Director Sam Mendes returned to American Beauty (1999) territory with this compelling adaptation of Richard Yates’s landmark novel that addressed a crisis in marriage at a time when it was not quite socially acceptable to talk about what might go on behind the façade of idyllic 1950s suburbia. Mendes brought his wife Kate Winslet along for the ride and she reunited with her Titanic (1997) co-star Leonardo DiCaprio as a young married couple who raise a family while also trying to handle resentment, shattered dreams and fresh hopes at the same time. Depressing and claustrophobic, but very well-acted and emotionally stirring.
2008-U.S.-Britain. 119 min. Color. Widescreen. Produced by Bobby Cohen, John Hart, Sam Mendes, Scott Rudin. Directed by Sam Mendes. Screenplay: Justin Haythe. Novel: Richard Yates. Music: Thomas Newman. Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio (Frank Wheeler), Kate Winslet (April Wheeler), Kathy Bates (Mrs. Givings), Michael Shannon, Kathryn Hahn, David Harbour… Dylan Baker.
Trivia: Todd Field was allegedly considered for directing duties; Matt Damon as Frank.
Golden Globe: Best Actress (Winslet).
Last word: “The idea of Leo came to me when I was reading the book. It was pretty obvious in a way. It was a combination of the two actors and the part. Leo’s is an amazing performance. I thought he’d ask: ‘Do I have to be such a jerk?’ But if anything he pushed Frank further towards harshness, weakness and cruelty, and I think that was exciting for him. He’s played a lot of heroic characters, or troubled people with a gun in his hand, but I don’t think he’s ever played a father, or someone who felt his life has passed him by. He and Kate have a chemistry that’s so great. They’re like brother and sister. I didn’t have to create a relationship. There was one already there.” (Mendes, Cinema.com)