Magazine article The Spectator

Ordinary People

Magazine article The Spectator

Ordinary People

Article excerpt

Revolutionary Road

15, Nationwide

Revolutionary Road is Sam Mendes's adaptation of the celebrated 1961 novel by Richard Yates and it may be too faithful to the book -- big chunks of dialogue have been directly lifted -- although, on the other hand, if it were less faithful then everyone would say it isn't faithful enough, which proves what I would have said all along if I hadn't just thought of it: literary novels are buggers to film.

But here it is, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet starring as Frank and April Wheeler, a young couple in 1950s America who, when they first marry, believe they are special and destined to be, as she puts it, 'wonderful in the world', but, seven years and two children in, where are they?

They are just like any other married couple -- he commutes to a job selling adding machines; she stays home -- and live on Revolutionary Road, which could not be less revolutionary. It is part of a suburban development that is supposed, I guess, to symbolise deadening mediocrity, banality and conformity, although I don't know.

Why is it that novelists and film-makers always want to trash the suburbs? I grew up in a suburb and I'm fine, not a mediocre, banal, conformist at all. Heck, come round to my place one evening and, who knows, maybe I'll even crack open my box set of The Good Life.

This is a bleak film, and hard-going, just as the book is bleak and hard-going.

The book, by the way, has only lately been 'rediscovered', not that anyone will admit they've only just come to it. I first read it in 1909, for example. Or was it 1876? It was way, way before anyone else, anyhow.

It's about, so they say, the rot at the heart of the American dream, as seen through the prism of an imploding marriage, and it is ugly. Not Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ugly, but getting there. 'But I don't, ' says April when Frank asks her if she loves him. 'I hate you.' April is furious at the way things have turned out but believes the marriage can be cured by moving to Paris. 'I want to feel things; really feel them, ' she implores. Frank agrees. Goes along with it.

There is a great scene when they tell their neighbours, Millie (Kathryn Hahn) and Shep (David Harbour), of their plans. …

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