Running Away from Revolutionary Road

Spoilers Alert: The latest movie from Sam Mendes is a little movie that could, but it is no American Beauty

Verdict: 7/10

There are a few things revolutionary about Revolutionary Road. It is about a couple living in the 1950s suburbia, who are united only by their defeated ambitions if by anything. Kate Winslet and Leonarod diCaprio in their first onscreen reunion since Titanic deliver powerful performances as April and Frank Wheeler. Into their life an array of character, including an insane mathematician John Givings, who provides the voice of conscience through his blunt observances and Mendes’ astute camera focuses. However, Givings’ voice was artificial, manufactured and reminiscent of Mendes’ earlier, more beautiful American Beauty.

From the first moment we met him, Frank Wheeler doesn’t have ambitions–he has ideas, whims and anti-ambitions. April, on the other hand, has a strong ambition to be an actress–an ambition perhaps tailored to her desires of escaping reality. Escapism is the prevailing mode in the movie–April wants to escape her suburban Stepford wife status; Frank wants to escape the conformity of the male-dominated workplace; all people in their surrounds try to find escapism somewhere or the other, whether it be in television, gossip about others, adultery or insanity.

April’s Great Escape plan to Paris, however, is not fueled by her love for the city life there, but by her unrealistic assumptions of life there, and by her desire to escape suburbia dead or alive. Frank also briefly shares this escapism, but after he managed to find another way to break the monotony of his office life (but not through adultery, the movie emphasizes), he finds his feet firmly on the ground of reality again.

The marriage of Frank and April is an example of the attraction of the polar opposites. However, when they began to live in two different worlds, the rift widens. Even Frank’s attempts to reforms the ways of  his citylife cannot heal the differences. In the end, to April, the child she is carrying becomes the fetters weighing her down. So she leaves by cutting those fetters loose, but not before leaving the scarlet letter of condemnation in her home, her prison.

To surmise, Revolutionary Road–not so-titled because the Wheelers are revolutionaries or they are traveling towards some cloud-cuckoo-land, but named after the road they reside–is a good movie. It is a big movie that explores a small facet of the 50s suburbia, before the woman liberation movement that switched gender roles between Kevin Spacey’s and Annette Benning’s characters in American Beauty. Despite engaging acting, the movie lacks certain elements, foists some onto the viewers (through John Givings) and overuses sex and running away as physical forms of escape.

The final scenes of other couples reminiscing the Wheelers serve as a testament to the fact that the rifts exist in all couples and that there are things even couples shouldn’t talk to each other about–their escapisms, for instance. Yes, that may be the reason we ourselves go to movies to escape too, but it is now almost cliched to see the movie couples trying to escape their two-dimensional confines too. If there is a lasting moral to Revolutionary Road, it is that by running away, we are no closer to our ambitions, aspirations and even destinies.


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