Monday, February 16, 2009

Revolutionary Road

"You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. [...] Do you know what I'm talking about?"

Ok that's actually a quote from The Matrix, but that movie has a lot in common with Revolutionary Road, a movie about people living from day to day wired into an invisible machine of bland monotony, and the struggle to break free from it.

Frank and April Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) are an attractive young couple in the suburbs of Connecticut: Married, two kids, stable job, beautiful home-- all that the 1950s American couple could hope for in a prepackaged life on rails. But April feels it, and maybe Frank does too, the emptiness of a fulfilled life with unfulfilled dreams. They're trapped in the monotony of peaceful everyday existence, living their lives without really living at all.

They plan to break from this world with a sudden move to Paris. Neighbors and co-workers are surprised by the decision, of course... they nod their heads in polite agreement, but they don't really know a thing, do they? They're too wired in. A wrench is thrown into their plans to move when Frank gets an irresistible promotion, and April gets pregnant, and they're forced to convince themselves that perhaps Parisians aren't the only ones capable of leading interesting lives.

This movie is directed by Sam Mendes (incidentally Kate Winslet's husband), who has already directed an amazing movie about the hopeless emptiness of suburban desperation-- 1999's American Beauty, which won an Oscar for Best Picture. Revolutionary Road takes a much less subtle, less weird, more direct approach to getting its message through. In the opening scenes we see April the housewife left alone at home, while Frank leaves in his gray suit and fedora to wade through Grand Central Station in a sea of other gray suits and fedoras. No words are spoken but you know what the movie's saying.

Revolutionary Road should have been at least nominated for Best Picture this year, as it's better than many of the actual nominees. In fact I would have considered it a contender to win. In other news, how the hell did Leonardo DiCaprio not get an Oscar nomination for this? And Kate Winslet too? They put out the most vicious, blood chilling marital fight scene imaginable.

Frank and April are visited by their realtor and her son John, a former mathematician who now lives in a mental institution. But his only mental illness, if you think about it, is his lack of inhibition to tell the truths that no one wants to talk about or hear. Amid all the flaky friends and acquaintances, only John seems to completely understand what the sudden move to Paris is all about. And only he condemns them for their doubts when they decide not to move after all.

Here's a quote from April:
"For years I thought we've shared this secret that we would be wonderful in the world. I don't know exactly how, but just the possibility kept me hoping. How pathetic is that? So stupid. To put all your hopes in a promise that was never made. [...] We were never special or destined for anything at all."

This is a really good movie, and I think I really enjoyed it, but it's hard to say you enjoy something with such a deeply depressing subject nature. In Frank and April we may see an unspoken side of ourselves, living our lives, marching towards the end without the ability or the conviction to stay from the path most traveled.