Revolutionary Road: another one bites the dust

http://community.boredofstudies.org/attachments/315/focus-imaginative-journeys/attachments/leunig-cartoon-analysis/14279d1166090308/2003-03-03_leunig-1c.jpgI was underwhelmed I’m afraid.  Here are a couple of good reviews which say the film is good.  So go ahead and don’t believe me.  But for me this was (yet another) Hollywood film with good acting covering up a film that didn’t quite do it for me. (Others include the other Kate Winslet number at the moment – The Reader – and Rachael’s getting married.

The plot of revolutionary road is a young couple groaning under the weight of middle class conformism.  Will they take off and move to Paris, and if they do will they find happiness there. One of the good bits is that you can really see each side of the couple’s story.  (They’re not getting on too well you see). She’s a fantasist – and fancies ‘her man’ as ‘the most interesting person she’s ever met’.  This is in consequence of his having said something like that Paris is a place where you can ‘really live’, not like the US suburbs. He’s not too fussed with all this naive enthusiasm of his early twenties and is settling down to try to lead a decent, comfortable middle class life. 

Anyway, the marriage is foundering under the unfulfilled fantasies of Kate Winslet’s character and (it has to be admitted) a certain dumb male presumption (not quite the right word) and lack of empahty with and real insight into his wife’s feelings from Leonardo’s character.

Now you migth be thinking that this is a pretty stale old theme – I guess it was done to death at about the time the novel of the film came out (1961). We have our own in the genre like My Brother Jack.   But it’s an OK theme.  

My problem was that there was no real flicker of this thing inside the couple that might give their decamping for a new life any real interest.  I guess their struggles were real enough, and they were struggling, as we all do, with the tension between the reality of our lives and what in our fonder moments we hope for.  They let it tear them apart.  And yet – and here is a parallel with  The Reader – there was never any real insight any real understanding of or engagement with this thing that was driving them. 

There was something else that was odd, and yet not all that unusual.  This couple had a couple of quite young kids.  Well you could have knocked me down with a feather.  They may as well have had dolls. The couple lead a pretty seriously claustrophobic relationship, but the kids are never, and I mean never, any trouble – they never get in the way of their fights and all the claustrophobia. Never does their yelling, stamping their feet, holding dinner parties, ever trouble their kids or indeed get interupted by a child who wants to go to the toilet, who has cut a finger, who is jealous of the other, who wants to watch the tele, who wants to have a sleepover, who wants a lolly or hates his food.  I guess this is in the book though I’ve not read it.  It would have made me angry if I could have been bothered with the story.  It certainly made the sensibility from which this kind of faux soul searching from the comfort of one’s middle class life comes even more trivial from my point of view.

Anyway, no doubt others disagree – I’d be interested to hear.

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Joshua Gans
Joshua Gans(@joshua-gans)
12 years ago

Nicholas, I don’t understand your key criticism, namely that ‘there was no real flicker of this thing inside the couple that might give their decamping for a new life any real interest’, so can’t respond.

On the other hand, I do understand the point about about the children, but don’t agree. The story is about the couple’s relationship, not about family life. The children are important to the story only as abstractions, they need to be out of focus.

Great choice of cartoon, though.