Well, I’ve now seen REVOLUTIONARY ROAD and am continuing to inch closer to ridding myself of filmic illiteracy.
I wouldn’t recommend that you see it. It’s a highly unentertaining movie portraying less than admirable characters. It’s a display of over-acting intensity, and director Mendes comes off as a rather deranged control freak.
Still, it may have some redeeming features. It seems to me it’s not about the hopeless emptiness of suburban life in the comformist fifites. It doesn’t show the suburbs driving people insane, but an insane person living in the suburbs. It’s about the vanity of thinking yourself more "interesting" than the people around you. In a way, it’s about the hopeless emptiness of the word "interesting." Insanity is nicely displayed as the inability to be a relational being, an inability to find meaning in personal love. Sanity is displayed in terms of abandoning one’s interesting pretensions for a life more in accord with your personal responsibilities and natural paygrde. The movie also seems to have a sort of pro-life message: There’s something unnaturally self-destructive about a woman who wants to kill a baby to achieve personal liberation.
The suburbs themselves are treated ambivalently. It’s sometimes clear enough that they can be a blessing for good family people, and they aren’t that ugly or devastating to nature. People in the suburbs are shown dancing at a cool nightclub wth a great band. Smoking and martinis are displayed frequently in the manner of MAD MEN. But they don’t always seem altogether evil, but at least sometimes real and fairly harmless pleasures. The living room of the home of the main characters is made to seem very tacky and quite claustrophobic. That might be more evidence still that they’re less interesting than they think, or it might be a shot at the fifties’ smallness of suburban houses. Or it might be a shot at "interesting" people yesterday and today who view ordinary nice houses as claustrophic.
This reminds me of the beautiful post by our Kate on the experience of raising six kids in a small, three-bedroom house. Maybe a part of our crisis today is putting too great a premium on "the right to privacy" achieved by lots of square footage.