Revolutionary Road Kicks the American Dream to the Curb
- Friday, December 26, 2008
The only person to embrace the clear wisdom of their choice is—I kid you not—the one character who’s certifiably insane. That he’s also the film’s Moral Conscience would be laughable if it weren’t so insulting. While the neighbors hold disdain for the Wheeler’s plans, this man—John—is “crazy” enough to see clearly the wisdom of their drastic move and the “lunacy” of a typical family life. He’s not crazy; everyone else is! Responsibility is just a code word for “hiding,” but it takes true backbone to do whatever it is you feel like doing. John defines Suburban life as hopeless emptiness, saying that while most realize it’s empty it takes real courage to accept that it’s hopeless. That is the film’s philosophy in a nutshell, laid bare and unequivocal as we’re beat over the head with it again and again. You can cut the narcissism with a knife.
Of course two big wrenches get thrown into the Wheeler’s plans—namely a big promotion for Frank and an unexpected pregnancy for April. Both are viewed as evil temptations rather than the blessed options they truly are, and these curveballs send the final act into a melodramatic spiral that pits April (who knows they must escape at all costs!) against Frank (whose anger over April’s demand to still leave is played as cold Patriarchal Oppression). When John learns Frank has backtracked, he asks “You know who I feel sorry for the most?” and then points to April’s pregnant womb, “That child!” Oh yes, what a horrible world their unborn kid will be forced to enter! Clearly April’s inclination to abort is the only compassionate option.
The dramatic coup de grâce occurs the morning after Frank puts his foot down about staying. April goes from impassioned defender of bucking responsibility to, overnight, a veritable Stepford wife. Not only does this drastic shift telegraph the course of the film (complete with an eye-rolling symbol of a blood-stained carpet!), but it’s also the capper for the most embarrassing screen performance of one of the world’s best film actresses. DiCaprio fares no better than Winslet; kudos for investing himself so deeply, but man, all of his ranting and raving is too big for the stage let alone the screen.
Put simply, Revolutionary Road is the antithesis of It’s a Wonderful Life. Its worldview sees George Bailey as a failure. Its version of Capra’s classic would not include Clarence (and would thus end tragically at the bridge). Granted, does anyone ever get an actual Angel in their lives to spell it all out for them? Technically, no. But Clarence was merely a narrative cipher for the life-affirming values so authentically revealed through God’s Word, a relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit's guidance and community of saints. And that's what’s missing in the bleak solipsism of Revolutionary Road.
- Drugs/Alcohol: Alcohol is consumed. People are inebriated. Occasional cigarette smoking.
- Language/Profanity: A liberal but not excessive use of most profanities, including the “F” word and the Lord’s name taken in vain.
- Sex/Nudity: Intercourse between the married spouses occurs in the kitchen spontaneously; the full act is depicted but without nudity. Moments of infidelity by both spouses. The husband’s occurs off-camera. The wife’s occurs in the front seat of a car; the whole sexual act is depicted from beginning to end in one shot, but without nudity.
- Violence/Other: Many intense verbal/emotional fights, but no physical altercations. An off-camera act of self-inflicted violence is strongly suggested, then confirmed by the person bleeding underneath clothing and creating a small blood-pool on the living room carpet.
Jeffrey Huston is a film director, writer and producer at Steelehouse Productions in Tulsa, Okla. He is also cohost of the "Steelehouse Podcast,” along with Steelehouse Executive Creative Mark Steele, where each week they discuss God in pop culture.
To listen to the weekly podcast, please visit www.steelehouse.com or click here. You can also subscribe to the "Steelehouse Podcast” through iTunes.
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