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Literature / Revolutionary Road

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April Wheeler: You don't! Because you've never tried at anything. And if you don't try at anything you can't fail.
Frank Wheeler: What the hell do you mean I don't try? I support you, don't I? I pay for this house. I work ten hours a day at a job I can't stand.
April Wheeler: You don't have to.
Frank Wheeler: Bullshit! I'm not happy about it. But I have the backbone not to run away from my responsibilities!
April Wheeler: It takes backbone to lead the life you want, Frank.

Once upon a time, two clean-cut American kids named Frank and April met, fell in love, and got married. They settled down in a Connecticut suburb near New York on Revolutionary Road and all lived happily ever after, right?


Years later, in The '50s, Frank Wheeler is an office drone and April is a housewife who tends to their two kids. They hate every minute of it. Things change when April suggests moving to Paris and start their existence anew. Their neighbors wonder why the hell they aren't happy with their lives. But then, Frank decides to take a promotion at work and starts to woo his secretary. April gets pregnant again. Let's just say things go downhill from here.

This is the plot of the novel Revolutionary Road, which was written by Richard Yates, and published in 1961. In 2008, Sam Mendes directed a film version which starred his then-wife, Kate Winslet, and Leonardo DiCaprio (yes, the Titanic couple themselves).

This work features examples of:

  • The '50s: The story is set in that decade, with all that it entails about Suburbia.
  • Actor Allusion: Considering the leading couple of the film, there's loads of it.
    • Frank and April exclaim about "the look on their faces!", exactly the same as Jack and Rose.
    • Both movies feature their characters making love in unconventional places.
    • Paris is a recurring idea; just as Jack has been.
  • Angst: And a whole lot of it.
  • At Least I Admit It: John Givings. He's seen as insane by most of the neighborhood and has been in and out of mental hospitals, but this is mostly because he's the only character willing to say exactly what he's thinking and feeling, and calls most people out on their hypocrisy. He's also pretty upfront about his violence and temper, while the more "sane" and respectable Frank and Shep hit and scream at their wives behind closed doors.
  • Auto Erotica: Between Shep and April.
  • Awful Wedded Life: And how. The truly wrenching thing is that at times, they're both downright desperate to salvage things and bring their marriage back to the happiness it once was.
    • The Givings also have a less-than-stellar marriage; the final scene of the film is Mrs. Givings lecturing about how the Wheelers let their house value depreciate, and Mr. Givings calmly reaches down to turn his hearing aid off.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: Inverted. April's Surprise Pregnancy while they were dating locked them into an Awful Wedded Life. Getting pregnant at this time makes Frank's and April's already strained marriage even worse, and eventually pushes April over the Despair Event Horizon.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: In the novel, Frank finds most women too easy to read and manipulate, and used to long for a woman who was truly intelligent, sophisticated, and independent. He was initially drawn to April for this reason, but in the long run he finds his inability to manipulate and control her very frustrating, and it's a huge driving force their Awful Wedded Life and Domestic Abuse.
  • Control Freak: Frank, though he won't admit it. In the book, he would lament that he wanted an intelligent, sophisticated, and independent woman, and he got that in April. When she got pregnant unexpectedly and it derailed their bright future, Frank pressured her to keep the baby (even though he didn't want it either) because it gave him a sense of power and control over her.
  • Despair Event Horizon: April crosses it when she realizes she and Frank will never leave Revolutionary Road. Hollow and lifeless, she calmly walks into the bathroom and attempts an abortion, knowing that it could potentially kill her.
  • Domestic Abuse: Frank and Shep have hit and screamed at their wives.
  • Downer Ending: April dies giving herself an abortion and Frank goes on to live unhappily ever after. Their unhappiness even affects their neighbors.
  • Driven to Suicide: Implied. Earlier in the movie, April tells Frank that she heard from a friend that she can safely self-abort as long as it's within the first trimester. Eventually her first trimester passes. When Frank dashes her hopes of ever leaving this life they both hate, she tries to self-abort anyway, likely knowing what would happen.
    • Not only that, she clearly deliberately stands there as she's bleeding out and takes forever to call for help.
  • Exiled to the Couch: April puts herself there, and Frank is less and less affected.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Frank partially relies on this so April won't abort his child. Deconstructed in the book, which explicitly states that neither of them wanted to keep the baby both times April gained a Surprise Pregnancy, but Frank pressured her both times because it secretly gave him a rush of power and control over her, and he used the moralizing argument as a cover. John calls him out on it both the book and the film, and in both April caving in to to Frank's pressure kickstarts their Awful Wedded Life the first time and her Despair Event Horizon and being Driven to Suicide the second time.
  • HA HA HAŚNo: In their worst altercation of the film adaptation, April feigns prolonged hysterical laughter at something Frank says before on a dime switching to anger to answer him.
  • Heel Realization: Shep seems to have this after April's death, appearing to recommit to his own marriage.
  • Here We Go Again!: After all the angst in this film, this is implied as some new neighbors move in to the Wheelers' house.
  • Heroic BSoD: Frank after April's death. And given the expression on his face at the end, it hasn't subsided.
  • Hiding Behind Religion: The novel makes it clear that both times April became unexpectedly pregnant, Frank didn't want to keep the child either, but forcing her to keep the child gave him a feeling of masculine power and control over her, so he used the "Good Girls Avoid Abortion" argument to guilt and shame her into submission, as well as to avoid admitting his own Control Freak tendencies.
  • Hope Spot: The decision to move to Paris invigorates Frank and April and looks like a real solution to their marriage troubles... until she gets pregnant.
  • House Husband: Shep and his wife privately decry the Wheelers' plan for Frank to be this when the couple moves to Europe. In the novel, Frank's secret fear and shame of becoming this is part of why he sabotages April's attempt to move them out.
  • Ice Queen: Frank often accuses April of being cold and unfeeling, then becomes frustrated or confused when she is (seemingly) unfazed by the insult.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Subverted. In the book, Frank is too good at reading and manipulating women, and used to want a woman who was intelligent, sophisticated, and independent. He got that with April, only to be frustrated after they've been married for years that he can't manipulate or guilt-trip her into doing what he wants. Prime example being when he confesses his affair to Maureen to try to provoke a reaction from April, only for her to be unbothered, only for him to try to shame her by accusing her of being cold and unfeeling.
  • Ironic Name: The street the Wheelers live on is called Revolutionary Road, implying an overhaul of an old social order in favor of a new one, but it's really a place of stifling conformity.
  • Is That a Threat?: Often April's response to Frank during fights, much to his frustration.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: John's assessment of Frank and April is absolutely withering and borderline sadistic but also devastatingly accurate.
  • Longing Look: Shep taking this at Frank and April's house clues the audience in to his feelings for April.
  • Mad Mathematician: John Givings, except he's also the Only Sane Man in a warped way. He's the only character who always says exactly what he feels and calls everyone else out on their hypocrisy. While he has a history of violence, the supposedly "sane" Frank and Shep have both hit / threatened their wives.
  • Masochism Tango: Frank and April; implied to be the case of most of their married neighbors. The main conflict stems from her being willing to do what it takes to move their relationship out of tango, with Frank subconsciously not wanting to move on for whatever reason.
  • Milking the Giant Cow: Literary example - at one point, Frank puts down a glass so he can "make a gesture of impassioned earnestness." Of course, almost everything he and April do is some kind of performance.
  • Modesty Bedsheet: Maureen, the secretary at Knox Machines, whom Frank had an affair with is seen lying on bed naked the morning after she and Frank had sex. Her breasts were briefly seen before she quickly covered them with the bedsheet.
  • Moral Myopia: Frank Wheeler. He rudely dismisses the criticisms of Norma, who calls him out on being a Master of the Mixed Message to Maureen while also trying to be empathetic. He also confesses his affair just to get guilt off him and provoke a reaction from April and is puzzled why April really isn't bothered.
  • Only Sane Man: In a strange sort of way, John. He's very aware about Frank and April's personal failings, isn't afraid to speak his mind and regularly calls out the other characters for their hypocrisy.
  • Oscar Bait: The entire movie; two well-known leads starring in a somewhat predictable period drama about an Awful Wedded Life involving a trapped, stifled wife and a selfish, desperate husband. It ultimately only managed to get a few nominations, with two of them being design nominations, and both leads were ignored in favor of a nomination for Michael Shannon despite only being in a couple of scenes.
  • The Place: Revolutionary Road is the name of the street the Wheelers live in.
  • Punch a Wall: Frank almost hits April during an argument, but he restrains himself and hits the car instead.
  • Smoking Is Glamorous: Gradually deconstructed over the course of the movie.
  • Springtime for Hitler: The sarcastic ad campaign Frank throws together that he believes will get him fired, ends up getting him a promotion instead.
  • Stepford Smiler: Mrs. Givings and Millie, and their husbands to a lesser extent.
    • April, the morning after her and Frank's epic fight. She cheerfully greets him, prepares his breakfast, chats with him about work, etc. With nary a mention of the argument they had, nor of the fact that she's planning to kill herself.
    • Frank himself after April's death. He smiles while watching his children play, but is clearly struggling not to cry.
  • Stepford Suburbia: The reason Frank and April aren't happy in their ideal suburban home.
  • Surprise Pregnancy: April and Frank's life is derailed every time she becomes unexpectedly pregnant. In college, it derailed their bright futures
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Happens all over the place. Frank to April, April to Frank, John to both of them...
  • Time Skip: The movie starts with Frank and April meeting at a college dance. The next scene is approximately ten years later. There's a lesser one at the end after April's death.
  • Wall Bang Her: Frank and April's sex scene in the kitchen, even though it's more against the countertop and cabinets rather than a wall.