Monday, February 2, 2009

Movie of the Month: Revolutionary Road

Please let this be fair warning, but if you didn't see Revolutionary Road, you may not want to read the rest of this blog entry. There is a part of me that does not want to share any of this information with someone who hasn't seen the film and there is this other part of me that feels like I need to be like a newsie on the street corner begging people to see this film. Needless to say, if you haven't seen this great movie yet, you need to. In fact, you need to go as soon as possible because I don't know how much longer it will be at the theatres, and you should see it before the Oscars so that you might have a good vantage in judging it in comparison to other films. Also, as just a side note, I think I might start this new "Movie of the Month" entry post. So, Revolutionary Road will be my selection for the month of January, consider this post two days late.

The films stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as Frank and April Wheeler, two people disillusioned and maybe reillusioned by 1950s American culture. Plot-wise, the film follows Frank to his city job where he feels like nothing but a machine in a cog, while April remains at home in the suburbs as nothing more than a copy of those around her. Both are jaded by their intellectual understanding of what it means to fit in. One of the lines in the movie suggests that once thought they were above it all, but as April soon realizes, they are not above anything--that they are nothing but copies/machines, things that they hated before moving to suburbia. Of course, the film contains a number of other sub characters, but perhaps the one worth mentioning would be Frank and April's realtor's son, a former mathematics PhD who has been previously committed in a mental home/insane asylum. While seemingly "abnormal," this character, whose names escapes me, acts as the Shakespearean "fool" who contains all of the knowledge, who attempts to inform the Wheelers of the full impact of their decisions, and in fact, seems to be the only one that can understand them and their lives.

Non-plot wise, what I found interesting was the film's indictment/assessment/evaluation of American suburbia. I was able to do a minimal bit of research about the film and the book in which the film is based off of. The film seems to take on not only problems about life outside of the city, but also issues of gender, sanity, economics, sexuality, and parenthood. What does it mean to have children? What causes someone to fall out of love? How much danger is involved in having an abortion? Why do men's desires take precedence over women's in relationships? All interesting questions. All questions tackled with in the film.

Now, the little bit about the film that I truly want to talk about is the ending, which, of course, I know have to give a spoiler warning about. [So don't read on if you don't want to know what happens.] The "climax" of the film seems to be when April gives herself an abortion, post-12 weeks, which the film has repeatedly claimed is dangerous to do after 12 weeks. When April does give herself an abortion, she walks downstairs and stands in the open window way--what we see is Revolutionary Road, we see the street they live on, the world they inhabit. She stands there as if claiming, "Look at what you have done to me. Look what you made me do." As she remains there, the camera shows blood spots on her dress and a pool of blood forming below her. As the point, the viewer sort of realizes that things aren't going all that well. She runs to the phone, calls for thing, Frank is in the hospital telling his neighbor that she waited to long to get to the hospital. I think this is the crux of the film, and for me, something I really want to debate with people. Is she just giving herself an abortion because that is what she wants to do, or is she committing suicide? There are so many signs that suggest the latter. Perhaps that was the only way out of escaping suburbia.

For me the scene echoed a number of instances in Byatt's Babel Tower when Daniel gets calls at the hotline from mothers who abandoned their children, wandering about England and wondering if it was the right thing to do. They were so illusioned as to what life was supposed to be like, what women's roles where supposed to be. This film just made me think about this more and more. Is the only way to escape something is complete abandonment? But it also made me re-evaluate my own desires and my own wants/needs. This is a question that I have continually asked myself, again and again, and I am sure it is a question that I will continue to grapple with more and more in the coming years as I mature into adulthood.

Go out and see Revolutionary Road. Hopefully you will think it is a great film! And if you enjoy it, hopefully you also cried because of how sad it was.


star said...

i saw this movie on sunday and i had the same reaction as you. my friends looked at me funny bc i cried but it was SO sad. it really makes you think about a lot of things.
good review, you should definitely do this movie review thing monthly if not more often.

Laminated Fragments said...

Thanks for writing Star. I totally love going to the movies with you. We used to have so much fun going to Canal Place together. I think I also saw one of my favorite films with you, too. The House of Sand and Fog. That movie was just so good.

Courtney said...

I *just* saw the movie--I've been dying to read your post! (And now I have and now I can say something back.)

First, though, I missed the very beginning of the movie. But the arguing scene right before the title flashes was amazing. They probably had the best married fighting I've ever seen in a movie.

I thought her death was kind of predictable and the kind of ambiguous that is so en vogue--I liked it and I didn't like it. What I thought was amazing were the ending scenes. The neighbor woman (why is she crying? What does she know? Are they any better than the Wheelers (no)?) and the man turning his hearing aid off.

I think you ask a good question when you ask if the only way out is death. I kinda wish we could start asking different questions. As a piece of art, I'm frustrated that it couldn't ask some new questions. But, as a portrait of a slice of American life, I thought it was beautiful and powerful.

I thought the movie made a strong commentary on whiteness--I'm not sure if it did this intentionally, though.

I love the movie of the month--keep it up! (And I loved House of Sand and Fog, too!)

Laminated Fragments said...

In response to your comment Courtney, I would just say that the ending was good, too. I think that was a really big commentary on how society viewed their relationship and just how pivotal their relationship could have been since it effected everyone so much.

Also, I know I wrote you that email, but the end definitely reminded me of Bleu. The cutting back and forth to see how Julie has effected everyone was similiar to how this film showed how everyone was effected by the Wheelers.

Courtney said...

I had a new thought on the movie yesterday. I think my issue with it comes down to the fact that they are living out their personal fears, and the movie tries to make that fear a product of the suburbs. In reality, though, I think fear happens everywhere. And I think happiness can happy anywhere, even the 'burbs. (In theory, I guess!)