Life's Titanic Struggle
In the 1950s Douglas Sirk made his name with melodramas which explored social issues taking us behind the ideal of the perfect American family and their white picket fences. More recently we have had Sam Mendes first exploring the truth behind the facade in the dark and quirky "American Beauty" and now in a much rawer movie we have him doing the same with "Revolutionary Road". As such "Revolutionary Road" is one of those movies which make a statement about the American ideal, about how that ideal of wife, children, secure job and so on is not the perfect ideal for everyone and that it can be detrimental. Of course "Revolutionary Road" also sees Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio reunited on screen for the first time since "Titanic" but for those who hoped for more "Jack & Rose" style romantic fluff will be sorely disappointed as this is by no means romantic fluff.
When they met they were young and had dreams but now some years later April (Kate Winslet - The Holiday) and Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio - The Departed) are now the picture of the American dream. They have a beautiful home in the suburbs, they have children and Frank works in the city where he makes a decent living. But life is not great as a life of normality has killed their relationship and dreams have long been discarded by the routine ways of normality. When April suggests they sell up and start a brand new life in France it brings them both a glimmer of hope, of living their dreams once again but real life intervenes as their marriage completely disintegrates.
The story to "Revolutionary Road" is in some ways not that original because this is basically another movie which looks behind the white picket fence for the truth of American family life. As such we have the Wheeler's who to everyone look to be perfect, they have a lovely house on a quiet street, they have children and Frank works in the city in advertising. But of course all is not as it seems as their marriage has hit a rough patch, they barely talk, April feels bored with her life and Frank detests his job and has started to stray with a secretary.
But rather than just playing out this drama in an expected explosive manner as the relationship completely disintegrates what we watch is how real life can kill any glimmer of hope. That glimmer of hope comes in the form of April suggesting they sell up and move to France for a brand new start where she will be the bread winner whilst Frank discovers his passion. And having become united by this dream we watch as their marriage gets back on track as they have something different from the norm to aim for. Yet we then watch how real life, how work, responsibilities, pregnancy can destroy that dream and in doing so destroy a marriage.
Basically what director Sam Mendes does in "Revolutionary Road" is whilst taking us behind the white picket fence suggests that the disintegration of a loving relationship can be as much to do with leading a boring life as it is anything else. It is because of the boring life of routine that Frank strays, that he and April don't communicate because every day is the same and that when April discovers she is pregnant again sees it as a further tie to normality. We also see how those who thrive on routine find the notion of being different unsettling and need the security of normality to live.
None of which is made pretty, Mendes does not beautify any part of this, arguments are ferocious, sex is short and physical and life doesn't always have a happy ever after ending. It does mean that for those who got excited by the thought of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio sharing a screen again could be disappointed as this is real drama not the fluffy romance of "Titanic".
Now as for Winslet and DiCaprio well both are on fine form doing brilliant jobs of creating characters who are complex yet you can understand. But more importantly they create this couple, April and Frank who you can sense deep down love each other but because they are so bored and constrained by normality and social expectations they take their frustration and anger out on each other. It is again very real and whilst you always feel like an observer staring in on this fragmented relationship you do get what they are going through and that they feel alone in a world of ordinariness.
What this all boils down to is that "Revolutionary Road" is a very good movie and one which gives us another look behind the American ideal and white picket fences. But instead of looking at personal issues as being the cause of a disintegrating marriage this is about society, normality and the dullness of a routine life which is the catalyst for the issues and how easy it is to be sucked into a boring life.