In my continued quest to watch movies involving the suburbs, I recent saw Revolutionary Road (although I have not read the 1961 book on which the film is based). Here are some thoughts I had after watching the film:
1. The main thrust of the movie is that the couple is unsatisfied in the suburbs. This is not an unusual plot for books/movies/critiques of the suburbs. But I wonder after watching the film whether this couple would be truly satisfied anywhere or doing anything.
2. There are two complicating factors in the story. One, the couple decides to move to Paris in order to escape the suburban doldrums and two, while in Paris, the wife will work and support the husband who will have time to think and relax. These ideas, the glamor of Paris plus the reversal of 1950s gender roles, seem to dog the couple throughout the rest of the film as they are unable to to achieve these goals.
3. I was struck that the lives of the children in the film are quite tangential to the plot. The story suggests the adult couple is stifled in the suburbs but we don’t get much insight into how this affects the children. Or, perhaps this is suggesting that the children don’t matter very much or that if the couple is unhappy, the children are bound to be in for a difficult time as well.
4. Like some others stories in this genre, this film features a mentally ill man who is the only one able to see through the suburban facade. The irony, of course, is that the man who society says is unfit is the only one able to voice the issues that the couple faces. The implication is that those in suburbia are actually the mentally ill.
5. The husband works for a firm that suggests computers are the future. I wish some of this contrast between this machine-driven future and the dull suburban life was developed further: do computers provide hope or another nail in the consumerist, family-oriented suburbs?
Overall, I didn’t find the film particularly noteworthy as you can find a very similar story in a number of other places. The contrast between the suburbs and Paris and the suburban lifestyle versus a life where the wife supports the family could be truly revolutionary but it ends up more of a fleeting, unattainable dream than anything else.
(This film got good reviews from critics: it was 68% percent fresh, 135 fresh out of 198 total reviews, at Rottentomatoes.com.)