A couple of nights ago I saw the film Revolutionary Road with a friend of mine. As cliché as it sounds, I found the book to be better than the film. The basic story is still intact, but many of the positive effects of Richard Yates’ prose were lost in the transposition from literature to the big screen. While I don’t think the film is terrible, it doesn’t really distinguish itself from the ‘unhappy white people in suburbia’ genre, in the way that the book did.
Some scenes come across as more melodramatic than I remember them being in the book. Sometimes this is because Yates would write about a couple fighting in a way that went beyond typical scenes of WASPs yelling at one another. For instance, when I think to the opening of the book, where April and Frank Wheeler are fighting by the side of the road, I don’t so much remember the kind of conventional exchange that was in the film, but how Yates described the encounter, such as how their faces twisted into “shapes of hatred.”
Another example comes at the end of the film. While I won’t ‘spoil’ the ending for those who haven’t read the book/seen the film, I thought Yates handled the scenes with April Wheeler much better than the film did, because I don’t think he had to be as obvious in order to have an emotional effect.
I also think the film was missing some of Yates’ humour and his critiques of the various characters. The friends of the Wheelers, Shep and Milly, were not as developed in the film, and got off a lot easier than they did in the book, where they were shown to be drones despite thinking that they were above the ‘suburban mindset.’ The film didn’t show this with Frank Wheeler at the end of the film, either. The film depicted him smiling blandly while watching his children, while the book was unambiguous in showing him to be as much of a cipher as those he and his wife and friends used to mock.
Had the film had a better director, and had the screenplay worked harder to communicate certain things in more visual and less soap opera-ish ways, I think it could have been a lot better. Some parts of the film were nice looking, but the overall appearance of the film was very ordinary—it is not a film that is memorable for stunning visuals. I Googled the director and saw that he was the director of American Beauty—another over-rated film about how ‘things aren’t ok in suburbia’.
As for the acting…I thought Kate Winslet was better than Leonardo DiCaprio. My friend was impressed by one of DiCaprio’s ‘emotional’ scenes in the film, but I think they could have found someone else who could have done the character much better. Some of the actors who played smaller roles were better than him.
So regardless of whether you see this film or not, I recommend you read the book. Unlike the film, it goes beyond just being about an 'unhappy 1950s couple.' See Jessica's review of the book here, if you haven't already.