There's no getting around it anymore, in 2008 Revolutionary Road is coming to a theatre near you. It's going to star Leonardo Dicarpio, Kate Winslet, Kathy Bates, and will be directed by Sam Mendes. Good cast, good director. Why, then, does this development have me so distressed?I guess I should start by saying that Richard Yates' novel Revolutionary Road is not only one of my absolute favorite novels, but also an extremely important factor in giving me the push I needed to get myself to New York. I read this novel during a cold January in Michigan ( a bleak time indeed, for those unaware) while I was in the midst of ruining my first post-collegiate year with the distraction and anxiety produced by knowing that I needed to get out of my college town as soon as possible. I was still unsure about grad school and undecided about what I was going to do with myself if I didn't go down the path I always assumed I would. So, anyway, that's a long way of saying that I needed something to get me going (wherever that might be).
Without getting really getting into the plot (although please go here to get that kind of info), I'll just say that Revolutionary Road is about the danger of making too many compromises and falling into a pattern of conformity. I know that sounds like really basic stuff, but Yates really puts you inside these characters and makes you seen how bitter and scarred they've become after years spent forever taking the easier, less risky choice. This bitterness is compounded by the fact that they are dreamers, the kind of people that will spend an entire night talking about their great plans and then never follow through. Needless to say, it isn't a comic novel.
So, imagine reading this by yourself in a smoky (but not in a good way) cafe in East Lansing and realizing that you have some particularly strong similarities to Frank Wheeler: the same level of dreaminess, the same kind of snobbery, the same misplaced vanity, the same issues with being too self-aware. It was a terrifying experience! Reading Revolutionary Road was a wake-up call for me; it made me realize that I was at a true crossroads in my life and that if I was ever going to take a big risk, now was the time to do it. Six months later, enboldened by the fear of not taking the chance, I arrived in New York with practically no money, no place to live, and no job. I honestly don't know if I would have done it had I not read Yates' novel.
Back to the movie: I'm sure it will be good, in fact, there's a decent change it will be quite good. I worry, though, (cliche though it might be) that after I've see the movie, the reality I've created in my head surrounding the book will be forever replaced by the reality created by the actors and the set. Isn't this always a let down? In addition, will every copy of the book now be plastered with Dicaprio and Winslet and the "NOW A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE" tag obscuring half of the image? Am I going to lose my special hold I feel on this classic (but not so famous) book? Oh well, I guess. In the end, if it gets more people to discover Richard Yates and his fantastic books, how can this movie possible be a negative?