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Domestic disturbance done right
Elvis D'Silva | March 06, 2009 10:03 IST
Twelve years ago, the unlikely screen pairing of Leonardo Di Caprio [Images] and Kate Winslet [Images] captured the imagination of moviegoers (and romantics) the world over as the star-crossed lovers in Titanic [Images]. In Bollywood, that successful pairing would have been recast in hackneyed romance after hackneyed romance until their onscreen chemistry ceased to bring in any more box office moolah.
Not so in Hollywood. It took a dozen years and a decidedly unglamorous project to reunite the pair, and this time they play a married couple with problems.
She is April, he is Frank and together they are the Wheelers, a couple in 1950s America with two children, a beautiful house and a life that looks perfect from the outside. As in most cases where a certain picture is presented to the outside world, the real story is quite different.
She harbours an unrealised ambition of becoming an actress. He deals with his own frustrations with being a member of the rat race by partaking of the pleasures of the flesh with members of the secretarial pool. In their private spaces, they fight, and as is normally the case with domestic arguments, nobody wins.
Until a thought occurs to her one day and she cooks up a plan -- a plan of escape. One that involves getting the family out of suburbia and into a new life -- a new life whose very thought brings with it the promise of untold possibilities. But of course, as we all know (or suspect), there lies a great, often unbridgeable gap between possibility and reality. This is a movie that explores the chasm between the two, and does it extremely well.
This film is really the sum of its performances and apart from a snappy little turn as the voicer of thus-far-unspoken truths by Michael Shannon's character John, this movie is all Kate and Leo. From start to finish. Whether she is being the actress defeated by the parts available to her or the wife who wants a bit of quiet so she can think about where her life went wrong or as the lover who is given new hope by her dream of escape, Ms Winslet embodies her character of a suburban housewife with enough electricity to turn her into a living, breathing human being.
You will either empathise with April Wheeler or you will want to put your arms around her and tell her she is not wrong to hope. As her counterpoint and in a departure from his heartthrob (or beleaguered soldier of fortune) parts, Di Caprio brings just the right amount of creepy, misogynistic and charming to his interpretation of Frank Wheeler to make you believe you know a guy exactly like that.
As the movie progresses, every time that beautiful but forbidding piece of music plays, you will dread what lies ahead for these two. Deftly directed by Sam Mendes, this is the movie American Beauty never was (even though it is probably going to do way less business than the director's debut movie).
Not much is wrong about Road except that it forces us to take a less than rose-tinted look at ourselves, at a time when we may be least inclined to do so. Or maybe this is the perfect time, when all around us, there is evidence of the ruin caused by forces beyond our control while we played it safe because dreaming was too risky (or too immature).
This movie is a must-see for anyone who has ever been in a relationship; hopes to be in one some day; or is in one and has forgotten the original reasons for entering into that arrangement. In the follies recorded by our art we have the opportunity to avoid potential pitfalls in our own future. This movie is based on a book by the author Richard Yates. I haven't read it yet but this movie has motivated me enough to seek it out.
What more can an adaptation do for its source material?
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