Revolutionary Road

| January 28, 2009

‘Flawless’ is a word often misused, perhaps overused, and very rarely is it an accurate description of anything. However, Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road, a crisp, raw, heart-wrenching glimpse inside a broken and breaking marriage, is just that – without a single flaw. This gem of a film is quite stunningly acted by each of an impeccable cast, seamlessly edited, and succeeds in striking just the right balance between showing the viewer the story and letting the viewer make up their own mind about the mysteries of two people caught in a world they have created – an everyday sort of life. How much of a prison can an everyday sort of life be, you ask? There are fates far worse, you may say, then a charming house in the suburbs, an attractive and interesting spouse, two healthy children and the daily rat race. Ah, but you would be forgetting that to a soul that seeks a special life, a different sort of existence, and longs for adventure – this everyday life can indeed be a prison of the soul.
Frank and April Wheeler (superbly acted by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) live the suburban life. Their neighbors consistently speak highly of them.. They are perfectly charming and polished – always maybe a notch above the average couple in 1950’s suburbia. They are also miserable. Each is longing to go back – go back to a time when life was for the taking, when the decisions that lead them to the lives they must now lead had not yet been made and the world was their oyster. That time has passed, and now what? Can a young family simply leave their lives behind – perhaps uproot themselves and find a new life, a new adventure in Paris, France? Is leaving the security of the life you have built worth a chance at a “special” life? I say yes. Most would not agree – or perhaps, they would agree but would never dare to follow through with such a bold move. The film is based off the novel by Richard Yates and explores these and many other questions – sort of a painting of the panic attack that may arise when life has been decided and with each new day your reality is more abundantly clear – there is no new path awaiting you. Each day will be more or less like the one before, and the one after. I suppose it is all how you see your life, and many find a predictable life just as fulfilling as starting over in a brand new country, with new hope and new avenues to explore. Frank and April Wheeler are explorers who at some point decided to cease the exploration of the possibilities of the world, and with that, they also chose to stop exploring their innermost desires and fears. Frank Wheeler says it best when he begins to awaken to his true nature, a nature which lusts for a greater life: “All I know is that I want to feel things. Really feel them. How’s that for an ambition?” I say that is the truest and greatest ambition a human being could hold – for it is far too easy to learn not to feel.
One can not ask more of a film, or any work of art for that matter, then to provoke thought. Revolutionary Road is flawless in this feat. It evokes many, many questions about the journey that is life and the decisions that seal our fate. Revolutionary Road encourages feeling, and I say that is quite a formidable purpose.
Revolutionary Road is a film I recommend highly.

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