on November 10, 2009
Over the past period I have seemingly endlessly retailed the experiences of my young adulthood during the 1960s, the time of the "generation of `68". That makes me, obviously, a child of the 1950s, the time period of this very interesting movie, "Revolutionary Road" based on a book by the darkly sardonic writer, Richard Yates. I have also seemingly endlessly pointed out my experiences and the effects they had as a result of growing up among the marginally working poor in that `golden age'. I am fond of saying that I didn't know there was any other condition than being poor for a long time. Well, I did find out there was and although in my youth I would still have had a hard time relating to the story line of this film. The `trials and tribulations', then, of an upwardly mobile, prosperous young couple, the Wheelers, Frank and April, with the mandatory two charming children and a nice leafy suburban house in some nice town in Connecticut would have gone over my head. Now though I can a little more readily appreciate the seamy psychologically paralyzing side of that existence.
As graphically portrayed in the film that seamy side (that also provided some of the most powerful scenes in the movie, and best acting moments by both Winslett and DiCaprio), the central driving force of the story), is the emptiness of middle class existence in the 1950s. Cookie-cutter is the word that came to mind as Frank and April try to break the golden bonds that keep them tied to their old life. One of the nice moments cinematically is the sequence involving Frank's routine workday morning ritual catching the train to New York City (along with all the other felt-hatted men, the symbol of success in that period). Another sober moment is when April takes out the rubbish in their deathless suburban tract and realizes that this life is not for her.
But how to break those golden chains? The issues presented here about consumerism, meaningless and vacuous work, the isolated role of women in the nuclear family, the eternal struggle for security in an individualistically-driven society are all issues that got a fuller workout and wider airing in the 1960s (and since). In a sense the `whimsical' Wheelers were too early. They were before their time. However, although times have changed, I will bet serious money that if you go to some Connecticut train station headed to New York City on any Monday morning you will see, two generations removed and without the hats, men and women making that same meaningless trip that old Frank made. Yates was definitely onto something about the nature of modern capitalist social organization. But I will confess something, although I know better now the stresses of that fate, I would not have minded, minded at all, growing up in that little `cottage' the Wheelers called home. That, however, is a story for another day.
on February 24, 2009
Adapted from Richard Yates first novel, Revolutionary Road exposes the adversities of a young couple living in a Connecticut suburban neighborhood during the 1950's who simply realize too late that they were never meant to be.
Frank Wheeler (Dicaprio) and April Wheeler (Winslet) feel as though they must standout from all the other mundane and ordinary suburbanites in their neighborhood. Frank, a marketer who works for Knoxx business (equivalent to IBM in those days) machines, is profoundly miserable at his job as he diligently works in a cubicle and engages in secretarial affairs with the novice typist. April, a struggling actress, who apparently never received her big break in show biz does not like to talk about her failures.
During the beginning of the film, we are introduced to a quick flashback of how they met at a party while they were younger; Frank exhibits his witty, charming charisma as he gives April the impression of eventually leading a spontaneous life in Paris in the future. However, the viewer only begins to find out that this was merely a sales pitch or a common characteristic of a marketer. On the contrary, April falls for it no less. Fast forwarding to the present, April now lives in an ordinary life on Revolutionary Road with Frank and her two children and receives frequent visits from her inquisitive real estate agent (Kathy Bates) accompanied with her "mentally unstable" son. April feels as though she is leading a very unsatisfying and unfulfilled life. To add some excitement in their relationship, April broaches Frank's former idea of actually pursuing a career and settling in Paris as a secretary because it simply pays handsomely; meanwhile, it will beneficially fit Frank because he can finally figure out what he wants to do with his life. Frank refuses at first because according to him it is just "unrealistic" but eventually obliges because he too feels as though they need something new and spontaneous to reinvent their relationship. Despite the neighbors and Frank's fellow co-workers disbelief in this "childish" and radical decision, things seem to go very smoothly in the Wheeler family; the house they just bought is now on sale, their belongings are packed, the children are excited, life could not be any better.
It all seems too swell for this tragic couple, when suddenly Frank is offered a promotion at his redundant job with a higher paying position, heavier responsibilities, and more importantly a chance to be apart of something great, the computer. Frank refuses this handsome offer from his boss at first because it interferes with their big trip to Paris. On the other hand, Frank cannot resist the temptation and is drawn to stay at this job because of the attachment he has regarding his father. We learn that Frank's father has also worked at Knoxx Business Machines for 30 years. It suggests as though Frank has a yearning desire to fulfill this empty legacy. On a different note, it strongly expresses Frank's inability to change and triumph over his trepidation. This couple struggles to achieve any sort of compromise as their lays a serious conflict of interest regarding their futures. April wants a lifestyle change in Paris; meanwhile, Frank is satisfied working in a miserable occupation with a higher salary. This relationship portrays that conflict of interest incessantly; it also shows how it affects their lifestyle and how they grapple with the consequences. It is not pleasant I rest assure you. (You'll see what I mean)
The bigger picture here is the heavy social commentary implemented in this film at almost every other scene. It reflects and exposes the culture of the 1950's, the struggles of an unhappy relationship, and the fine line between insanity and simply pure genius. It also sheds light upon questions such as what is insanity and what is mean to be medically and mentally unstable? The reality is that the real estate agent's son who is "mentally unstable" by society is the only one that possesses a real intellectual and realistic perception on the wheeler's relationship.(Go figure) The Wheeler's relationship and decisions are constantly being influenced by other people and we see this through Frank's work environment, the neighbors, and the real estate agent. April is victimized as a prisoner of culture and her difficulty of coping with the dynamics of the role of a wife during the 1950's. Some might question her role in the film and ask, well, why doesn't she just get a divorce, or leave Frank? It just wasn't that simple during that time period as it was considered taboo or dishonorable to leave or separate from your husband. April wishes she could leave the house but is drawn back to it like a magnet because she has two children, a husband, and could not possibly earn a lucrative living in those days considering the job opportunities available at that time period. In that regard, April is prisoner of the house, living in an inescapable environment. She is a prisoner living in a prison within a prison. Frank is a mere coward that cannot confront the social obstacles of change. Like April, Frank too, is a prisoner as well. Hence, my conclusion, a couple that was never meant to be.
Personally, I enjoyed this film not because of the setting, or from the great performances, but the realism that is portrayed here in this relationship. It is quite unique in the sense that the film does not sugar coat anything. Not to be too clichéd or anything but it echoes the expression "it is what it is". In that regard it may turn some people off. I happen to cherish and embraced this message. If you like this film, check out "A Doll's House" with Anthony Hopkins. Both are excellent but sad films. They express a similar struggle of a couple resisting to conform to society.
Just before things take a turn for the worse, Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio) is dictating a letter. A line about inventory control underscores the heart of where he and his wife April (Kate Winslet) find themselves: "Knowing what you've got, knowing what you need, knowing what you can do without..." Those answers seemed clear until Frank second-guessed himself, tempted by offers of prestige and money. If there is one lesson I have learned in life and that I will continuously remind my children of, it is that second guessing yourself, going against what your instincts tell you, is always the wrong thing to do. Revolutionary Road is a movie about a couple who face this crossroad in life and differ as to the right direction they should take. April listens to her instincts despite the dark uncertainty of her choice. Frank follows the well-lit and safe path.
Revolutionary Road is a movie that splits people on either side, with those who feel it is a study in whiny, selfish, and immature suburbanites wishing for a better life than they currently have. Then there are those like me who felt a deep connection to them, in particular April; the one of the pair that seems the most trapped in the suburban dream and the one whose escape is the most critical
Of the two, April is largely attacked in reviews and I can't figure that out. She is the one accused of screwing things up and being the most difficult and unrealistic. Yet, she is the one who comes up with the idea to move to Paris as a gift to her husband. She is the one who realizes that "living life as if it matters" is beyond any price tag. If any one is at fault in my interpretation, it is Frank, who takes the path of least resistance and condemns his wife to a world of "emptiness and hopelessness."
What this movie does is give voice to the minority of people who, like Winslet's character, find themselves trapped inside someone else's dream. Some of us break through, but most stay there, slowly wilting and collapsing under the strain of denying oneself of their own needs, suppressing one's soul, and doing what you feel you are supposed to do. Understand clearly that I am not making an indictment of the suburbs et al. For most people in the world, most people I know, and most people living that life, there is not the oppressive feeling of wasting life and the angst therein. What I am saying is that there are those of us who do not feel the same way about that life choice and this movie speaks to us. It's knee-jerk to not only take offense at the dim view Revolutionary Road portrays of The American Dream, but furthermore to see the Wheelers as little more than a spoiled couple; the assumption being they have everything and still they want more. On the contrary, my opinion is that being spoiled means wanting more and yet not wanting to give up what you have. The character of April Wheeler does not want what she has and knows what she needs - not more, but something entirely different. For those who have been in her tormented shoes, Revolutionary Road is a place some of us call Hell.
on May 10, 2010
Revolutionary Road is definitely a tough movie to watch (which strikes me as very Kate Winslet these days. Make a HAPPY movie, Kate!!), but it smacks of reality in a thought-provoking and almost gut-wrenching way.
Winslet plays April Wheeler, a stifled suburban housewife, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio's Frank Wheeler. In the 1950s, the couple marries and moves out of the city due to an unexpected pregnancy. Their dreams of living abroad, treading the boards, etc., are pushed aside to make way for the realities of life with two kids.
One day, April comes up with a novel idea - chuck it all and move to Paris. After some persuading, Frank agrees, and the two begin planning their adventure. As they do so, April and Frank are happier and more in love than they've been in a long time. However, another unplanned pregnancy dashes their dreams of living abroad, and their lives together crumble as a result.
This movie is a study of two things: social mores of the 1950s and the disintegration of a marriage. Both illustrations are fascinating. Performances are more than solid (Both Winslet and DiCaprio are masterful in some of the final scenes.), and the careful recreation of 1950s suburbia is remarkable to observe.
Worth seeing, but not if you are looking for feel-good entertainment.
on February 11, 2014
I watched this because of the lead actors. Technically the movie was well made. Good script, cinematography, acting, etc. But I had no sympathy for the characters. April bombs in one play and she gives up on her dream. Way to go champ. That's what winners do;quit the first time things get tough. Frank has no guts or faith. So what if they went to Paris? They would have been fine. It might have brought out something great in them. In any case, they weren't going to starve. We're talking France not Uzbekistan. I suppose the author of the book that the movie was based on was trying to say something about the burbs and the salaryman lifestyle. I don't see it that way. This movie is about two jerks who created their own hell because of their cowardice and weakness. No one has to live in the suburbs. They're not gulags. No one has to work in an office. You have the freedom to walk out the door at any time. They also had birth control back then. They didn't have to have kids. They screwed up their lives because of the choices they made not because their environment.
on February 3, 2009
"I can't leave and I can't stay. I'm no good to anyone." -April Wheeler
April and Frank Wheeler (Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio) live in Conneticut with their two children. April is discontent and convinces Frank that he might be too. April suggests they sell up and move to Paris. Frank agrees until he gets a promotion at work and April gets pregnant. Frank decides he's hit his stride in life. He changes the narrative behind his story. He gets interested in selling computers. He tells April "People in Paris can't be the only ones living interesting lives. We can be happy here." Most of all Frank wants his wife to be happy, but April refuses to join him in his contentment and continues to dwell on the idea that life is passing her by.
I thought I would really like this movie. I'm a lot like April. On my worst days there is very little that keeps me from running to the airport. Thankfully I married a sweet guy that accepts my occasionally itchy feet-which is what I kept wondering about April. If she wanted to go to Paris so bad, why not just go for a while by herself and then use the experience to bring a new perspective to her existence? Couples don't need to be together every single moment and even the most free spirted of people need a home. Instead April chooses to destroy herself and her husband when there are so many other viable alternatives. It was hard for me to empathize with a character that couldn't laugh, took every moment of her life and herself way too seriously, and couldn't appreciate the love and dedication Frank directed towards her happiness. Though I saw a bit of myself in April, I despised her lack of courage.
The most interesting thing about this movie is that April is playing the "male" role. Men always think that women want to "trap" them into the nest. Revolutionary Road aptly demonstrates the other side-it's Frank that wants to "talk about it" and April just wants him to shut up. Frank wants to stay at home and April wants to travel.
Important to the narrative of Revolutionary Road is Paris and it's ability to provide Americans with a worthwhile existence. Don't get me wrong. I love Paris. But I had a Parisian boyfriend once and he and his friends always laughed about the American fascination with France-a year in Provence, the black berets! Yes, France is good. But where ever you go, there you are. If you're unhappy at home, you'll probably be unhappy in France too. You get the feeling that this is true for April, which is why she chooses her sad ending. April wouldn't have been happy in Paris, she wouldn't have been happy anywhere. At the end of the movie Frank says to his friend "She did it to herself." Frank is talking about something else in the scene (I don't want to give it away) but it's an apt metaphor for April's life.
I'm giving this movie five stars because of the good performances, originality of ideas, and the fact that no matter how much you end up liking or hating this film, it's going to get you thinking. And if it all leaves you too sad-if you see too much of yourself or your relationship in this film, remember that there are other ways to solve ennui without destroying yourself, your family, or your spouse and those resolutions don't have to involve electroshock therapy, the mental health system, extra marital affairs, booze, cigarettes and Paris. It's hardly all "empty hopelessness" as the characters in this film would have you believe. There's plenty to be happy and laugh about no matter where you are.
If the themes in Revolutionary Road interest you, I'd suggest the Aussie film Alexandra's Project, the humorous The War of the Roses, or the gentler The Good Wife. Revolutionary Road will definitely give you a good perspective on the wives in all three of these films.
on June 21, 2009
You spend your life learning to live with your own limitations and how they apply to practical life. Then you fall in love, you're mutually smitten by each other's ideals of yourselves... and suddenly, in the real world, you have to live with somebody else's unfamiliar, incomprehensible limitations as if they were your own.
At first glance, "Revolutionary Road" appears to be about the dark malaise beneath superficial success in 1950s suburbia; but I think it really chronicles something that happens in all times and places. We love the best in someone, but we live one whole person with another, and sometimes the compromise is more than we can bear.
A related element in the film is the realization that, as George Carlin once quipped, "Most people aren't particularly good at anything." Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and April (Kate Winslet) both reluctantly see that this is true of themselves; but April struggles to hold on to the belief that it need not be true of Frank, and loses respect for Frank when he no longer believes it himself.
I can't call this a great movie, but it's certainly a good one. It effectively examines a fundamental problem of human life: that the inspiration for love comes from an ideal, but the art of love lies in making peace with the realities of two people who are inevitably less than they hope to be. Frank and April could not make that leap, and perhaps never even understood that it was there.
on January 25, 2016
Loved the characters, especially the mentally ill son of the real estate agent. Great symbolism at the end of the movie. Terribly depressing for most of the movie, but then haven't we all wanted to run away?
on May 30, 2016
Kate Winslet can do anything. Check out her range just watching The Reader followed by The Holiday. The megastar in this one is DiCaprio. This is not simply a story about a couple that just can't get along. This is about a deeply troubled woman with dramatic mood swings and her mostly tractable husband. He, certainly not an innocent in their relationship and having his own serious bouts with impulse control, desperately tries to stay in step with her frenetic dance. He is virtually simon-saysing. Kate Winslet's outstanding performance is no surprise. Bravo to DC for his astute handling of this trickiest of assignments. He comes alive in this film, armed with all the requisite acting skills and emotional range at his fingertips. This is worth the viewing, albeit exhausting.
on January 12, 2015
Directed by Sam Mendes and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, REVOLUTIONARY ROAD would like to be a scathing indictment of 1950s America and suburbia but unfortunately fails to say anything fresh, and its satirical edge is remarkably dull. Still, there were some fine performances and individual moments that stand out, not to mention the excellent filmmaking on display. The story is about the Wheelers, a couple who live in the Revolutionary Hill Estates, a Connecticut suburban community. On the outside their life looks idyllic, but underneath it all there is a deep dissatisfaction and resentment that begins to manifest itself. The banality of suburban life is not a new topic in literature or film, and this film does a good job getting the surface details right in order to make its point rather clear. However, I didn't feel like it did anything I haven't seen before in other films, like THE ICE STORM and Sam Mendes' own AMERICAN BEAUTY. In fact, this felt a lot like AMERICAN BEAUTY, with the exception that it was set in the 1950s. Even the score was reminiscent of the one for that previous film. However, that one had a more arty feel that this film didn't have. Still, despite the (ironically) banal subject matter, this film was well put together on every front, both technical and performance-wise. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet do a good job playing their roles, although there isn't too much depth to their characters at all. There were a few smaller roles that had familiar faces behind them, but they also felt under-developed. By far the best performance in the entire film was a small role played by Michael Shannon, the temporarily institutionalized son of the couple who sold the house on Revolutionary Road to the Wheelers. His couple of scenes have that acerbic wit and bite to them that I wish had been more prevalent in the overall story, which felt downright sterile at times. From a technical standpoint, the film is flawless and the photography was beautiful, belying the ugliness of the atmosphere projected by its characters. Overall, I didn't hate this film but I didn't think it entirely justified its existence either. It does a good job of portraying suburban malaise, but at the end of it you have to ask "So what?" Still it made for a pleasant, if unspectacular, viewing experience and was capped off with the perfect ending.