Revolutionary Road (2008)

Rated: R for language and some sexual content/nudity.
Length: 119 minutes
Grade: DFFD=D
Budget: $35 million
Box Office: $75 million (23 U.S., 52 Intl.)

Written by: Justin Haythe (The Clearing) and Richard Yates (The Bridge at Remagen-1969)
Directed by: Sam Mendes (Jarhead, Road to Perdition, American Beauty)
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslett, and Kathy Bates.

A disenchanted middle class salesman who hates suburbia struggles to keep his marriage together even as his frustrated wife offers to take them to Paris to finally try to do something great rather than waste his life away as a mid-level marketing paper-pusher.

Entertainment Value: D
This is a disastrously disappointing reunion of the Titanic stars. Here’s just about everything you need to know about this movie: It was made by the same guy who did American Beauty. Meaning? If you hate ordinary American life, you’ll probably love this. On the other hand, if you are an ordinary American and don’t understand why Hollywood has contempt for you, this movie and the view of your life it holds up might well help you understand. I wanted to quit watching this at 5 minutes, 45 minutes, and 105 minutes. Oh, why didn’t I. “Listen to your instincts, Andrew. Listen to them!” This was written in 1961, and it shows. So the real question is why make a movie that might have been relevant in 1961 in 2009?

Superficial Content: F
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sex/Nudity D, Violence D, Language F, Illegality D
There are two adultery scenes. A woman performs an abortion on herself, bleeds, and must go to the hospital. Drinking is constant, there is smoking. Profanity is very heavy.

Significant Content: F
Life in the suburbs is awful. Don’t settle in life, or you’ll regret it forever. Everybody wants to believe that they are special, but they aren’t. If you refuse social graces and tell the truth too well, society will define you as insane. Polite society is a sham. Everybody has affairs. Be careful who you share your dreams or your unorthodox ideas with. Ordinary people will despise you for daring to show them that they are merely ordinary.

Artistic/Thought Value: D
In one of my favorite new shows “Better Off Ted,” one character samples some synthetic beef and is asked what it tastes like. “Despair,” he answers. If the goal of this movie is to make us feel the despair of losing a dream die and the “hopeless emptiness” of suburban life, then it’s successful in that goal. But I don’t rally savor the taste of despair, personally. Still, it is interesting that this movie directly mocks the idea that it’s a man’s duty to provide for his family and endorses him “finding himself” while his wife works. What’s interesting is that this perfectly describes so many of the relationships we see in America today where the 28 year old woman is supporting her boyfriend of 7 years while he “finds himself.”

Discussion Questions:
~We are told that John Givings is mentally unhealthy. Based on what you see, what seems to be his mental problem? Is the inability to play social games, be polite and avoid honest insights a mark of insanity? Would you want him as your friend? Do you think John is the author’s voice? If so, what is he saying about himself and his place in society?
~What do you make of the fact that the kids seem to never be present in this movie? Is this an intentional omission? Does it indicate that the writers/makers truly have no idea what a family looks like?
~What point do you think this movie is supposed to have?
~What does the title of the movie mean?
~What does it mean to be a man? When April says that going to Paris will allow Frank to be the glorious thing he was meant to be: a man, what does she mean?
~One of the big themes of this movie is the idea that settling for a safe life is a form of suicide. To what degree is the willingness to be practical a mark of maturity and to what degree a mark of self-harm? How should we decide whether to pursue our dreams or be practical in our professional efforts?
~Given the consequences of each incident of adultery, would you say this movie is promoting or discouraging adultery?
~What do you think would have happened if they had managed to go to Paris?
~Why does Frank resent his father so badly?
~To what degree does the disillusionment the Wheelers are experiencing in their lives come from their own inflated self-image, from a realistic assessment of their squandered potential, or from having been told they can be anything they want to be in life?
~Do wives have a legitimate interest in helping husbands find and do something meaningful with their lives?
Overall Grade: D
Here’s a little dittie about Frankie and April, two American kids growing up in the heartland. Frankie wants to do something big with his life. April can’t endure just being a wife. Oh, yeah, this movie went o-on, long after the thrill of watching was go-one. Oh, yeah, this movie went o-on, I can’t believe I didn’t choose to walk on.

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