Thursday, 19 February 2009

Revolutionary Road — to nowhere?

Kate Winslett and Leonardo deCaprio were last seen bobbing in the sea off Newfoundland. But what if they’d made it ashore? Surely they would have lived happily ever after, raised a big corn-fed premium family. Wouldn't they? Don’t bet on that.

In Revolutionary Road Kate & Leo are the Wheelers, exploring true love, locked-in frustration and ennui in 1953. There’s no way like the American way. The babies are booming and so are the ’burbs. Under the sink, however, various streptococci breed, and the worst ones eat you up, from the inside out. Gatsby showed us the toxic tender underbelly of the jazz age; Frank and April do the same for the McCarthy era.
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Off and on, hopes raised in the Wheelers’ cute meeting scene seem teasingly capable of fulfilment. 95% of the time, however, the film pokes around the bend under the sink, where germs lurk. Frank works in a dead end job; April is bored out of her mind. Frank tries to impress a girl in the typing pool; April tumbles meaninglessly with a neighbour in the front bench seat of his Buick. This is not elegant, or even particularly erotic, but maintains Kate’s record of making out in a car once per blockbuster.

Enter John, the neighbours’ wacky spaced out son, fresh off a massive breakdown. John tells it like it is, like Lear’s fool. Life is suffocating, unbearable. It’s enough to make D. H. Lawrence run off into the woods, roll around naked in wet leaves and write a poem about it, but you can’t even do that in suburban Connecticut. Paris calls, in the form of a breakout that, in itself, would have made a jolly alternative movie. Cary Grant would have moved to Connecticut, but the Wheelers have already done that, with no place else to go and April newly pregnant with No 3. The Wheelers are now in big trouble...

Beneath Sam Mendes beautifully crafted well-scripted film lurk big questions. What is the relationship between love and the marriage bond? What are our masks good for and bad for? When things unravel, how does one level fill with hope, and the next deflate to absolute zero? How does happiness come, from outside in and inside out, and what is it anyway?

Tracking the Wheelers through their downward spiral, Kate Winslet in particular eases deeper into her character in a truly remarkable way. Banking down, she becomes, increasingly, a complete outsider to the honeytone fifties colour scheme. Everything stays intact around her as she catastrophically crumbles internally. Increasingly, the show feels like a horror film. The kids go curiously out of focus as all the wheels come off the wagon. Pleasantville, friends, is a sham.

Understsood or not quite understood, love or loathe the implicit message, this is a very good movie, just a squeak, perhaps, off a really great movie. Just do yourself a favour, and take your first date to a more optimisitc show, like Friday the 13th.

9 comments:

wistful said...

Enjoyable review and I agree about the big questions posed by the film. Just wish I knew the way to find the answers. Crumbling internally is the solution I'm trying to avoid.

luxorhotelvegas said...

Thanks for your advice, just with the pics I got bored

luxorhotelvegas said...

I followed your advice, thanks brother.

Grandmère Mimi said...

I'm walking with a child through a divorce for the second time in three years. Both were cast off by their spouses. What did I do wrong as a parent? Maybe nothing but teach them to hang in during the good times and the bad times.

Life is not a bowl of cherries.

Nice review, Bishop Alan. Shall I go see the movie?

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Thanks for kind and interesting comment from all. GM, we're just at the stage of our twenty somethings hitching up; thus have a few years before the decoupling stage that must be so painful and puzzling, but many of our friends are going through.

I suppose the cultural milieu aorund all our relationships has changed so fast that staying still, fixing on an ideal like the one K&L did when they married is the one sure recipe for disaster now, in a way it wasn't 50 years ago.

Maybe all deep relationsips just have to be emergent, like Dr Ioannes in Captain Corelli's Mandolin, if you remember the bit; after the preliminary explosion we got on with ives and somehow we just grew roots that somehow entwined with each other deep underground to a point we were one tree...

I was aching for something nice to happen to April, though... I was so on her side, and she was so trapped in something entirely dependent on Frank, who just wasn't up to delivering it!

Grandmère Mimi said...

And wasn't that a lovely book? My former rector put me on to that one. I miss him because we were on the same wave length regarding books. I gave him suggestions, and he returned the favor to our mutual enjoyment.

I just finished another lovely read, "Home" by Marilynne Robinson.

Bishop Alan Wilson said...

Another one for this summer's reading list: I thought Gilead was one of the most beautiful novels I've ever read — clear simple and profound...

Grandmère Mimi said...

Biushop Alan, wait until you read "Home". It's the only book I've ever read in which the beauty of the prose made me cry. The character named Jack will live in my heart forever.

Anonymous said...

Like everyone, in any and every time an place, the couple depicted in the film were products of, and more importantly TRAPPED in the social constructed personas of their time, AND like everyone else just dramatising their unconscious Oedipal emotional-sexual patterning.

www.dabase.org/beyoedip.htm

www.dabase.org/2armP1.htm#prologue

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