Revolutionary Road: a rant wrapped in a review for your reading pleasure
Is it the Suburbs or the self fulfilling pity party that ultimately destroy this couple?
I finally got to watch Revolutionary Road and I liked it quite a bit. I know quite a few people felt it was too bleak or depressing, but since I just saw My Sister’s Keeper a few weeks ago, my tolerance for the disturbingly dreary stuff is currently at an artificially induced high, so this didn’t bother me so much. Directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Jarhead), this movie posits that happiness and “the suburbs” are mutually exclusive to one another.
Revolutionary Road is one of the latest films or television shows to focus on the fifties, which apparently were quite a tough time to be a woman. Careers were a no-no for the fifties gal, and many women felt oppressed and unhappy with the only choice given to them, that to raise a family. This theme was previously explored in The Hours (2002) where Julianne Moore played a suicidal housewife.
Television’s Mad Men has been the most recent example of this time era being examined. I do feel that Mad Men has been more convincing at depicting the fifties housewives plight, but to be fair, it has had two full seasons to introduce the characters, not two hours. Since I have watched January Jones slowly transform her character Betty Draper from a society darling pacified by her husband’s money to a depressed unhappy housewife, I buy it.
I’m not so quick to agree with Kate Winslet’s character, because insufficient time is spent on her background. Her pathos rang a bit hollow to me, and I really found her a bit whiny. We are to believe that Alice has basically given up on any chance at happiness because *gasp* SHE LIVES IN THE SUBURBS… in a nice house, with nice kids and a husband who toils at a job he can’t stand so he can provide for her whiny ass.
The movie begins with a flash back to Frank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Alice meeting at a party. They fancy themselves bohemians who can’t relate to all the simpletons around them. Flash forward, they have two children, and Alice is becoming restless. She decides she wants to move to Europe as a family. Frank needs little coaxing and is eager to flee the “hopeless emptiness” that is the suburbs for the comforts of Europe, where apparently everyone is much more captivating than the plebeians that currently inhabit their quaint street. Of course life interferes in the form of an unexpected third pregnancy. For Frank, this absolutely precludes a move.
The hypocrisy is that they themselves are not interesting, and have willingly succumbed to their own hellish fate. It is hard to feel sorry for these two snooty individuals who roll over and play dead rather than take any steps to enrich their lives. Even after Frank gets a promotion and is apparently making a lot more money it does not even occur to them to do move into the city. Are we to believe that these two who just a few months ago were ready to move to Europe and leave everything now can’t consider moving to the inner city because it’s too zany? It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
This movie portrays living in the suburbs as being analogous to a soul sucking, creativity destroying slow march to death. I get the thing about the suburbs, I don’t live there either. I gave up a McMansion to live in the city, because that is where my husband and I chose to live, but I do tire of all this “the suburbs place expectations on people that they can’t conform too, it’s sooooo unfair” . Cry me a river and get the fuck out, then. Come be my neighbor, unless of course you are the modern equivalent of Alice and Frank who will call me a “breeder” and conformist because I dared to have children and most of the time I enjoy them. Wow, what a sell out I’ve been. The horror!!
Enough of my mini-rant. Despite all this, I respected this movie (obviously it pushes some buttons) and found the acting to be superb. Leo the lion and Kate the mate (of Leo) are both brilliant. Leonardo’s character did seem to be invoking the spirit of Pete Campbell from Mad Men as played by Vincent Kartheiser. Both characters can deliver the line “that would be swell” and my hairs would stand on end, so chilly is their demeanor.
Kate Winslet is a revelation, and personally I much preferred her performance in this movie over the one that ultimately won her an Oscar (in The Reader). Supporting actors Kathy Bateman and Michael Shannon were good as well, and Shannon did indeed get nominated for an Oscar for his role as Bateman’s son. He is batshit crazy, but of course the most insightful character.
As for Mendes, I say if you’re going to go dark, then go dark. Mendes is to be commended for shoveling one more serving of sadness on when we’ve already had enough. The film looks gorgeous, and is scored by Thomas Newman, who also did the score for American Beauty.
Frothygirlz rating 8/10