Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

I have been seeing a lot of movies lately.  So many that keeping up with the Cagematches is quite cumbersome so I, of course, behave like a normal human being and collapse under the burden (it’s fun to do but once I feel obliged…).  I recently viewed Revolutionary Road (Sam MendesAmerican Beauty) and really enjoyed it.  A few weeks ago I was told by an acquaintence

that it was really depressing.  While I did not doubt it was depressing I have found ‘depressing’ is often code for ‘literary.’  I find these objects depressing because I am often aware that I am missing something, a known unknown, if you will.

I appreciated how the movie hints at a different ending than the book’s conclusion, but upon further reflection that is not necessarily so.

I also thought the movie did a fine job, as fine as a movie can do, translating the book’s inner monologues of the characters onto the screen.  The acting really helped.  It is the fine acting which gives me pause, because the state of acting is caught in a paradox.  The paradox surrounds paroxysm.

Something happens and April Wheeler (Kate Winslet: Titanic) lies to Frank Wheeler (Leonardo DiCaprio: Titanic) and only after Frank leaves the room does April show the camera a facial expression that demonstrates her lie.  This facial tick is brief

and is supposed to be an uncontrolled reaction.  The paradox is that this is how acting demonstrates a lie, by showing us an uncontrollable bodily function (even though it is controlled when the deceived is around and control is only lost once the deceived departs) even though real people do not behave this way.  The paroxysm occurs in real life immediately after or in conjunction with the lie or does not happen at all.  It is the melodramatic person, behaving as tough she were on stage being watched, that does this.

A stranger to our storytelling methods might qualify this facial tick as bad acting, as over-the-top community theater type antics.  Mendes may even be speaking to this very paradox as he incorporates a commuity theater moment in the movie.  Yet we continue to believe that this is good storytelling.

Sadly, my solution falls back on a difficulty with acting these days.  It is so difficult to split the good acting from the good writing from the good directors from the good editing.  It is this difficulty that makes me appreciate the award shows, particularly the Screen Actor’s Guild awards. The award shows represent industry insiders making decisions and awarding what they think of as the best.  The Oscars have some of this element for me, but they are caught up in other factors, which is why I singled out the SAG.  Are the shows fun to watch?  Not necessarily but I do make an effort to find out the winners and nominees.

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