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, 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, set in 1955, and published in 1961. In 2008, Sam Mendes directed a film version which starred his then-wife, Kate Winslet, and Leonardo DiCaprio.
This work features examples of:
- The '50s
- Angst: And a whole lot of it.
- 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. 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.
- 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.
- Ha Ha Ha No: 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.
- 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.
- Ice Queen: Frank often accuses April of being cold and unfeeling, then becomes frustrated or confused when she is (seemingly) unfazed by the insult.
- Is That a Threat?: Often April's response to Frank during fights, much to his frustration.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- "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.