Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates’ 1961 novel, was adapted in 2008 for the screen in possibly one of the best and most faithful page-to-screen adaptations I have ever seen. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, Revolutionary Road takes place in 1950s America in the heart of suburbia. Frank and April Wheeler’s marriage has been slowly falling apart, even though they believed they were living the American Dream: two children (a boy and a girl), a lovely house, and a white picket fence. After an explosive fight on the side of the highway following April’s failed career as an actress, the Wheelers’ future seems dismal; however, the following day, April is reminded of their shared ambition to be “special” and to see the world together. Inspired to rectify their crumbling marriage, April suggests that Frank quit his unfulfilling job and that they move to Paris so she can support him while he figures out what he “really” wants to do with his life. However, an unexpected pregnancy puts a rift into their plans for a brighter, happier future.
No better pair of actors could have been selected to play Frank and April Wheeler than Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. I first was drawn to this story because of the film’s cast, as sort of a wish fulfillment following the demise of Jack and Rose’s romance in Titanic. Perhaps, director Sam Mendes purposely selected these two to intensify Yates’ comment on the American Dream: even the most hopeful of love stories does not have a happy ending. The only element of Yates’ novel that did not translate into the film adaptation was the walkway metaphor: April had asked her husband to construct a walkway in front of their house to add some “curb appeal” to their home; however, the longer Frank put off the home improvement project, the more obvious it became that there would be no viable escape from their imprisoned lives on Revolutionary Road. The walkway metaphor also served to foreshadow Frank’s decisions that ultimately derail their plans for a more fulfilling future. Although the film is beautifully poignant without the metaphor, aided by the impeccable portrayals of the Wheelers, the English major in me was slightly disappointed by its absence. Other than this omission, no major absences or deviations in plot or themes appear in this film. The only difference I see in storytelling between the novel and the film is the slight shift in focus from Frank to April, for the novel provided a more detailed treatment of Frank’s disquietude. Mendes’ choices, while likely due to the fact that he was married to Winslet at the time of production, strengthened the film’s emotional impact, for April’s story inspires the crisis as well as the denouement of both the film and the book.
This film definitely appeals to those interested in 1950s American studies, feminism, as well as the notorious American Dream. It is also a great choice if you’re in the mood for a good, cathartic cry.
this post was written by Kristen Roedel.