If you take away all the glamour and the high profile cast, Revolutionary Road is basically about a bored, ungrateful woman who has a comfortable life and whose biggest problem is that she really doesn’t have any problems, aside from the problem of living in a dream world and looking around to see that reality just doesn’t measure up. That is her biggest problem, which admittedly can be a problem.
She is like one of those people who are in love with the idea of love but really don’t know what to actually do with it, if it became reality.
The main character played by Kate Winslet is married to a hard working, loving husband (Leo DiCaprio) who has a good paying job which has allowed them to lead a comfortable suburban upper middle class lifestyle with their two children. But that is not enough for April. She feels trapped and as if she has not done enough with her life. So she starts nagging her husband and tries to convince him to sell the house, uproot the family and move to France (!). Minor details, such as how they are going to make a living or even maintain their curent standard of living in a foreign country where they don’t speak the language, are not further explored.
Naturally, her husband is resistant to the idea and – just like any sane person in their right mind – cannot get behind his wife’s notion of leaving the country on a whim to go to France to do exactly what….eat croissants?
No amount of reasoning works with her, however, and through her passive aggressiveness and constant whining and crying she pretty much promises to make his life a living hell if he does not cave in to her far-fetched, immature and selfish fantasies.
The movie tries to paint April’s problems and her character in a sympathetic light; like someone who is above it all, misunderstood, disillusioned; someone we all could empathize with and whose struggles we understand. In reality, what it records is callow, immature and superficial behavior by a spoiled, ungrateful and unlikable woman who has way more than she really deserves given her ungrateful attitude. She is someone who does not inspire us to wish we knew her better but someone we just want to slap everytime she starts whining and throwing fits because she cannot make her life be the fantasy she’d like it to be.
The movie is a melodrama, trying to create deep seated problems and psychological struggles ex nihilo. It is as if the writers were trying to force depth and deeper philosophical questions into the story, where in reality there is just shallowness. April spends nearly every scene either staring longingly out of the window or with tears in her eyes, about to burst into a hysterical sob because….what…she doesnt have enough real problems in her life and has lost perspective of the things that really matter. She is like a little child who throws a fit if she doesn’t get what she wants.
When Frank, after having first agreed to go with her, changes his mind due to the promotion he finally got at work, April loses it completely, gives herself a home abortion which goes awfully wrong and then dies.
In the end, this movie leaves you unsatisfied and makes you wonder what the hell the problem actually is with April who strikes one as an incredibly immature and selfish person. Granted, suburban life can be suffocating and meaningless; American Beauty gave us a glimpse into that portion of life that just seems to resemble hell, but April’s reaction and attitude are pathological.
Unlike Kevin Spacey’s character in American Beauty, she is not someone who is parched for love and goes ballistic. She simply does not have much love within her to begin with. Or at least this is how it comes across in the movie. April seems to lack empathy and only sees herself. She is not a particularly loving mother to her children or kind wife to her husband. In fact, she treats her family as some kind of nuisance that is in her way and needs to be removed.
Frank is erroneously pictured as a selfish man because he is responsible enough to have a job and provide for his family and not want to run off to some random country living in a fantasy, while April, who is the real self centered prig here, is painted as the deep, sensitive rebel who can supposedly see through the phoniness. But she is the phony and it is because of her phoniness and selfishness that she is ultimately miserable.
You watch this movie for two hours and wonder what the hell is actually wrong with this woman that she is constantly sad. Objectively, her life is not all that bad – in fact it is great and she is blessed in many ways. And why can’t she make her dreams come true in the United States? Within the setting she is in? I mean she only lives in one of the world’s most vibrant cities filled with arts and entertainment. Why can’t she make it happen here? Could it be that she is just chasing a fantasy and that the problem is not really New York or the United States and the solution not Paris, but her?
In the end you realize precisely that, namely that all April really needs is therapy because she is not a dreamer, but mentally ill.
“A good movie is not what it’s about, it how it’s about it“.
Whereas in American Beauty the issue of suburban inertia was tackled with wit and irony and, most importantly, from the heart, the struggles of the characters in Revolutionary Road just seem insincere and it makes it hard to sympathize with someone so out of touch and irrational. The audience is always kept at bay and never given the opportunity to identify with either April or Frank – probably because, unlike Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey) in American Beauty, we don’t really see much of ourselves and our demons in Frank’s and especially April’s seemingly phony problems.