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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

The despair of Revolutionary Road

Revolutionary Road is the story of every couple loving, evolving and eventually drifting in the inevitable tide of time. A melancholic tale of aspirations and dreams mauled by the mechanical routine, trampled into dust by the march of the daily workforce.  Based on a novel by Richard Yates, their trials and tribulations mirror those of people bound by the vows of holy matrimony.

Set in the nineteen fifties, Frank and April Wheeler are the residents of Revolutionary Road, Connecticut.  Frank has a marketing job at Knox Business Machines and April is the quintessential housewife who still grieves for her failed acting career. The young couple revels in their unconventionality and their ability to shun the American dream of stability and familial peace. When domestic monotony starts to build, April suggest they leave this mundane existence and move to Paris, to start a new exciting life and pursue their passions. But this never transpires. In a futile attempt to revive the romance, the two indulge in a momentary juvenile rush of passion, leading to April’s unplanned pregnancy. This new development turns into their inner demon, prodding and destroying their will to uproot their unfulfilling yet stable lives.

The ultimate paradox occurs when a maniacal outsider forces them to realize the hopeless emptiness that April and Frank have been trying to disguise with their perfect family, a perfect house and the perfect life. One is lead to believe that every time the couple reaches for the sweet taste of freedom, the luring tentacles of the domestic monster pull them back. A new day dawns and yesterday has been swept clean off the board. The recurrent nightmare continues, each day is a lie, a happy fallacy at that. The helplessness is so beautifully apparent in their eyes; their silent screams of anguish are very close to home. Torn by this despair, April tries to abort the baby herself and eventually dies in the process.

The film manages to retain the grave mood of impending, terrible vicissitudes. The visual cues of discord between the married couple are blatantly obvious, the silent barrier between them bellows thunderous.

Different lives, different despondency. The outlets of our escapism may vary, but we are all trying in vain, there is no release from the life we lead, and this despair and the greed for something better, is what makes us so pathetically human. The bitter truth is that we are all troubled by our meagre existence. The mundane life we lead is precisely the one we snickered upon as youngsters.  Humans are an unhappy race; we revel in despair, find sanctity in sadness. Maybe that was the price we paid for acquiring social intelligence. Be wary of complacency, this sweet intoxicating venom will slowly sweep through your mind, rotting it bit by bit; the lure of shallow success shall seep through your identity, eating away your dreams.

Brilliant performances by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. This being their second film after ‘Titanic’, it is simple to acknowledge the contradictory portrayal of love in these two films. Kate so beautifully emotes her pain and entrapment that the audience vehemently wishes for an end to this lie she is living. One poignant line in the film sums it all up. “No one forgets the truth Frank, they just get better at lying”.

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  • I haven't read the book yet, but this is one of those films that leaves you squirming uncomfortably in your seat while you're watching it, and then leaves you scarred later on, for life. My entire idea of relationships underwent surgery after I watched this film, because it leaves you with so much to think (or not think, as the case may be -- aren't we humans so splendid at avoiding the truth?) long after it is over.

    Having seen one of Mendes' films before (_American Beauty_), I was a little prepared for the non-comformist feel of this film, and I was scared every single time they appeared to be happy. I knew Paris wouldn't work out, and I knew Frank would not leave his job. In spite of being just AWARE (as opposed to fully understanding) these (little?) things, I was completely unprepared for the impact of these seemingly ordinary events. The irony of the apparent "normalness" and the stagnant life of every couple in suburban America has _become_ a frightening concept now. It isn't even that their characters are empty shells from the start; they were full of dreams, and the Adam-and-Eve like fall of their expectations (that massive, the scale) led to self-destruction in the most ultimate action that a human can take -- destroying his spirit. Voluntarily.

    I just hope -- everyday -- that if a day comes when something I've wanted/hoped for very badly doesn't come through, I don't led despair take over me the way Frank and April allowed it to, in their case -- and April particularly. It is frightening to even dream, and the thing about _Revolutionary Road_, like _American Beauty_, is that you can't take any kind of comfort in it. At all.

    In your art work, April's face has been featured very prominently, but Frank's has been overshadowed in colour, and pushed into a corner. Was this actually deliberate, or am I reading too much into this?

    And -- I'm so glad you chose to do this film!

    By Blogger Sharanya, at 8:44 PM  

  • @Sharanya: My sentiments exactly. Nothing is more despondent than loss of dreams and aspirations! And you are right, I purposefully highlighted April. I felt her every twitch of dissatisfaction as my own! Feels as if I lived her passion and her misery :)
    Do post your comments and thoughts, it is heartening to reach out to likeminded people and be acknowledged by them!

    By Blogger Devyani, at 9:30 PM  

  • A good movie, and great performance by Kate. When it comes to handling a (very) complicated characters, there are few who can do justice, and she is one of the best there (Holy Smoke comes to mind).

    Movie - well, you are right - the sense of foreboding is present throughout. The ups and downs and you know you are not in bright brave world.

    Great review - glad to find your blog.

    By Blogger Gaurav, at 10:31 AM  

  • @Gaurav: Glad you liked the blog, please keep the comments pouring in.

    P.S: I thought April's role could only have been done by Kate, although Leo as Frank was totally expendable :)

    By Blogger Devyani, at 2:35 PM  

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