Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Has the Road Actually Become Revolutionary?

Has anyone seen this flick? It is based on the Richard Yates novel of the same name and stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. I saw the preview yesterday and it really captured my attention. Here it is:

Revolutionary Road Trailer

The plot involves a married couple who start a family, buy a house in the burbs, and set about to actively embrace the American dream, until they realize that their possessions and their lifestyle are preventing them from living the kind of life they had always desired.

I realize that movies critical of American suburbia, consumerism, post-materialism, etc…have been done before but I can’t help but feel that I am actually witnessing concrete evidence of simple living values in our mass culture. Or maybe not. Maybe I am just seeing what I want to see.

Would definitely appreciate some concrete movie reviews. Also, can anyone point me to similar movies that have come out recently?


Anonymous said...

Without giving everything away... It actually isn't so much about embracing the American Dream - it's about trying to escape it. Even when they were just starting out, they were never trying to live simply, they were trying to wildly differently - largely because of the neuroses of Kate Winslet's character.

I saw it a couple weeks ago, and it was good, but in that terrible kind of way. I actually related to it scarily well, as I typically go to great lengths to be out of the 'norms' - though I'm fairly sure I'd never go as far as was depicted in the movie.

(Sorry, I'm a newb to responding, but have been lurking for awhile because I dig what you're doing. :-) )

Heather's Moving Castle said...

Thanks for bringing this movie to my attention. I had heard of it but didnt know what it was about! I will see it for sure. ;0)

Anita said...

I saw the movie a few weeks ago and thought it was painfully slow and melodramatic. The acting was great, but I think in the end it came down to me not really caring about the plot of the mores of the 1950s, etc. I was very disappointed in the movie and kept looking at my watch waiting for it to end, all the while thinking "that's 2 hours of my life I will never get back." Sorry to completely dump on the movie, but I don't recommend it at all. I liked Slumdog Millionaire and The Wrestler WAY more.

Anonymous said...

It's not even Sam Mendes's first movie on this theme. American Beauty is the obvious parallel, but I think you can make an argument that Road to Perdition hits some of the same notes.

Somehow, I suspect that his upcoming Middlemarch will also fit into this particular pantheon.

Anonymous said...

By far the coolest films I've seen on this subject are about Dick Proenneke. Watching him move to remote Alaska with a few tools and a literally create a life for himself -- a happy, solitary, simple and long life -- from nothing is beyond inspirational. What's really a gift is that he managed to film himself doing it. Watch 'Alone in the Wilderness'. Highly, highly recommended. He died a few years ago, but his cabin is still there as part of the Alaska parks system. Thanks for letting me lurk. Bravo for the blog.

rachaelgking said...

I've heard that it's good, worth seeing, but incredibly sad. I'll wait til it comes out on DVD.

Anonymous said...

Suburban dystopia?


It's as rehashed as a Kate and Leo reunion. Stories about "more to (modern) life" are as old as Edith Wharton, Charles Dickens (a Christmas Tale), and philosophy itself. Even movies like Blow and Clueless, tales idolizing extremes of consumption, have cautionary morals. You did take some kind of English class in your esteemed academic history, right?

Dreamer said...

it caught my attention too - but the "hollywoodisation" puts me off - i think i will read the book first, i dont care for kate winslet - overated silly english actress that is nothing special - i would rather saw a raw more real version of the film with 2 unknowns in the lead rather than those two - i dont think its what the writer would have wanted....

Unknown said...

Thank you for letting us know what this movie is about. It's the same dream that my husband and I have, and I'm happy to see Hollywood tackling such an unpopular idea.

You are an inspiration, and I thank you for sharing your experiences with those of us who may still be lacking the courage of our convictions. If anti-consumerism and the concept of "NOtoMORE" could become as popular as "keeping up with the Joneses," then we can really make a difference in this world.

Best of luck to you, and thank you again for your candor here.

Regards from Atlanta, Georgia

Nicola said...

apparently, the simple living movement saw an explosion of interest in 2008. it would fit right in...

Kady said...

I read the book, haven't seen the movie yet. The book has the suburban dystopia acting as the backdrop for the dissection of the two main character's personalities. There's a lot about the distinction between being yourself and being the version of yourself that you perceive in the book.

Very sobering book, not my favorite, but not bad.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen this one yet, but I'm interested. The other interesting thing is that the book it's based was published in the 1960s. I wonder what it says about that era? (Someone older than me would have to answer that.)

I'm with Anonymous on "American Beauty." That's also not new, but worth revisiting if you have time.

Happy viewing.

Maitreya said...

The Road IS revolutionary. But I don't see Follywood actually addressing the truth of the Crisis that faces us.
Thanks to the the others who commented with useful critiques. Maybe I'll see it on DVD.
Keep up the posting. You are an inspiration for many people, and a source of hope for many more.

Unknown said...

It appears by the comments that one or two people commenting actually saw the movie.

I saw the movie, never read the book. I don't go to the movies often, but this one intrigued me.

I loved the movie. To me it was about doing what you want to do and what you love doing versus what everyone else expects of you. The, "what everyone else expects of you influence", includes society, your spouse, your friends, and yourself based upon those expectations.

I don't particularly care for the lead actor/actress, but they did a very good job in their roles. Of the two Kate Winslet overacted a little more than Leonardo DiCaprio did, it seemed more natural for him. But go figure she got an award for her portrayal.

The most interesting undertone running throughout was the notion that living for yourself, to make yourself happy and enjoy life was completely against society's norms. Those that "get that" life is to be lived like that were portrayed as "mental cases" of sorts. I found that whole concept to be very interesting and not insulting at all. Kind of a "think outside the box" kind of thing as not being looked upon favorably by society.

Most people will see this movie and won't get that this movie is seriously complex and really just screams out that you must live life on your own terms to find true happiness.

That concept isn't easily grasped by most, hence the theme of the movie. I think you are someone that "gets it", which is why you are afraid that is simply a reflection of where you are in life today.

My favorite scene from the movie was when the couple is fighint and Kate Winslet's character says to DiCaprio something along the lines of, we are going through the motions of life allowing society to dictate the terms of our life and every day we grow to hate each other a little more for that.

Go see it, would love to see what you think of it.

J Quaglia said...

Jack, if you are looking for simplicity themes in popular culture, look no further than last year's smash movie Into the Wild. Also, #1 NYT bestseller The Four Hour Work Week.

I haven't seen Revolutionary Road yet, but it doesn't surprise me to see this theme continue being portrayed in books and movies.

Rock on.

Anonymous said...

In addition to American Beauty, Fight Club also has a palpable anti-consumerism message ("You are not your f***** khakis.").

Jack said...


Actually saw the movie and agree with your synopsis. I found the ideas quite interesting, though the acting was a little over the top. But I will confess that I identified with Kate’s character a great deal. There is a little of Leo in me, but most of it is now gone. Thanks for coming out of the shadows!


Did you see it yet?


I can see why you felt it was melodramatic. But hey, the Wrestler was awesome. My pick for movie of the year: Frost/Nixon.

Jack said...

@Anonymous #1,

Ohh yeah. Totally forget about American Beauty. It didn’t quite have the same impact on me when I saw that one (probably too young to get it). Thanks for the info.


Sweet. Interesting stuff. Never heard of him. Checking to see if Netflix has the dvd…


I think it’s worth seeing, but DVD works just as well.

Jack said...


Here’s a choice quote from this post:

“I realize that movies critical of American suburbia, consumerism, post-materialism, etc…have been done before”

So, yes, I did take some English classes in my esteemed academic history. Thanks for the history lesson.


I usually like reading the books myself. But I will confess, I’ve always thought Kate was a fantastic actress, Titanic aside.


Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you are reading the blog and are getting something out of it. Don’t be a stranger.

Jack said...


I think you are right.


Thanks for the info. I may actually read the book now that I’ve seen the movie. That’s rare for me.

@Simpler living,
It’s a pretty good flick. It’s amazing how relevant it is today, regardless of the era.

Jack said...


Thanks for the kudos. I would definitely rent it on DVD, even if it’s just to confirm that Hollywood is acknowledging the issue.


I think your point on societal expectations is crucial. As I think about it, that was the thing that captured me the most. The scenes where they tell people that they want to completely change their lifestyle are excruciating. It shows that it takes courage to go against the norm.


Saw Into the Wild and loved it. And have hear of the FHWW. Both good recommendations.

Michelle said...

I really want to see this movie. I've purchased the book and would like to get through that first though before I see the film version.

Anonymous said...

I believe this movie points the finger at society ruling what it thinks we shoud be, have and accomplish to be happy. The characters in essence can't accept this ruling which made them feel as if they were gasping for air.

Personally, I don't believe having it all brings happiness...been there done that and was still unhappy and unfulfilled. Society's view on happiness has a way, unfortunately, of blinding us when it comes to what we should think will make us happy. That is very very frustrating. The media is very big on that which is probably why I don't watch much television or read those silly magazines.

If only society could get back to a more simpler way of life then I think happiness would be quite abundantly found instead of trying to keep up with the Jones's.

Unknown said...

Ahh, Jack, so you are a Kate Winslet fan, you must have enjoyed the movie then?

@Anonymous 12:42
Having it all can bring happiness. You just have to make sure the "all" is what YOU want not someone else or society's version of "all".

My belief is that each of us must decide what we enjoy doing then pursue your own path come what may. My version of having it all may be a high powered career and all the material things that go with it. Your version of having it all may be living on a park bench in Wyoming in the summer and Texas in the winter. Who am I to say you don't have it "all"?

Look inward, decide what you love to do, what you cannot live without, and how you want to love and be loved. Then put yourself on the path to "all" you want and never look back.

As this movie points out, that is tough and at times you will have to swim against the societal current. However, I firmly believe you can have it all on your own terms and there is no reason to live life any other way.

I don't purport to know Jack, what he has planned, or where he is headed. But it seems to me that is kind of indicative of his journey so far as played out in public here and glimpses of that in the movie.

Now I better clam up because I am starting to sound too philosophical...the unexamined life is not worth living....hmmm where did I hear that before, and is that only the beginning?

Heather's Moving Castle said...

I haven't seen it. One of my sister's made me promise not to see. She read the movie spoilers and said it would be too depressing for me b/c the ending. Is she wrong?

Jack said...


That was always a sweet movie. Need to see it again.


Yeah, I'm the same way. Usually can't read a book if I've seen the movie first.


Ditto. You said it perfectly.

Jack said...


I thought it was good, even if it was a little over-acted. I'm digging you as a socratic philosopher:) Don't stop. It's just getting interesting.


VERY depressing. But sometimes that is good. But, again, for sheer enjoyment, you should see something else.

Unknown said...

"Socratic Philosopher", yeah, I was getting there as I rambled on, but for me that couldn't be further from the truth.

I think like the Web 2.0 concept, we as a society are going through some kind of transition into "Society 2.0", or something like that.

In my personal bubble I am seeing more and more inward looking individuals, soul searching, and re-prioritizing among friends, family, and myself. Can't help but look around somewhat Socratically (cynically??) at what is going on and make some observations.

You can seek the "riches" of a materialistic life and still end up broke, then what do you have left?

Or you can do what you love, seek nothing, and end up rich.

Is life measured by money, love, satisfaction, and contentment? Which brings you more joy? Which is more fulfilling? Which path do you want to take?

Sorry, I am really not that Socratic, just examining life and finding my way just like everyone else in this changing world.

Jack said...


Interesting observation. Maybe the reexamination is economy-related? Maybe some other cultural/social phenomena at work?