From a luxury cruise-liner to suburbia America, Jack and Rose reunite.
Don’t mistake Revolutionary Road for a story about the civil rights movement or war. It is the name of a fictitious street where Frank and April Wheeler live. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet reteam as the protagonists a decade after their outing of Titanic proportions in this 1950s American suburban piece.
The Wheelers are held up as a model couple. They have two children and a nice house. Frank has a stable job and April is a dutiful housewife. What would be more perfect?
Yet Frank hates his desk job. The long commute to and from home to work on the train is a signal of his mundane working life. April, an unsuccessful actress, is faring no better herself. She is feeling trapped and restless with what she thinks is a mediocre life.
April suggests to Frank that they move to Paris in order “to live”, an excuse their ordinary and traditional lifestyle of 1950s suburbia. Frank although initially hesitant, buys into April’s idea. But when Frank receives an unexpected promotion and pay rise, he starts to have second doubts about the move. When April gets pregnant, Frank finds the excuse to pull the plug on their plans and thus sets the couple on a collision course for tragedy.
I personally enjoy dramas that explore the themes of drudgery, conformity and mundane existence of suburban life and Revolutionary Road lives up to my expectations as a movie. I won’t be able to comment on whether the movie does justice to the characters and the book as I have not read the novel by Richard Yates of which the movie is adapted from. But the movie packs a strong, emotional and bitter after punch for me.
The success rests largely on the calibre of its players. Director Sam Mendes and Winslet’s husband treads on familiar ground on the breakdown of suburban life after the Academy Award winning American Beauty. Mendes recreates the 1950s mood with nostalgia and coaxes fiery performances out of DiCaprio and Winslet.
But the gems of the show are no doubt DiCaprio and Winslet. Their chemistry on-screen is evident from the tender scenes they share to their explosive and vicious outbursts and tirades they level at each other. DiCaprio imbues a boyish charm to his Frank as the awkward and reluctant dutiful husband, a boy never quite mature enough into a man besides Winslet’s domineering April. Frank is at ease charming a naïve employee into having an affair with him, but could never quite sensitive enough to cajole his wife after her failed acting performance.
Winslet flexes her dramatic chops in the role of April and chews away the screen. She does everything from lovey-dovey to hysterical to calm and steely. She is believable as the resentful and disillusioned housewife.
Michael Shannon steals the few minutes of screen time in a supporting role as a mentally disturbed son of a nosy neighbour who shoots his mouth and thoughts without restraint at the Wheelers. Shannon’s character John is the only one who dares to articulate the truth about the Wheelers. His character generates the much needed laughter from the audience.
I can always link suburbia dramas back to our own existence here in Singapore even for a set in 1950s piece like Revolutionary Road. Aren’t many of us just like Frank, struggling to make a living to provide for our home and family though at times we hate our jobs behind a desk? Yet the desire to be responsible and pragmatic stops us from seeking change.
Although April doesn’t apply to modern working women in Singapore, but aren’t some of us frustrated at the insensitivity and weakness of our husband to our needs? Aren’t some of us at times disillusioned by the way that the marriage didn’t turn out the way we expect it to be?
Revolutionary Road depicts the frustration of the ordinary you and me in the heartlands of Singapore. We long for change but are too afraid to seek it. Just as April said: “Our whole existence here is based on this great premise that we’re special. That we’re superior to the whole thing. But we’re not.”
Like April and Frank, we might have done so and making people believe we are special but when in fact we are not, and like April find it hard to accept.
Overall, Revolutionary Road is an intense, riveting and gripping drama that packs a powerful insight into our own lives.