Revolutionary Road is perfectly put together, brilliantly acted and gorgeous. Gran Torino is unapologetically ugly, at times unbelievable, and tinged by occasional amateurish acting—but far more enjoyable.

The problem with Revolutionary Road, set in 1950s suburbia, is the scenario and the dialogue, which might have seemed more poignant and fresh in the 1950s. In 2009, the story — about a beautiful couple choking on mediocrity — drags, seeming tiredly familiar. The ending is disturbing, but not the least bit surprising. That said, the gripping acting and direction compensate for a ho-hum story that was probably far better in its book form. Some stories simply lend themselves to the written word more than moving pictures, though director Sam Mendes is gifted when it comes to setting a tone and making the very most of his cast. And this is a WOW cast — it’s nice to see Kate and Leo together again — they breathe life into this story the same way they salvaged the ridiculous dialogue in Titanic ten years ago. Michael Shannon, as the insane son of the couple’s real estate agent (Kathy Bates), injects a whole lot of color— even if his observations seem a little too spot on to seem authentic. All in all the movie is worth seeing, and the story sort of sticks with you and makes you question your own window of opportunity …

Though it deals with some serious subject matter, I had a smile on my face through the better part of Gran Torino, which features Clint Eastwood at his retro best playing a grumpy, gritty growling widowed Korean War vet who is bitterly prejudice toward his Hmong (Asian-American) neighbors — that is, until he finds a soft spot for the family youngsters, a likeable teenage brother and sister. When gangs begin terrorizing the neighborhood, honing in on said siblings, Dirty Harry emerges, packing heat and a nothing-to-lose attitude.

The way the whole thing plays out is highly improbable, a storyline peppered with sloppy acting and stereotypes (though also with some poignant symbolism and dialog). But if you can overlook the melodrama, etc. (and you easily can — just call it a gutsy artistic decision by Eastwood the Director) this thing is an absolute masterpiece. I laughed. I cried. Let’s just say, it made my day.   

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.