Safety First!

By Kai-Arne Zimny

Pho­to Cred­it: Tangqiu☺

Many of you might remem­ber Kate Winslet and Leonar­do DiCaprio togeth­er on the big screen, sur­round­ed by water and ice. While “Rose” whis­pers last words of love in the freez­ing air, “Jack” sinks to the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. And despite their cold­ish, blueish skin we feel noth­ing but warmth wit­ness­ing those eter­nal words of love. And – with­out a shad­ow of a doubt – we know that his life ends, but their love doesn’t.

Eleven years after Titan­ic (1997), Kate and Leo are back, this time as a mar­ried cou­ple in Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Road (2008), the film adap­tion of Richard Yates’ nov­el (1961) of the same name.

It’s the 1950s. Frank and April Wheel­er (Leonar­do DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) live in a white house in the sub­urbs and have a car and two kids. They are – by all stan­dards – the ‘per­fect cou­ple’ on Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Road. At least that’s what neigh­bors and acquain­tances, such as their real­tor (Kathy Bates) are try­ing to tell them.

Frank works in the same office as his father did years ago. He sees his job as dull and point­less. April is a failed actress, about to serve a life­long sen­tence in her domes­tic prison. But she remem­bers some­thing Frank told her when they had just met: “I’ve been to Paris. Peo­ple are alive there!” So one day, April pro­pos­es a trip to Europe: “Let’s go to Paris!” She could eas­i­ly find a job, she believes, as a gov­ern­ment sec­re­tary which would pay enough to keep their heads above water (no pun intend­ed), and Frank could take it easy and find out what he wants to do with his life. Mean­while, they would be alive. And feel. Frank’s eyes light up and the deci­sion is made! Noth­ing – it seems – can keep them from pur­su­ing their dream.

The set­ting and cen­tral con­flict are rem­i­nis­cent of many aspects of the series Mad Men, which also con­trasts the nice and beau­ti­ful exte­ri­or of an appar­ent­ly ‘good life’ with a deep, inner empti­ness that can­not be suf­fi­cient­ly filled with drinks, cig­a­rettes, and casseroles. How­ev­er, Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Road is much more intense. Thus, it didn’t come as a sur­prise that the movie left me with a dull feel­ing in my stom­ach and a slight sting in my heart. The thought occurred to me that what I had just seen may not only apply to the 1950s in America….

Leonar­do DiCaprio mas­ters his role as usu­al, but it is espe­cial­ly Kate Winslet who per­forms superbly, tan­gi­bly con­vey­ing the well-writ­ten sub­text. The sup­port­ing actors also live up to the film’s sub­tle inten­si­ty, and the clos­ing scene is one of the best I have ever seen on screen.

So, if you thought watch­ing Kate and Leo float­ing in the cold sea was heart-wrench­ing and sad, I invite you to watch them in the warm liv­ing room of their beau­ti­ful white house on Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Road.


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