[The projector’s film crackles & big band music springs to life. The announcer’s voice is jolly.] Joining us this evening is a young woman all the way from the land of ten thousand lakes! She’s traveled far, and has much to say about this particular picture, Revolutionary Road.
Grab your popcorn and pull up a chair. It’s going to be a doozy! [Music draws to a close as per the horns and the drums.]
Trigger warning: discussions about abortion
April: Do you want to know the worst part? Our whole existence here is based on this great premise that we’re special and superior to the whole thing. But we’re not. We’re just like everyone else! Look at us. We’ve bought into the same ridiculous delusion: This idea that you have to resign from life and settle down the moment you have children. And we’ve been punishing each other for it.
April and her husband Frank are struggling to appear perfect. They have achieved the American dream: a lovely home, a stable income, and two beautiful children. On the outside, the young couple are a well-to-do sort, who have no troubles at all. Naturally, this is a lie. Underneath the dresses and the neatly tied ties, there’s a lack of satisfaction.
Frank is dissatisfied with his line of work, having taken after his old man at the same company. His wife April notices this. She suggests one night that their family move to Paris, a place where a younger Frank longed to revisit. While April gets everything ready for their trip, I can’t help but feel a sense of foreboding. What if something comes up and the family is unable to make their voyage across the sea? Even if the Wheeler’s go to Paris, what if its not as wonderful as they dreamed?
The main problem for the couple seems to be a sense of boredom. Frank sleeps with a young secretary from the office, then promptly leaves her sitting on her bed, smoking a cigarette. I took this scene, as well as their conversation in a restaurant, to be revealing. Frank confided in this woman his fear that he has become his father, working for the same company, stuck in the same dead-end job. Perhaps his sleeping with her also means that he’s beginning to feel that he’s stuck in a similar dead-end in his marriage?
When April admits, a little perturbed that her husband didn’t notice any change in her emotional state, that she is pregnant, Frank is visibly upset. They have a heated argument, in which April asks, “Do you really want another child?” after he discovers the brown tube in a papter bag.
While Frank dodges the question of wanting a third child, he also cannot comprehend the alternative: a secret (and in his eyes taboo) abortion.
The tension between the Wheeler’s grows. Frank nearly hits his wife in anger and moral frustration. The young man who struggles with mental illness and recieved electro shock therapy insults Frank and his wife, which causes him to be shown the door–his poor parents coaxing him hastily out of the house.
April must confess to her children that, unfortunately, they won’t be going to Paris. As she explains this to her young son and daughter in the front yard, Frank watches from the living room window.
Frank and April have another fierce row, which results in April threatening to scream–and runs off into the woods just across the road from their faux-perfect life, their perfect home. The mind-boggling part about this scene is that Frank isn’t willing to listen to his wife, he’s unable to bring himself to hear her out. (If I remember correctly, their fight is about her wanting to have the abortion. At one point, during one of their many fights, Frank threatens to have his wife committed to an institution, where she would undergo the same electro shock therapy “treatment” as John did.)
Frank retreats to the house, unable to convince his wife to come back inside. He sits in the dark, drinking straight liquor, anxious and unable to control the situation.
Eventually, he passes out on the bed. When he awakes, its morning. April is dressed, having made a big, beautiful breakfast. In fact, it’s a big day for Frank: he’s starting a new position at work, where he’ll work with computers. April is the perfect housewife: she asks him about his work, and takes interest in what he’s going to be working on. Frank, who I believe to be in a bit of a shock, looks on with tears glistening in his eyes. It’s also another big day for April: she must choose whether or not she wants to have her abortion.
Frank leaves for work, April wishing him a good day. Then, she retrieves the materials to perform–terrifyingly–her own abortion. She is seen going to the bathroom, laying down a towel, and closes the door, a basin of water in her hands, as well as a gruesome rubber tube.
Frank is called away from the office to the hospital. He learns that his wife and unborn child are dead, for April had complications, in which she began bleeding profusely. He leaves the hospital, in shock, clearly grief-stricken. He runs, sprinting, down the street, heedless of anything else.
Frank moves, with his children, away from Revolutionary Road. A new couple, probably much like the Wheeler’s, move in. Frank’s old co-worker and neighbor volunteer to their guests one evening that he moved to the city, and dotes upon his two children, whom he loves dearly.
In the end, Revolutionary Road is a cautionary tale. Ambitions and dreams do not always come so easily; reality quickly sets in. As for April’s unfortunate death, I find this a symbol of the loss of the Wheeler’s nuclear family, and the death of their outlandish, and probably unrealistic, fantasy of going to live in Paris.
What’s more, Paris also represents a chunk of obtaining (and maintaining) the American Dream. The chance to have a white picket fence is knocked down in the windstorm of April’s death. Paris is an ode to the couple’s youth, their days of opportunity, and can possibly seen as their naïveté–a nice, but wild and irrational, idea.
For me, Frank’s newly renewed devotion to his children is a new beginning, a rebuilding of the fallen picket fence. It’s a subtle sign of hope, despite the bleak circumstances.