Unvarnished. If there is one word that can truly describe the contents of the Revolutionary Road Blu-ray, it is unvarnished. While most DVD special feature packages attempt to give the DVD a nice polish and share the overflowing enthusiasm of the cast and crew, this Blu-ray has a decidedly different take on just how to go about doing that. And what an appropriate tack to take, especially with the raw nature of the film's content.
As a film, Revolutionary Road stands as one of the best directed, best filmed, best acted films in recent years ... that many people, myself included, just plain hated. While the filmmaking is exceptional, the bleak, soul-crushing wasteland that is the story leaves you feeling hollow and unfulfilled. And though that may be the point, that doesn't necessarily make it the kind of film people want to immerse themselves in. This is very much a film about being trapped in a life of quiet desperation -- but means only to show how it will hollow out and destroy you, not how to pull yourself out of it. It was, as a novel, a postwar tale of people lost in the growing suburbia during an era of conformity. It is a trembling void of angst lacking any hope whatsoever. And it has a killer you've-gotta-be-effing-kidding-me ending that will no doubt send you away thoroughly depressed and wanting nothing to do with married life.
But it is a hard film to hate, because Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio are just so damned good in it. Sam Mendes' direction is top-notch. The cinematography is breathtaking and the production design is extraordinary. This film puts you smack dab in the '50s and leaves you there to choke in the airless vacuum that is the film's tone. Fortunately, there is a 25-minute making-of that -- once it skips the usual he's brilliant/she's brilliant pleasantries -- actually gets down to the nitty-gritty of the challenge of making this film. Scads of interesting details, like how they wrestled with lighting and location scouting, pepper this very interesting featurette. Ever wonder why people in the movies have much bigger houses than everyone else? Well, they go into detail here about why. You can't fit all that moviemaking equipment into a small house. Here they admit that the family has a much bigger house than they could actually afford and hit all the how's and why's.
Once you're done with that special feature, it is time to move on to the interesting 26-minute documentary feature about the novelist Richard Yates, the man behind the film's source material. This is where they really take off the gloves. The documentary is your typical talking heads piece with three of his daughters, each older than the one before (and each more bitter than their predecessor). Here friends and relatives take turns talking about his passion, his genius, his drinking, his machismo, and finally his mental illness. And it all feels very apt. As one friend says, it is how he would have liked to have been spoken of, warts and all. This doesn't in any way paint a flattering picture of the man. But it does pique your interest quite a bit. After all, the man was critically acclaimed and never had a first edition sell more than 12,000 copies in his lifetime.
Finally, there are about 25 minutes of deleted scenes, all completed and looking as fantastic as the rest of the film. There are a number of great scenes in here that further explain many of the goings-on -- but nothing that hints at a potentially more interesting cut of the film (like the near hour of deleted scenes did with the other Winslet Oscar film, The Reader.) Fans of the film will enjoy these, almost an extra half hour submerged in Mendes' fully realized 1950s, but those who found the film too heavy need not check in for another dose of ennui.
Revolutionary Road is available now from Paramount.