Revolutionary Road

60. Revolutionary Road (2008) [Rated R for language and some sexual content/nudity.]

summary from imdb.com:

A young couple living in a Connecticut suburb during the mid-1950s struggle to come to terms with their personal problems while trying to raise their two children. Based on a novel by Richard Yates.

directed by: Sam Mendes

starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, Michael Shannon, Dylan Baker, Max Casella

Conservo-Libertarian Reviews:
Jack Cashill
Mike Long at Big Hollywood
John Nolte at Big Hollywood
Christian Toto
Thomas S. Hibbs
Sonny Bunch
movieguide.org Christian reviews

A Trailer

Abortion/Life Content:

Leonardo DiCaprio: All right, April. What’s the matter?

Kate Winslet: Nothing.

Leo: I don’t believe you. Did something happen this morning?

Kate: Nothing happened today that I haven’t known about for days and days.

Leo: What?

Kate: Oh, G##, Frank, please don’t look so dense. You mean you haven’t guessed or anything?

Leo: April, what are you talking about?

Kate: I’m pregnant, that’s all.

Leo: What?

Kate: Frank, I meant to wait till the kids were in bed to tell you, but I just… Well, I’ve been pretty sure all week and today I went to the doctor, and now I can’t even pretend it’s not true.

Leo: How long?

Kate: Ten weeks.

Leo: Ten weeks. Ten weeks? And you wait until now to tell me?

Kate: I thought… I don’t know what I thought. I’m sorry, Frank. I’m so sorry.

Leo: I know. I know you are. All right?

Kate: There are things we can do. We don’t have to let this stop us from going, do we? Remember that girl at school I told you about? As long as we take care of it before 12 weeks, it’s fine. We’ve got to be together in this, Frank.

Leo: Well, we’ll figure it out. All right? Come here. Twelve weeks. So we have time to decide, right?

Kate: Right. I love you.

Leo: I love you, too.

Leonardo DiCaprio [finds Kate’s DIY abortion equipment in a paper bag]: What the hell are you going to do with this?

Kate winslet: And what do you think you’re going to do? You’re going to stop me?

Leo: You’re damn right I am!

Kate: Go ahead and try.

Leo: Listen to me. You do this, April, you do this and I swear to ### I’ll…

Kate: You’ll what? You’ll leave me? Is that a threat or a promise?

Leo: When did you buy this, April? How long have you had this? I want to know!

Kate: ##### ######. You really are being melodramatic about this whole thing. As long as it’s done in the first 12 weeks, it’s perfectly safe.

Leo: That’s now, April! Don’t I get a say?

Kate: Of course you do! It would be for you, Frank. Don’t you see? So you can have time, just like we talked about.

Leo: How can it be for me when the thought of it makes my stomach turn over, for ###’s sake?

Kate: Then it’s for me. Tell me we can have the baby in Paris, Frank. Tell me we can have a different life. But don’t make me stay here. Please.

Leo: We can’t have the baby in Paris.

Kate: Why not? I don’t need everything we have here. I don’t care where we live. I mean, who made these rules, anyway? Look, the only reason we moved out here was because I got pregnant. Then we had another child to prove the first one wasn’t a mistake. I mean, how long does it go on? Frank. Do you actually want another child? Well, do you? Come on, tell me. Tell me the truth, Frank. Remember that? We used to live by it. And you know what’s so good about the truth? Everyone knows what it is, however long they’ve lived without it. No one forgets the truth, Frank. They just get better at lying. So tell me, do you really want another child?

Leo: All I know is what I feel. And anyone else in their right mind would feel the same way, April.

Kate: But I’ve had two children. Doesn’t that count in my favor?

Leo: ######, April! The fact that you even put it that way! You make it seem as if having children is some sort of a ####### punishment.

Kate: I love my children, Frank.

Leo: And you’re sure about that, huh?

Kate: What the hell is that supposed to mean?

Leo: April, you just said our daughter was a mistake. How do I know you didn’t try to get rid of her, or Michael for that matter?

Kate: No.

Leo: How do I know you didn’t try to flush our entire ####ing family down the toilet?

Kate: No, that’s not true. Of course I didn’t.

Leo: But how do I know, April?

Kate: Stop. Please just stop, Frank.

Leo: April, a normal woman, a normal sane mother doesn’t buy a piece of rubber tubing to give herself an abortion so she can live out some kind of a ####### fantasy. Look, all I’m saying is you don’t seem entirely rational about this thing. And I think it’s about time we found somebody to help make some sense of your life.

Kate: And the new job’s going to pay for that, too?

Leo: April, if you need a shrink, it will be paid for. Obviously.

Kate: Okay. I guess there isn’t much more to say then, is there? So I guess Paris was a pretty childish idea, huh?

Leo: I guess maybe it was. April, we can be happy here. I can make you happy here. We’ve had a great couple of months. It doesn’t need to end. We’re going to be okay. I promise.

Kate: I hope so, Frank. I really hope so.

[scene change]

Chandler Vinton: Thank you for waiting. Mr Pollock will see you now.

Leo: Thanks so much.

Dylan Baker, Max Casella, Max Baker: Foiled by faulty contraception. I can’t say that I’m sorry. You’d have been sorely missed in the old cubicle, I can tell you that. Wouldn’t have been the same without you.

Leonardo DiCaprio: Look, my point is we’ve both been under a strain and we ought to be helping each other out as much as we can right now. I mean, ### knows my own behavior has been pretty weird lately. As a matter of fact, there is something I’d like to tell you about. I’ve been with a girl a few times, in the city. A girl I hardly even know. It was nothing to me, but it’s over now, really over. And if I weren’t sure of that, I guess I could never have told you about it.

Kate Winslet: Why did you?

Leo: Baby, I don’t know. I think it’s a simple case of wanting to be a man again after all that abortion business. Some kind of neurotic, irrational need to prove something.

Kate Winslet: I’m sorry dinner’s late. Would anyone like another drink?

Kathy Bates: Don’t worry. It’s nice to just sit a bit and socialize. You shouldn’t have gone to all this trouble. With all your packing and whatnot. I imagine you have a lot on your plate. No pun intended.

Leonardo DiCaprio: Actually, there’s been a change of plans. I thought maybe it was obvious. April here is pregnant.

Richard Easton: Congratulations!

Kathy: Oh, April! I can’t tell you how pleased I am! But I expect you’ll be needing a bigger house now, won’t you?

Michael Shannon: Hold it a second, Ma. Hold on a second, Ma. I don’t get this. I mean, what’s so obvious about it? I mean, okay, she’s pregnant, so what? Don’t people have babies in Europe?

Kathy: John…

Leo: Suppose we just say that people anywhere aren’t very well advised to have babies unless they can afford them.

Michael: Okay. Okay, it’s a question of money. Money’s a good reason. But it’s hardly ever the real reason. What’s the real reason? Wife talk you out of it or what? Little woman decide she isn’t quite ready to quit playing house? No, no, that’s not it. I can tell. She looks too tough and adequate as hell. Okay, then. It must’ve been you. What happened?

Kathy: John, please. You’re being very rude.

Michael: No, no. What happened, Frank? You get cold feet? You decide you’re better off here after all? You figure it’s more comfy here in the old hopeless emptiness after all, huh? Oh, wow, that did it. Look at his face. What’s the matter, Wheeler? Am I getting warm?

Richard: All right, Son. I think we’d better be…

Michael: You know something? I wouldn’t be surprised if he knocked her up on purpose just so he could spend the rest of his life hiding behind a maternity dress. That way he’d never have to find out what he’s really made of.

Leo: Now look, I think that’s just about enough out of you. I mean, who the hell do you think you are? You come in here and say whatever crazy ####### thing comes into your head, and I think it’s about time somebody told you to keep your ####### mouth shut.

Kathy: He’s not well, Frank.

Leo: Not well, my a##! I don’t give a damn if he’s sick or well or dead or alive, he should keep his ####ing opinions in the ####ing insane asylum where they belong!

Richard: Let’s go, Son.

Kathy: Come on, John.

Michael: Big man you got there, April. Big family man. I feel sorry for you. Still, maybe you deserve each other. I mean, the way you look right now, I’m beginning to feel sorry for him, too. You must give him a pretty bad time if making babies is the only way he can prove he’s got a pair of ####s.

Leo: You ####ing…

Kathy: No! He’s not well, Frank!

Richard: All right, John. Let’s get on out to the car now.

Kathy: April, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.

Michael: Oh, right. Sorry. Sorry! Sorry! Ma, have I said “I’m sorry” enough times? Damn! I am sorry, too. I bet I’m just about the sorriest bastard I know. But get right down to it, I don’t have a whole hell of a lot to be glad about. Do I? But, hey, you know what? I am glad about one thing. You want to know what I’m glad about? I’m glad I’m not gonna be that kid.

Leo: Okay, okay, don’t tell me. Don’t tell me, let me guess. I made a disgusting spectacle of myself, right?

Kate: Right.

Leo: And everything that man said is true, right? Is that what you’re going to say?

Kate: Apparently I don’t have to. You’re saying it for me.

Leo: Well, you’re wrong, April.

Kate: Really? Why am I wrong?

Leo: Because the man is insane. He’s ####ing insane! Do you know what the definition of insanity is?

Kate: No. Do you?

Leo: Yes, it’s the inability to relate to another human being. It’s the inability to love. April. April. April! April!

Kate: The inability… The inability to love. Frank. You really are a wonderful talker. If black could be made into white by talking, you’d be the man for the job. So now I’m crazy because I don’t love you. Right? Is that the point?

Leo: No! Wrong! You’re not crazy and you do love me. That’s the point, April.

Kate: But I don’t. I hate you. You were just some boy who made me laugh at a party once and now I loathe the sight of you. In fact, if you come any closer, if you touch me or anything, I think I’ll scream.

Leo: Come on. Stop this, April.

Kate: [screams]

Leo: #### you, April! #### you and all your hateful, snotty little…

Kate: What’re you going to do now? Are you going to hit me? To show me how much you love me?

Leo: Don’t worry, I can’t be bothered! You’re not worth the trouble it would take to hit you. You’re not worth the powder it would take to blow you up. You are an empty, empty, hollow shell of a woman! What the hell are you doing in my house if you hate me so much? Why the hell are you married to me? What the hell are you doing carrying my child? I mean, why didn’t you just get rid of it when you had the chance? Because listen to me. Listen to me, I got news for you. I wish to ### that you had.

[Kate Winslet gives herself an abortion and then notices herself bleeding and calls for an ambulance]

Kate Winslet on phone: I think I need help. 115 Revolutionary Road.

[scene change to hospital]

David Harbour: Frank. They tell you what happened?

Leonardo DiCaprio: ##### ######, Shep, I didn’t understand half the things he told me. He said the fetus was out before they got her here. And they had to operate to take out the, what do you call it, the placenta? And now she’s still bleeding. He said that she’d lost a lot of blood before the ambulance came, and now they’re trying to stop it. He said a whole lot of things I didn’t understand about capillaries… He said that she’s unconscious. #####.

David: Okay, Frank, why don’t you just take a seat?

Leo: What the hell do I want to sit down for, for ###’s sake?

David: Okay, Frank. Just take it easy. Take it easy. Frank, have a cigarette.

Leo: She did it to herself, Shep. She did it to herself.

David: Let me get you some coffee.

[Kate dies]

Kristen Connolly: Have you seen him since?

Kathryn Hahn: No. Not back here. There are too many memories, I think. Shep has seen him in the city. Haven’t you, sweetie? Frank is just devoted to those kids. Every spare moment he has, he spends with them. Excuse me. You all right?

David Harbour: I don’t want to talk about the Wheelers any more.

===============================

from Inside the Gold:

Their happiness really starts to unravel when April reveals she is ten weeks pregnant with their third child. It’s a pregnancy she sees as an inconvenience; it’s not a child she truly wants, and the timing is terrible. April knows that having this baby will keep them stuck on Revolutionary Road. She expresses her desire to Frank to have an abortion, because it is safe to do until week twelve, but Frank is not on board.

The rest of the film really explores their very different feelings on this pregnancy (although Frank is able to use the pregnancy, rather than his raised status at work, as a reason to stay in Connecticut), and I would hate to give everything else away.

parts from a Revolutionary Road press conference interview with the cast

Kate, was your character a heroic figure? Leo, your character is such a tragic figure. Do you think he ever recovers? Do you think the ’50s were as much a character in this film?

WINSLET: I feel that April is a heroine. I didn’t feel she was a coward, neither did I feel she was suicidal, and I certainly didn’t think she was bipolar. But I do believe that this was a woman that was taken to an emotional brink in her pursuit of happiness, and I think it literally sent her mad, I really do. And in giving herself an abortion, I don’t think that she was intending to kill herself, but she knew that it was a very big risk, and there’s something incredibly courageous and stoic about that. And it’s a fine line, you know? It’s very difficult to translate those two things simultaneously. […]

Could you talk about the plight of oppressed women in the days of Revolutionary Road? […]

[Kathy BATES]: Thank you, Kate. I guess my response would be a rather personal one, but I’ll share it with you. My mother was born in 1907, and my father was born in 1900, and I came to them very late in life – I was an unplanned pregnancy. My mother was 41 when she had me, and I think she came very close to making the same decision that April makes in the film, but then changed her mind, and I’ve been haunted by that all my life. I remember another moment when she was 76, sitting on the sofa after an argument with my father saying, “When do I get my turn?” To me, that’s what this film is about: when do you get your turn to live your dream? When do you give up that sense of duty and sense of obligation that you’ve been trained for, and when do you get to be the lawyer that you’ve always wanted to be? Instead, my mother poured everything into me, and I wish still that she could be here to share in some of the experiences that I’m having now, because I feel that in some strange way my coming along cheated her out of the life that she could have had. It’s getting kind of personal I guess, but it’s all to do with the book, and with the choices that we make, and the roads that we take and the ones that we don’t take.

a comment from REMant at Charlie Rose’s website:

Here’s what Yates said about his novel in a 1972 interview: “I think I meant it more as an indictment of American life in the nineteen-fifties. Because during the Fifties there was a general lust for conformity all over this country, by no means only in the suburbs – a kind of blind, desperate clinging to safety and security at any price, as exemplified politically in the Eisenhower administration and the Joe McCarthy witch-hunts. Anyway, a great many Americans were deeply disturbed by all that – felt it to be an outright betrayal of our best and bravest revolutionary spirit – and that was the spirit I tried to embody in the character of April Wheeler. I meant the title to suggest that the revolutionary road of 1776 had come to something very much like a dead end in the Fifties….I remember when I was first working on it and feeling my way into it, somebody at a party asked me what I was writing a novel about, and I said I thought I was writing a novel about abortion. And the guy said what do you mean by that? And I said, it’s going to be built on a series of abortions, of all kinds – an aborted play, several aborted careers, any number of aborted ambitions and aborted plans and aborted dreams – all leading up to a real, physical abortion, and a death at the end. And maybe that’s about as close to a real summation of the book as I’ve ever come.”

part of an interview with writer Justin Haythe from The Reel Debate:

The Reel Debate (TRD): First, what attracted you to the novel (Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates)?

Justin Haythe (JH): I’d read the novel with a novelist’s hat on first. Then I was approached by the BBC for an adaptation, and it is a very filmic book in certain ways. So I felt that it could be done justice because it is a great literary novel which rarely makes a great movie, but I felt there was something cinematic and dramatic about it, inherently. There was a kind of mystery posed as to, I mean, literally in the novel the two people are by the side of the road screaming at each other about which one of them is trapped in the marriage, and the film is posing the question: which one is it that is trapped? I had a couple stipulations, I just wanted to make sure they were going to do the abortion and they were going to drink and smoke as much as they do in the book. It’s a pretty unlikely piece of business in Hollywood. They don’t usually crack into books that are that heavy, that dark. So I leapt at the opportunity. […]

TRD: When I saw Revolutionary Road for the first time I saw it with someone who described the actions of Frank and April Wheeler (the characters played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) as being born out of desperation, whereas I saw them born out of anger….

JH: I mean there can be angry desperation or there can be quiet desperation, but Yates described them as living lives of quiet desperation, which is amazing considering how much they yell and scream at each other. You know, Yates described himself as an anti-feminist and the book, I think, has risen with time and it has become, in many ways, prophetic. But at the time he was, like it or not, characterizing some of the constraints on a woman. Were abortions legal she would not have died. The options to a housewife are a little more limited, but on the other hand there are a wider set of constraints on both characters that I think are still as relevant today as they were in 1955.

TRD: Can you speak to some of those constraints?

JH: Well I think when you get to my age, a lot of women friends I have begin to feel the pressure to have a baby, and I think that pressure and the musical chairs of it haven’t disappeared. I think that the pressure associated with the sense of what a woman is if she isn’t a mother and a wife is still very prevalent. I think what Revolutionary Road is concerned with to a wider degree, and the reason I thought it was worth telling again and what I think is so unique about the book, is that its about people who had an idea about how their lives would turn out and their lives are not tragic but they just haven’t lived up to what they hoped their lives would be. I mean, there’s a question about the book and about the film, and I hope we haven’t really answered it; is it a story about a man growing up and coming to terms with who he is, or is it about a man selling out his better self? I have my ideas about which I think it is, but the world is full of Frank Wheelers who tell themselves that if weren’t for this constraint or that constraint they would be off doing something more interesting. I think that they’re quite happy in their wasted potential, perhaps.

“I’m pretty sure the world does not need more movies about bored suburbanites.” from Kills Me Dead:

3. I really hope to never see another DIY abortion in a movie. Sure, it was tastefully done (for lack of a better way of describing it) but… once is enough.

4. Speaking of which, how obvious was it that April would end up killing herself and, more importantly, how she would do it? When she pulled out the Rubber Tube of Spontaneous Home Abortion after it had been made explicitly clear that she had passed the cut off date for getting an actual medically sound abortion, people in the audience actually gasped in surprise. Come on, people.

5. I find it odd that April whines profusely about being trapped in the role of suburban wife and mother and yet we rarely see her with her children. I know Frank eventually accuses her of not loving her children, having referred to them as a mistake and a cover-up, and so perhaps she’s supposed to be distant but if that’s the case, emotional distance would have sufficed. Having the kids shipped off to the baby sitter’s every ten minutes kind of removes about 50% of April’s issues with living in Connecticut.

from Broadsnark the Atheistic Anarchist:

What is interesting about how the movie handles the abortion issue is that it does not explicitly talk about the illegality of it (although it is implied), nor does it talk about religion. The movie directly confronts only the idea that a woman who would want an abortion (or simply wouldn’t want a child) is damaged, selfish, unloving, hateful, difficult, unmotherly, evil…

a comment from FLTom at the Charlie Rose site:

What the suits said to Leo and Kate before they embarked on the publicity tour for Revolutionary Road:

“Shhhh….whatever you do, don’t mention the central role a botched abortion plays in the film!”

The “A” word must never be mentioned. It’s long been the kiss of box office death, and that tradition will continue for this film once word of mouth spreads and people learn what the film is really about.

Mendes chose dishonest subject matter about the middle class for American Beauty, and he’s chosen a dishonest work about the middle class and abortion here. He’s only happy when he’s lying about his “inferiors,” a common condition among the cultural elite, and a very real indication of the decline of western culture.

“Feminism & Revolutionary Road”: another leftist post from HuffPo by Melissa Silverstein:

Revolutionary Road is a tough movie for a woman who grew up after the women’s movement of the 1970s to watch, but after watching it a couple of times I actually think that it should be required watching for all young women who think that feminism is irrelevant. (Disclaimer, I am a consultant to the studio and organized a blogger screening for the film.)

The film tells the story of April and Frank Wheeler living the post World War Two “American dream” that morphs into the American nightmare. It is the era described in the Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan the book that articulated for women the “problem with no name” which Kate Winslet read while preparing for her role as April. She stated in an interview: “It was the era of prescription medication, you know, and women really starting to believe …Maybe I’m crazy, because I don’t want this life, I think there’s something wrong with me.'” (The Guardian)

April and Frank were was supposed to be different. But they weren’t. They were exactly the same as everyone on their boring suburban street and that’s what was driving them both crazy. But the thing is that Frank had options and choices and given the fact that it is 1955, April did not. Frank went into the city everyday on the train with lots of other men to their boring jobs and April was stuck at home.

She had no choices, no options.

A scene that really shows April’s suffocation is when she takes out the garbage cans and positions them perfectly on the curb. She then looks up and sees all the other garbage cans perfectly positioned on the curbs up and down the street. Her face at seeing all the cans, the disbelief that this has become her life is palpable. Juxtapose that with the scene of Frank standing on the train smoking and breathing in the fresh air and the suburbs fly by. He’s free, she’s in a box.

April wants out and does her best to get herself and her family out but Frank, who can’t perceive the depths of her unhappiness because each day he escapes to his office and his lunches with the guys and his affair with a young woman who works in the office, is not in the same place. When April finds out she is pregnant for the third time it sends her over the edge. She knows that if she has another baby she is never, ever, getting out and she can’t bear it. Women took abortion decisions into their hands in the days before it became legal, and April performs a DIY abortion which leads to devastating consequences.

Winslet shows that she is the greatest actress of her generation in her portrayal of April Wheeler. She is able to raise Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance to another level and he should be thanking her for all his glowing notices. April is a real feminist hero as the film’s director Sam Mendes (and Winslet’s husband) said in an interview about the film. “She’s the only person in the movie that is big enough to face the truth. You know well this is not a movie about a woman who wants to go to Paris. It’s a movie about a woman who wants her life back and can still remember the dreams she once had and is finally wakening up, which a lot of people do in their 30s and 40s, who go, ‘How did I get here? This is not what I wanted.” (LA Times)

Revolutionary Road shows what life was like for women before feminism. It’s an important history lesson from the not too distant past. Watch it and read The Feminine Mystique and be thankful that there was a feminist movement or who knows what life would be like now.

part of “Revolutionary Road glamorizes abortion” by Loredana Vuoto:

Years of married life and children soon proves to be the death knell for true living. In order to escape the monotony and conformity of life, April concocts a plan to move to Paris where Frank can “find himself” and where she can support him and the family by working as a high-paying secretary for the government. But their plans are thwarted by April’s unexpected pregnancy. Frank begins to have second thoughts about moving; his decision to stay in Connecticut is further cemented by a promotion at work. Frank’s decision devastates April who is now three months pregnant. She believes the only way out of her misery is to perform a high-risk abortion on herself. Given April’s thought processes, this is a logical conclusion since it was the birth of their two children which initially led them to move to the suburbs and to stop pursuing their dreams. April successfully kills her baby but dies as a result.

In the climactic scene when April performs the abortion, the movie portrays her as walking down the stairs towards the bright sunlight radiating through the window. She is bleeding profusely, and yet, she has a serene, calm smile upon her face. The Hollywood message is clear: The ultimate enlightenment is killing a baby so that you can fulfill your dreams—even if this means killing yourself in the process and abandoning your husband and two young children. […]

For Yates, his novel was an indictment of American life in the 1950s and the prevalent conformist attitude during the Eisenhower administration. In 1999, Yates told Boston Review that “most human beings are inescapably alone, and therein lies their tragedy.” But both Yates and April have it wrong. The real tragedy is April’s narcissistic and hedonistic worldview that perceives family, children and a comfortable life as anathema to true living. During the current economic crisis where experts predict more than nine million Americans will fall into poverty, April’s whimsical fantasies seem absurd. More absurd is the illusory shackles of family values that stifle her. But as April sees it, reneging on your responsibility as a wife and mother and fulfilling your own needs, takes precedence above all else. This is true courage. Or as echoed more succinctly by the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning of the universe and the mystery of human life.”

Since Roe v. Wade was established in 1973, nearly 50 million babies have been aborted—all in the name of a woman’s right to choose. Hollywood has no problem assaulting the dignity of life and encouraging the mass murder of children to promote self-fulfillment. Despite Hollywood’s mantra, the true American Dream for any mother is achieved not by killing her unborn child, but through daily hard work and sacrifice for her children and family. The late Pope John Paul II said, “Man cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of self.” It is in striving towards this self-realization that both men and women—and in particular, mothers—become truly human. It is in this striving that they discover their feminine genius. Don’t let Hollywood tell you otherwise.

from AspenBaker’s Blog:

Basic way abortion is used in Revolutionary Road: Kate Winslet and Leo DeCaprio play a couple stuck in suburban hell, who dream of more exciting lives, but just can’t seem to step outside themselves to follow their dreams. Their first pregnancy was an accident, a mistake, which lands them in the suburbs with their first kid. The second child comes. They are increasingly dissatisfied with their lives. They come up with a big exciting plan to make their friends jealous of how awesome they are – they are moving the family to Paris…then, well they are themselves and lots of things happen that make you realize they’re not going to pull it off, they will not escape. Then she gets pregnant. She wants to self-abort, knows how from friends, he is repulsed and doesn’t want to. Weeks pass. He is relieved that she does not abort, they have huge fight. They drink and smoke a lot, all the time. She feels stuck and angry and well, you just don’t want to be her, living her life, you get it. You wouldn’t sign up for what she is or what she has. She doesn’t want it either. She aborts, alone. The overwhelming feeling I get is of sadness, and aloneness and isolation, and how unbearably awful that must feel, to feel that alone and that helpless. It’s a bit bloody. She goes to the hospital. They can’t stop the bleeding. She dies. The movie ends.

part of a review by Thomas S. Hibbs:

…Because the characters’ dreams never transcend the realm of adolescent fantasy and because they never express genuine affection for each other, much less for their children, the film cannot reasonably be described as Mendes describes it: a “great romantic tragedy.”

If the film is a tragedy for anyone, it is for the children of this couple—a point explicitly made by the bluntest character in the film, the mentally imbalanced son of the realtor who sold the Wheelers their Connecticut dream home. The filmmakers’ choice to render the children as nothing more than occasional props in the film nicely reflects the self-absorbed mentality of the main characters.

Pregnancy is the great evil in the film, the enemy to be defeated, not because the parents do not have the resources to raise the children or because pregnancy arises from incest or rape, but simply because the presence of children punctures the world of perpetual adolescent fantasy to which the main characters are devoted. The family moved to suburbia because of the first pregnancy and then, as April explains, they had a second child to prove the first was “not a mistake.” Were the characters philosophically inclined, they might agree with Justice Kennedy: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” (Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 1992). It is not surprising, then, that the culminating act in the film should be a self-inflicted abortion.

With Revolutionary Road as a fitting follow-up—and given the earlier time period, a kind of historical antecedent—to American Beauty, Mendes stakes his claim to being the contemporary master of dark films of suburban angst. There are, however, evils more inexplicable than this, and darknesses more terrifying than those bounded by white picket fences. Rooted in a narcissism that sees others as threats even as it destroys the self, the monstrous turning of a mother against the life that is growing within her bespeaks a malevolence for which suburban disaffection is hardly an adequate explanation. In this film, as was the case with last year’s 4 Months 3 Weeks 2 Days, the images on the screen, rather than the filmmakers’ musings about their intentions, tell the real story, a story that defies conventional Hollywood categories.

part of pro-abortion Amanda Marcotte’s podcast:

A couple of months ago, I did a holiday movie preview segment, and said that the movie “Revolutionary Road” would come out around Christmas. And it did come out then in limited release, but didn’t get a wide release until late January. I finally saw it last week because of that and I have to wonder why it got punted like this, when I thought it was the strongest movie I’ve seen from director Sam Mendes. Part of me has to wonder if it’s because the plot hinges on an abortion and there’s nervousness about that.

Not that it’s just about abortion. That’s why it’s such a good movie, because it’s about a lot of stuff, and abortion is just part of it. In fact, what made it so fascinating is that abortion functioned both as a symbol of the characters’ relationship and realistically as a medical issue that women have to deal with whether it’s legal or illegal. As such, it didn’t come across as pedantic, just as is. […]

Because of all this, it’s the most responsible and intelligent portrayal of abortion I’ve seen onscreen in a long time, maybe forever. Since it’s set nearly 20 years before Roe v. Wade, the characters who are hostile to abortion feel no need to demagogue about the fetus being a person. No, there’s no hiding the truth, that abortion offends because it’s seen as a physical rejection of a man’s power and a sign that a woman is uppity. But it’s complicated, too. […]

One way the book differs from the movie is that the book slowly shifts the reader’s sympathies from Frank Wheeler to April Wheeler, and by the time April decides to have the illegal abortion that ends her life, you can’t blame her, because it’s indisputable at this point that Frank constraining and stifling her, and that he’s using this unintended pregnancy as an excuse to do that. In the movie, you’re pretty much on April’s side from the beginning, though both characters are fully realized, sympathetic human beings.

One of the great unspoken aspects about abortion that gets lost in all the political chatter and nonsense over it is that for ordinary people who go through this experience, it’s often not about the great questions of life so much as the equally great questions of love and family. I blame the anti-choice movement for this. They know it’s about family and love and male dominance, but they can’t say that, because it means that the question of rights is settled forever on the pro-choice side. So they make it about fetal life. And the public buys into that, and people’s real feelings about abortion get lost.

So I was deeply grateful that this movie centered itself on the real issues, not on the fake ones. Abortion is important because it is, or at least can be, a statement on your relationship, on your freedom, and even on your very will to live your life fully. In this movie it functions as that, and there’s no tedious guilt-tripping from the producers about the sanctity of fetal life over a woman’s life. No, for once, the woman’s life is considered the relevant one for the purposes of the story. So go see it. Seriously, Hollywood needs to know that the audience can handle a mature approach to the topic.

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3 Responses to Revolutionary Road

  1. Pingback: Welcome | Abortion in Film

  2. Stumbled on your site via msn the other day and absolutely like it so much. Carry on the good work.

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