Revolutionary Road, starring Leonardo di Caprio and Kate Winslet, is a flawless yet dangerous film. Flawless in its dialogue, cinematography, musical score, character development. Dangerous in how it provokes critical thinking and restlessness for any who dare to let ignorance be anything but bliss.
The actors portray the 1950s couple called the Wheelers, living on Revolutionary Road in the right kind of house within the most respectful of neighborhoods while raising the most admirable of children. He takes the train each day to cubicle hell, she stays at home each day in a hell of her own. The people about them are fully bought in to the American dream, but inside the Wheelers feel their personal dreams crushed and they lash out at each other through the pain of their own disillusionment because there is no one else to lash out to. Their angst is cinematic confirmation of the lyrics from the Rush song “Subdivisions,” that declares how “the suburbs have no chance to soothe/the restless dreams of youth.”
The Wheelers certainly are not representative of every suburban couple. But they point to a larger collective struggle to which few I have personally met will admit. It is the struggle for relevance and meaning after you've collected the zero lot line house and built the nuclear family and risen through the ranks at the corporation and learned to sing “He Has Made Me Glad” in perfect harmony within the pews. It is the hunger for something that tastes authentic, that does not feel like an imitation of what everyone else has or seems to want, that is not controlled by what others will think or say. Revolutionary Road is a fictional street, but it runs through most of our neighborhoods, and in the quiet of the night at times when sleep eludes us we can hear its crickets bleating within the confines of its perfect landscaping.
I left the theater believing it is harmful, to yourself and those whom you love, to repress or suppress your authentic self, to shrug off your dreams and let your talents get lost in the shuffle of rearranging commodities in a throw-away economy. The older I get, the less and less I want of Revolutionary Road and all of its delusional promises of contentment amid conformity. The more, instead, I want to scratch below the surface and see what is there, to explore both the joy and melancholy of my soul, to struggle all night with the angel and demand a blessing even if it cripples my hip and I don't quite walk the way that is expected of me.