Revolutionary Road: I love this kind of movie. These domestic horror stories of man and wife put asunder. This one isn’t as good as, say, All Or Nothing, it lacks the bitter humor and cinder block squalor of that limey working class saga. And, at times, it’s hard to see past the star shine of DiCaprio (who still looks a bit baby-faced to play a grown-up) and Winslet to the ‘hopeless emptiness’ of their 1950s suburban existence. But look, mate, if you’ve been with the same person every single night, without a break, for eighteen years, you’d understand my morbid fondness for these *prison* flicks. My standard for judging these kinds of movies is quite simple: have me and the old lady experienced similar turmoil? Do I understand the misery of the beleaguered couple up on the screen? Well, we don’t look like Leo and Kate, but me and the old lady have had the same loud *discussions.*
Revolutionary Road has the feel of a Greek tragedy. DiCaprio’s and Winslet’s characters, Jack and April Wheeler, are perceived, both by themselves and those around them, as a *special* couple. . .talented, extraordinary people destined for grand adventures. Alas, the Wheelers are perfectly ordinary. Sheeple dressed in purple robes. And they are as mystified about what to do with their lives as their dullard neighbors, upon whom they look down.
With their marriage sinking in the quicksand of existential angst, the Wheelers dream of an escape to Paris. People are alive there, April says to Jack. Ha. April’s never been on the metro #13 line heading toward Saint-Denis around 17:00 and seen the grim faces of the good people of Paris, or she’d know they are just as defeated by life. No, the Wheelers’ problem isn’t environmental, it’s organic. The problem lies deep within their secular souls.
Equally flawed, the Wheelers are unable to help each other deal with the existential questions of life. In the end, they can only blame each other for becoming trapped in the soul-less suburban pseudo-life they imagined themselves above. Given the era the movie is set in, anteRoe v. Wade, the heaviest toll for the Wheelers’ hubris is exacted from April.
Our domestic tragedy’s chorus is provided by the character John (played with great exuberance by an actor named Michael Shannon), the institutionalized adult son of the Wheelers’ realtor and suburbia apologist, Helen (played by the aging cow Kathy Bates). Given the era the movie is set in, anteProzac, John’s depression is treated by electroshock and hospitalization. Granted a few weekend furloughs, Helen believes her son might be cheered by a little social intercourse with the magnificent Wheelers. But John soon discovers the essential mediocrity and timidity of Jack Wheeler, and the essential mediocrity and coldness of April Wheeler, and delivers to them his own electroshock therapy, in the form of his blistering commentary on the Wheelers’ hamartia.
Since I can’t remember what it was like to be unmarried, I don’t know if single people would *get* this movie. Hell, even childless couples (the Wheelers have two kids, who are rarely seen. . .the pressure of parenthood is mostly suggested, and not shown) probably wouldn’t get it. As I was married for ten years before the stork first came along, I now consider those days nothing but *playing house.* Married with children, now that’s the ninth circle of. . .well, er, let’s just say that’s the *real deal.* And watching movies like Revolutionary Road is the married penitents’ self-flagellation.
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