Wednesday, July 8, 2009

What Might Have Been -- Revolutionary Road

Some women, no matter how hard they try, are not cut out to be housewives. Now -- before I go any further, please let me emphasize that this is not a criticism of women who choose to stay at home. When my daughter was small, I would have given anything to be able to stay home, and be there when she got home from school, but it was not to be. I admire and even envy women who can do that. But, for some women it is not the life they choose. When I watched "Revolutionary Road", Kate Winslet's character, April Wheeler, reminded me of my mother. My mother was a talented artist, and her dream was to study in Paris. When she was 23, she had booked passage on an ocean liner and was ready to set sail for Paris, and her father stopped her. For the rest of her life, my mother had a faraway look of quiet desperation in her eyes.

April Wheeler has it all, the beautiful house, two children, a husband whom she loves -- but it is not enough. She also has that faraway look in her eyes. Her husband, Frank, has settled for a job he hates -- he has become "The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit", riding the commuter train into the city every day. April tries to convince him to leave it all behind, take their two children, and start again in Paris, but Frank is not convinced.

April: "Don't you see? That's the whole idea! You'll be able to do what you should have been allowed to do seven years ago, you'll have the time. For the first time in your life, you'll have the time to find out what it is you actually want to do. And when you figure it out, you'll have the time and the freedom, to start doing."

Frank: "This doesn't seem very realistic.

April: "No, Frank. This is what's unrealistic. It's unrealistic for a man with a fine mind to go on working year after year at a job he can't stand. Coming home to a place he can't stand, to a wife who's equally unable to stand the same things. And you know what the worst part of it is? Our whole existence here is based on this great premise that we're special. They we're superior to the whole thing. But we're not. We're just like everyone else! We bought into the same, ridiculous delusion. That we have to resign from life and settle down the moment we have children. And we've been punishing each other for it."

This movie broke my heart, because there are so many people who do not fit into the so-called "American (Canadian) dream". My mother was one of them. Women in the 1950s and 1960s were beginning to see that they had other options if they wanted them. But they were trapped. They turned to pills and alcohol (mother's little helpers) to get them through their days -- and nights. In my mother's case, she created a beautiful home and garden, and she was a wonderful chef and hostess. She used her artistic abilities to make everything perfect. But she always had that far-away look in her eyes, and for days -- sometimes weeks on end -- she would disappear into a deep depression and shut herself away from her family. Those were the times, I imagine, when she would think about "what might have been".

Women still struggle with this issue today, even though there are no limitations to what they are able to do. That's why a movie like "Revolutionary Road" is still relevant, and it touches a chord with everyone. If you have a chance to see it, you may see your parents, or even yourselves, in April and Frank Wheeler.

38 comments:

Alissa said...

I'm adding it to my movies-to-watch list.

Hilary said...

A lovely, insightful post, Jo. I hope your mother is off painting with the masters. :)

Jo said...

Alissa, you must see it...! It's wonderful.

Hilary, oh, I hope so too. Gosh, that would be fabulous.

Shaista said...

'A far away look of quiet desperation in her eyes..' - that is such an incredibly poignant line about your mother.
I am incredibly grateful that my own mother, an artist, may occasionally bemoan the household chores, but can escape into her world of art and create things of beauty that endure. It is a great freedom to know my mother is exactly where she wants to be xx

Deb said...

Some one told me this was a very depressing movie. I tend to discard those from my must see...
However, I couldn't agree with you more. Not everyone is cut out to fit into the mold society thinks they should fit into.

Not The Rockefellers said...

I connected with that movie...so much so that it became it bit too painful to watch...

I wondered to myself "How were they able to get this so right" from the writing,to the directing, to the superb acting.

It was amazingly accurate.

Thanks Jo, for writing about this.

Peace - Rene

Jo said...

Shaista, Omygoodness, will you please tell your mother for me that I admire her and I am so glad she is able to do what she wants to do. She is my hero. I think that is incredible!

Deb, I didn't find the movie depressing so much as touching. I loved these people. The Wheelers were wonderful people.

Rene, oh, yes, I found it painful in parts too, because the Wheelers were lovely people, and they deserved better, didn't they? It was very, very real, wasn't it!? They certainly did get it right.

lovelyprism said...

I haven't seen that movie and I'm not sure I want to. I'm quite happy being the housewife and being home when my kids get home everyday. My husband is the one who doesn't see the value in me or what I do. I'm quite proud of my home and my children and what I've accomplished. I once had my sister in law tell me "I don't know how you do it. If I had to stay home everyday, I'd go crazy with boredom in 15 minutes." Everybody's different. Sadly, you can see the differences in her home and her children, they shout "nobody cares for me". So even though it's not the "in" thing to do and it doesn't garner much respect, I still choose to do it.

Leslie: said...

I must get that movie and watch it, alone or with L. My mother was also very intelligent and dreamed of traveling the world, especially Singapore and she never made it there. I remember one time when she was delirious from Alzheimers, she thought she was on an ocean liner heading for some exotic place. I felt so sad for her but have always thought that I'd go to Singapore some day for her and think of her when I arrive.

Jo said...

Lovelyprism, oh goodness, there is huge respect in what you do. Don't ever think for a moment there is not. I have known career women who gave up their careers to be with their children. It is a choice, and for some women they feel trapped because they don't have the choice.

Leslie, I did exactly that when I went to Paris. I thought of my mother, and I lit a candle for her in Notre Dame Cathedral. I went to Paris for her.

The Panorama said...

I loved the film though it made me vey sad too:) Nice post, Jo.

Amelia said...

Thank you for your write up on this movie. I have not seen it at all. Just might. :)

Nancy said...

I haven't seen it yet, but plan to. I was a stay-at-home mother and I can tell you, even when you want to be home with your children - it is really hard. I filled my time with going back to college while working around the girl's schedules, with lots of volunteer work, and it was still hard.

TheChicGeek said...

It was a great movie, Jo. I agree with that we are all different, some of us suited to stay home, others to be out in the work force. At least today we have more choices and it is more today a question of priorities. Do we want more money or more time? And for those women that have to go to work but would rather be home, at least we don't have to be stuck married to miserable men that don't treat us right. We CAN get out and make a better life for ourselves!

SparkleFarkle said...

I love the fifties for the full-skirted dresses, the wear a hat everywhere, the high heels, and little, white gloves, but being a housewife back then is mustard I wouldn't have been able to cut.

As for Revolutionary Road, sorry, I'm going to have to pass. I'm not a big fan of I-just-got-hit-in-the-face-with-a-2 x 4 Leonardo DiCaprio, accept for his Oscar-nominated performance as Arnie in What's Eating Gilbert Grape? He was incredible! Have you seen it? These days, though, I like DiCaprio for his humanitarian endeavors, rather than his acting. P.S. He was fun in Growing Pains, too. I have strange limitations, don't I? LOL!

robert said...

How does a day look like in my life: me getting up at about nine, depending much upon my son, having and most of the time preparing breakfast for the family, playing with him until midday to allow my wife spending time on herself or leaving for school in the morning. During the afternoon I too leave for conducting lessons until I pick up the kid, playing together until he goes to sleep. Afterwards sit and read until about four in the morning for my MSc which I'd like to have within two years. Taking care of my son during the night, so my wife can sleep, being awake at school.
Don't know which models it fits, but for us somehow it does. Liked the entry of yours very much.

Brenda said...

That is one that is on my list to see. I usually get my recommendations from my son who could be a film critic or something in film. He loves movies and always points out the ones he would like for me to see, because he knows me pretty well. He saw this one and just said that it was "OK". I would see it mainly because I really admire Kate Winslet.
I felt my mother wanted more from life than 5 kids to raise also. I saw the same far away looks and depression that you spoke of about your mother.
I myself was mostly a stay-at-home wife and mother, and have never regretted it, but I do wish many many times that I could have had a successful career also. I just couldn't have 2 lives. I so admire women who can do it all, and do it well. And it is wonderful that women can make choices about how they live their lives. Great post Jo.

Judi said...

I watched Revolutionary Road last night and I must say it was painful to watch. This was similar to Mendes' film, American Beauty, one of my all-time favorites, in that behind those beautiful exteriors can be complex, struggling human beings.

(This is also a reminder of reality when medical procedures are banned to a home bathroom or kitchen table.)

Favorite line:
John: Hopeless emptiness. Now you've said it. Plenty of people are onto the emptiness, but it takes real guts to see the hopelessness.

Richard Yates, who wrote the novel, died in the city where I live. If you are interested in reading about him, go to this link:
http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/article/20090126/NEWS/901250234

Great review, Jo.

Judi said...

Sorry... one more thing...
Equally as interesting was watching how uncomfortable it made everyone the Wheelers told. It didn't appear anyone wanted to look in that mirror, did it?

tinkerbell the bipolar faery said...

she would disappear into a deep depression and shut herself away from her family

my grandmother suffered similarly, because she had to give up what she wanted and liked to do in order to do her family duties. when i look at pictures of her, i do see that far away look ...

what might have been can break hearts, i suppose.

Pyzahn said...

Was it set in the 50s? I think that was such a hard time for women. I'd love to see it but unfortunately my DVD player broke.

Lorna said...

I wrote a long comment and then just now deleted it..................

Lorna

the walking man said...

Fortunately for us my mother worked as a social worker from 1958 to 2001. The dear woman couldn't even boil water.

meggie said...

I have seen it, & I know just what you mean.

Leah Fry said...

My mother didn't have any big dreams necessarily, but she had that look nonetheless. After my father passed away, she met a man who worshiped the ground upon which she trod. My brothers didn't approve, but I rejoiced that she found peace and love, albeit late in life. Unfortunately, she outlived him, too.

Pauline said...

Funny how we humans set up societies, then ache to break free from the "rules" that govern the sexes. Do you suppose there is a society somewhere that lets men and women be what they would like to be without forcing them into roles?

momcat said...

The limitations now are not so much geographical or social but they are engrained within ourselves who do not have the confidence to follow a rewarding career path when we dont have commitments but instead allow ourselves to be drawn into motherhood and housekeeping before we have found our feet in life. This doesn't affect men as much unless they are left through circumstance to bring up the kids. It is not wrong to want the whole kids and house routine but it is wrong to get into parenting before you are ready for it. I have encouraged my children to live their lives and try new things and not to tie themselves down to routine too young or before they are ready for it.

Land of shimp said...

@lovelyprism -- I'm so sorry that your husband doesn't see the value of what you do, but I'm very glad you do. You absolutely should.

This subject has long fascinated me. I'm 42, I'm a woman, and as I got older I realized how narrowly I had escaped being born in a time period that would have sought to define me on many levels. As little as one generations difference, and I would have had to fight for a wold of choices, rather than having them as a given.

I don't think [i]Revolutionary Road[/i] is so much about the plight of a fifties housewife as it is about a society in which choices were extremely limited for all. The resulting unhappiness from being strictly defined by outside forces, and the incredible pressure to not stray beyond the boundaries of those imposed definitions.

In the long run it isn't about whether someone stays home, or doesn't. It isn't about the merit, or the appearance of the choices we have made as women, and as men, but that we quite simply have them now. It's a look at a world when people didn't.

I did stay home for the first two years of my son's life, and was very glad to do so. I have often wondered though, would I have felt the same about it, understood the worth of it, if it had been the only choice available to me?

In particular women have had a long row to hoe when it comes to having a full spectrum of choices. Many fought, and suffered the slings and arrows of society (and worse) to broaden our horizons. To allow us our individual choices. Allow them, not make them for us. Every choice is a valid one but oh how different the world would have felt had we not had the full range of choice.

Jo, I've wondered in the past what your mother's story was, and thank you for sharing it. I had suspected that it ran along the lines you outline, and I'm so sorry your mother had a choice imposed on her. She was obviously an incredibly talented artist. The thing that occurred to me is that eventually she might have chosen the exact life she ended up leading. It wasn't the life she led that made it occasionally unhappy, it was having the choice made for her, against her wishes. Kept in a box, told what to do. It sounds like she did those things, and did them well, but I feel for her more than I can say.

Again, @lovelyprism, in part because what you said about your husband touched me and made me wince: You made a choice. A strong, wonderful choice to contribute to this world. A gift of self. I'm so glad you see the value of that, your children doubtless will. I hope that your husband sees the value in that choice, and in what you do more than you suspect he does. Feel free to remind him, by the way.

Jo, it's funny, you were just discussing the lost art of dinner conversation. Looking back at the elegant world gone by. It certainly presented a pretty picture, but sadly that's all it truly was. A far more civil picture, but the veneer of civility concealed people permanently constrained.

Overall, I guess I'll take the noisy babble of our world of choices. We are still getting used to our world of actual freedom and the picture it presents is often more chaotic, less pleasing. At least in appearances, and perhaps in appearance only.

Sorry to ramble on, this is a subject I find fascinating -- and I'm always surprised that young women know so little of our history as women.

It sounds like Revolutionary Road is about the world before freedom of choice for all was an actuality. It really looked pretty, but that was just the veneer.

PhilipH said...

Work is the curse of the drinking classes, and the thinking classes, and petrified classes.

It took me years to move out of a secure job which was making life a misery for me and my family, especially my dear wife. Life is too short to waste it doing something you either hate, despise or cannot cope with.

I shall look out for the film Jo.

pranksygang said...

This sounds like a gr8 movie! i will watch it! and i'm a fan of Leo!

muthu said...

one great movie---

and yeah it moved me....


poeple give up their aspirations for what the society considers as normal.


lovely post.


cheers. :)

jeannette stgermain said...

So sad that your mother was prevented to follow her dream. My father did something similar, but fortunately my hubby supported me in my dream to come to the US for my dream in psychology to be fulfilled. And that led me back to develop my art. Maybe I'll tell the story sometime on my blog.

Patinho Feio said...

Wow. I think I got to probably sugest my daughter to see this film! For me, it might be something too painful, as I haven0t been allowed to follow my dream YET. I'm still STRUGLING. It's about this struggle that my starting blog is gonna be! It's aim is to help me to suceed.

'A far away look of quiet desperation in her eyes..' I ...I was told many times...

I firmly believe that your mother went on with doing with whatsoever was the most important for her!

Painting, you said! wow... what a coincidence!.

Jo said...

The Panorama, yes, it had a sad ending, didn't it?

Amelia, I would highly recommend it. Kate Winslet won an Oscar.

Nancy, I admire you for the fact that you went to college while you were a stay-at-home mom. Amazing!

TheChicGeek, yes! There is no reason for an educated women to stay in a bad marriage anymore, is there!?

Sparkle, I love the 1950s too. And the costumes in this movie were fabulous. And believe it or not, but Leonardo DiCaprio was excellent in this movie!

Robert, you know what? That sounds like the idea life.

Brenda, I think if women want to be stay-at-home moms, they should do it. I make no judgment call on that. But, I guess some women are just not suited to it. I think you are lucky that you were able to do it.

Judi, isn't it the truth! The only person who could see the honest of the situation was the co-called "mentally ill" fellow. I wonder how much his mother had driven him crazy!? :-)

Tinkerbell, oh, yes, the 1950s and 1960s were littered with the bodies of women with that far away look in their eyes.

Pyzahn, yes, it was set in the 1950s, and it was a very accurate picture of how women were at that time.

Lorna, why did you delete it? Silly girl!

Mark, you're very lucky, and your Mom was lucky too. Good for her. :-)

Meggie, oh, yes....

Leah, oh gosh, what a lovely story! I love to hear about things like that. Good for her!

Pauline, what a great question! Even now, men and women really do live in two different universes, don't they!?

Momcat, oh yes, kids now can get their education, and get their careers going, and they're having families at a later age. I think it's great!

Land of Shimp, yes, both the Wheelers were put into lives they didn't really choose, but it was what was "expected" of them during that period of time. I think in many ways we are still the same, we want the same things, but we have more choices now and more permutations about how we chose to live. We've come a long way, baby... :-)

Philip, it takes real courage to move out of your "comfort zone" if that comfort zone is not right for you or your family. However, having said that, I suppose it is easier said that done. Good for you that you managed to do it!

Pranksygang, it is a fabulous movie! Do watch it.

Muthu, yes, wasn't it a wonderful movie?

Jeanette, oh you are so lucky. Sometimes that is all we need is some to believe in us and support us in our choices.

Patinho Feio, I think you will enjoy blogging. It will open up a whole new world for you and sort of "validate" (for want of a better word...) who you are. Good luck with your dream!

Country Girl said...

Absolutely wonderful post, Jo. And a poignant glimpse into your mother's life.
It is always a pleasure coming here and visiting you.

ZiLliOnBiG said...

exceptional post. Loved reading this. I havent seen the movie but have read the book. Thanks for this insightful post.

Paula Slade said...

Beautiful and thoughtful post Jo.

disa said...

情趣用品,情趣,情趣用品,嘟嘟成人網,成人網站,18成人,成人影片,成人交友網,成人貼圖,成人圖片區,成人圖片,成人文章,成人小說,成人光碟,微風成人區,免費成人影片,成人漫畫,成人文學,成人遊戲,成人電影,成人論壇,成人,做愛,aio,情色小說,ut聊天室,ut聊天室,豆豆聊天室,聊天室,尋夢園聊天室,080視訊聊天室,免費視訊聊天,哈啦聊天室,視訊聊天,080聊天室,080苗栗人聊天室,6k聊天室,視訊聊天室,成人聊天室,中部人聊天室,免費視訊,視訊交友,視訊美女,視訊做愛,正妹牆,美女交友,玩美女人,美女,美女寫真,美女遊戲,hi5,hilive,hi5 tv,a383,微風論壇,微風,伊莉,伊莉討論區,伊莉論壇,sogo論壇,台灣論壇,plus論壇,plus,痴漢論壇,維克斯論壇,情色論壇,性愛,性感影片,校園正妹牆,正妹,AV,AV女優,SEX,走光,a片,a片免費看,A漫,h漫,成人漫畫,免費A片,色情網站,色情遊戲,情色文學,麗的色遊戲