, not a cowardly one. The notion that she might be forced to live a life without possibility is a kiss of death for her."

    DiCaprio is keenly aware of his character's antithetical status, saying, "My character, on the other hand, is very unheroic. I loved playing a character that slightly fell short of his ambitions. He didn't have the courage to follow through with the life he wanted. He was happier to conform to his existence. This was an era of prescription medication and people becoming alcoholics after moving to the suburbs and trying to have a symbolic, American, iconic existence, which drove a lot of people nuts. April is able to risk everything to pursue the dream she once had. My character is his father’s son and conforms to his environment, and the film is about two people being forced apart, but [who] are desperately trying to salvage their marriage. They are trains on different courses."

    These trains on opposing tracks are masterfully conducted by Winslet's husband, director Mendes, who comes from a theater background. DiCaprio states that Mendes "attacked it like a theater production," and that "when the kettle explodes at the end of the movie, everything felt ultra-realistic because there was so much that our characters wanted desperately to say to each other. [Kate and I] can be brutally honest and brutally savage with each other on screen."

    Kathy Bates, as nosy neighbor Mrs. Givings, also comes from a stage background, which made her all the more happy to work with Mendes. "I have said it before, at the expense of ever working again, that Sam is my favorite director," Bates gushes. All the actors involved felt that Mendes was the glue holding them and the production together, given its weighty subject matter.

    The film tackles gender roles in the 1950s, with Winslet and Bates' characters occupying opposite ends of the feminist spectrum. "[April]'s not a coward nor do I think she was suicidal and I certainly don’t think she was bipolar," Winslet reflects. "But I do believe this was a woman taken to an emotional brink in her pursuit of happiness and it literally set her mad. She is a complex and complicated woman who has no emotional outlet."

    Mendes sees the film in simpler terms. "After you strip away layer after layer, all that's left is a man and a woman in an empty room," he says. "We tried to make a universal, classic film about people who wake up one day and realize that, 'This is not the life I wanted to have, expected, or deserve so how do I change? How do I get back to the dreams I once had?'

    "You find determination in the film to not do what you have just seen, so in a sense, it’s a cautionary tale. It’s sad and serious, yes, but at the end of the day, it makes you feel more alive. It makes you feel something, and how you feel about yourself and your life when you leave is different than when you went in."

    — Amy Sciarretto

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    Tags: Sam Mendes, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Titanic

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