Saturday, January 10, 2009

revolutionary road

Since my friend David left for Houston, I'd gotten out of the habit of sneaking off to opening day matinees. Probably a good idea, actually, because Friday is, after all, a WORK day. Well, with the opening of Mendes' version of Revolutionary Road, one of my all time favorite novels, I clocked myself out at lunch time and zoomed off to the downtown theater.

The opening scene was lovely. DiCaprio and Winslet finding each other in a crowded room and connecting deeply, immediately. Perhaps that was the best scene in the film. From there, the movie roared through passionate bursts of emotion and passivity in turn, as the actors wrinkled their foreheads, chain-smoked, drank and generally behaved badly for what was, to me, completely undeveloped and clichéd reasons. Thing was, when Yates wrote the novel in 1961 (the year of my birth btw), questioning the normative world was outré, not cliché. Yates, who suffered from depression and alcoholism, wrote first hand of abject discontent and illusive dreams. DiCaprio, though pretty and functional on the screen, really didn't embody Frank Wheeler the way I'd envisioned the character. And Winslet may have overplayed April, who as I recall, was a bit mousier in the novel.

As I sat there watching the arc play out, I grew anxious. I felt like smoking and sipping a martini and expressing my own angst—which is not where I want to be with my art. Not by a long shot. In the end, I left the theater before the final scene—something I never do. I could guess at the ending having read the book and all, and just talked myself out of enduring it just because I'd paid the $8+ (when did matinees lurch into near double-digits?), and I strode through the clearing, very cool air of January, wishing I could recapture that hour and twenty minutes.

David, when and if the film gets to Houston, give it a look-see and tell me what you think.


  1. I think I'm going to pass on this one, despite my admiration of Mendes and Winslet. I would hate to see and hear the novel's prose stripped of nuance. My question for the movie is: does it get at the characters' SELF-hatred, and not just their hatred for their circumstances and each other? Another question: does the movie give us the childrens' eye-view that so tellingly punctuates episodes in the novel?

  2. No on both queries. Although DiCaprio offers hints of self-loathing, it's undermined by the Hollywood trope of reacting to the plot points instead of being fueled by a building internal rage. And Winslet, one of my very favorite actors, chooses to see April as a somewhat culpable tragic figure, alternating between tamped-down combustibility and firing-squad outbursts--which is something she has the chops to pull off quite neatly, but does not, imho, serve the character. The kids are background props, easily dispensed with when necessary.


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