I watched ‘Revolutionary Road’ at Nancy’s Movie Club last Saturday. It was the 2nd time I watched it and I promised myself not to watch the show ever again. Why? Because it is a heavy, draining show – the squabbles, fights, tension, sadness make it hard to watch. I find that my eyes avert almost instinctively as I make it a point never to stare at somebody who is in obvious distress without offering a hand to help.
Of course there are many wonderful themes in the show, brought across in so many poignant scenes and dialogues, and so masterfully portrayed by Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. Take the scene where Kate’s character (April) takes out a box of old photos showing them as a younger couple, and she remembers a past dream that they shared – that of going to Paris and living there. But when she reminds Leonardo’s character (Frank) about it, she finds that he has long forgotten about it, and laughs at what to him now seems a childish fantasy. He goes on to cite the reality that they have jobs and children to take care of now. After a series of events, they finally decided not to go because of the lure of an unexpected job promotion for Frank and an untimely pregnancy for April. As I watch, I couldn’t help but think of the quote by John Lennon: “Life is what happens when you are busy making other plans”.
One of the tragedies that panned out throughout the entire movie is the curious, but very real, situation where I find that both of them are never on the same page in the state of their marriage. When one is ready to take the plunge, the other dithers; when the other is ready to move, the other hesitates. I think relationships are this way sometimes, and I feel that it is always a blessing to have feelings and timings be in sync with each other in a relationship.
Another idea that caught my attention was when a friend asked April why she “wants out” of her life, but April answers that she “wants in”. Sometimes it looks like we are running away from things, but in reality, there could be things choking the life out of us and we have to do something about them or else we will just drift through life without really getting into life. Although Frank makes sense too when he tries to convince April that “we can be happy here too”, it is all too clear that change is needed. Just like that railway station scene in ‘The Hours’ where Virginia Woolf tells Leonard that she needs to take the next train to London, even if it seems foolish or dangerous, because she says, “I am dying here”.
“Out of the mouths of fools spew forth wisdom”. In the movie, there is a mentally ill character (John) who doesn’t seem to fall in line with the plot of the show. But his role is most interesting because of all the characters, John seems to be the only one who is able to see past the veneer of a ‘successful life’ and into the ‘hopeless emptiness of it all’. While politely tolerated in the first scene he appears, by the second scene, we see that Frank and April are uncomfortable with John’s presence, not because he is insane, but because he dares to speak the truth which they dare not hear. Perhaps by casting John in the role of an insane person, the writer is trying to hint that he may be the only sane character in the show.
In the end, the biting irony of the title becomes obvious: that there is nothing revolutionary on Revolutionary Road; that even as April and Frank set off on their journey as a newly-wed couple, believing that they are ‘special’ and ‘unique’, they end up spinning a web of mundane routine, sucked into the “lie that we have to resign from life…”