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Friday, November 21, 2008

Revolutionary Road

Posted by Matt Davis on Fri, Nov 21, 2008 at 3:52 PM

Don't get married. That's the subtle message behind the upcoming Sam Mendes film, Revolutionary Road. At least, if the novel it's based on, by Richard Yates, is anything to go by.

Set in the 1950s, the novel is an emotional roller-coaster about a couple trying their very best to bring out the best in themselves and each other, but realizing at every turn that it's impossible, that they're trapped by the very union they were hoping would liberate them. I'm thrilled to see there's a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslett coming out in January, having gifted this novel to my wife a month or two before proposing. I think the basic idea was, "this is how awful marriage can be. As long as we're both prepared for the possibility, are you still up for it?"

Luckily she was. But Revolutionary Road isn't the kind of novel you can really recommend to other people. It's so harrowing and cynical about the reasons we choose to behave in certain ways, that recommending it to a friend is almost like saying you hate them. I've actually prefaced recommendations of this book to people by saying just that. "I don't hate you, but you have to read this." Perhaps the worst thing about the novel is that you can actually imagine the characters within it, recommending it to one another as a way to try escaping from something they know they're bound by. Have I depressed you enough yet? Good. Here's the trailer:

For some reason the novel never really made a huge splash in England. Perhaps that's because it's set against a backdrop of Mad Menesque 1950s suburban conformity. Either way, it's an absolute pleasure, and I may well read my own copy again before the movie comes out. Unless, that is, I've lent it to someone and forgotten whom. I expect this to be be a major talking-point flick in the New Year.

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