Three words will reverberate around your cluttered conscience upon viewing REVOLUTIONARY ROAD; hopeless, emptiness and interesting. The later is the fake label placed upon suburban life in 50’s America to conceal the reality of the formers; a spoken charade – a lie which all live in, but none are willing to confront. The film’s (purposely) mundane social events are hyped as ‘interesting’ by these characters; Frank’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) explanation of how to market a new computer being the final ‘interesting’ point of Apirl’s (Kate Winslet) insanity. Even un-extraordinary characters are described as ‘interesting’ when they are in fact scared, indecisive, pathetic men. April declares to Frank that he is the most ‘interesting’ man she has ever met. How can this be? He is nothing but a fast talking waiter at this stage in their relationship. Hardly anything about Frank is beyond average, yet April here declares him as everything but.
The cause lies deep in the ideal 1950’s social consciousness. Behind the gritted teeth and fake civility is an immense dissatisfaction for a lifestyle built upon material possessions and the empty relationships of those who hurriedly married before setting off to war, only to survive and return to a bed that hardly knew them.
Problems are suppressed. Realities are glossed over. The only character in the entire film who consistently confronts and deals with the falseness of being (the Oscar nominated, and superb Michael Shannon) is one committed to a mental asylum. Others allow their discontent to manifest itself in their sex lives – the two acts depicted on screen never lasting more than 10 seconds. If the men are confined and limited by the suburban climate, then the women are shackled down and forced to smile. They only exist to serve men, and it drives each one to their own, personal form of insanity.
The hopeless emptiness is embedded into every aspect of the film’s emotionally climatic scene (also its logical end point, Mendes opting to continue the film for a further 20 patronising minutes), the morning after Frank and April’s most intense clash. Breakfast with the Wheelers has both knowingly ignore the previous night’s events, carrying on as normal, scrambled instead of fried eggs, orange juice et al. The verging tears on Frank’s eyes are the rawest personifications of Revolutionary Road’s pent up emotions to this point. REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is not a melodrama, a thriller or a realist work; it is a horror film, a cautionary tale to all those who accept the parameters which adult society forces upon them.