Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Revolutionary Road

I finally saw the movie "Revolutionary Road" based on the 1961 novel of Richard Yates. Kate Winslet and Leo DiCario who played the main characters,once again, gave a solid performance. Sam Mendes, the director, consistently showed his genius in showing the dark side of what-we-called ordinary life (remember American Beauty?)

I saw the movie before I listened to the audio book (courtesy of Altoona Public Library). I was amazed on how the movie captured the main essence of the book. There are minor differences. The movie, of course, cannot capture all the thoughts and details of each characters. All in all, I think it is a good movie.

The backdrop of the movie is suburban Connecticut, in postwar-1955. It is a story of a couple, Frank and April Wheeler, who seemed to be living the American dream. They were young, bright and beautiful with a starter house and 2 healthy children. But people are complicated. Despite these, the Wheelers, especially April, longed for more meaningful existence. Perhaps, Frank's job in the city was too dull; or April did not really see herself as a stay-at-home mom. So, they planned to move to Paris, which was April's brilliant idea for a new start and sanity. Frank was in Paris during the war and loved it. Frank once mentioned to his wife that it was the only place where he felt so alive. April went through their finances and found out that they could live a comfortable life for 6 mos with their savings and from the sale of their house. She would find a job as a secretary for international organization such as NATO while Frank can take his time to find out what he really wants to do. Frank, initially, agreed with the idea; and April's preparation for the move went on. Their friends were skeptical with the idea. It was out of the ordinary. Conformity was the name of the game that time. Also, Frank was given a new job offer that was difficult for him to refuse. He started to doubt the idea of moving. Concurrent to this, April found out she was pregnant. Frank cunningly blamed April's pregnancy for halting the plan to move to Paris. This made their arguments worst to point of no return and redemption for both of them. The movie painfully protrayed the demise of a marriage and 2 people from inside out.

The supporting characters are equally interesting. One in particular is the character John Givings, the son of the Wheeler's realtor Helen Givings (Kathy Bates), who was a former mathematician but paranoid schizophrenic, and the only person who seemed to understand the Wheeler's desire to move to Europe. There were the Campbell's, their closest family friends and neighbors (Shep Campbell who secretly loved and desired April) ; the Givings (Helen and Howard)who introduced John to the Wheelers hoping that this would somehow "normalized" their son; and Maureen Grube, the plain-looking secretary whom Frank had an affair. The movie was not able to afford to go in depth with these characters. In the book, however, these characters were given more insights and personalities which added to the brilliance of the novel. Also, the book tells the childhood lives and memories of the Wheelers which gave their characters complexities.

It was, at times, difficult for me to watch due to my infertility issue as April had self-imposed abortion (this is before abortion was legalized in the US) . I would not want to spoil the ending. But this movie made me see the 1950's in different light. I used to believe that it was a good decade for family. Now, I doubt this belief. I can see how difficult it would be for a woman to have limited choices and so much expectations to keep up appearances for your husband and children. It made me understand how it lead to the evolution of the 1960's feminism movements. Anyway, the novel should be a must read for mature readers. It is definitely an American classic.

1 comment:

Pamela said...

I read the book a few years ago in the darkest days of my infertility. It was stark and thought-provoking. Seeing the movie this past Fall (and I agree Sam Mendes did an amazing job capturing essence), I am all the more grateful that I have a deep and loving relationship. I would much rather be me -- making a life without long sought after children than dead inside like April...