A popular theme

Saving up, quitting your job and jet setting is definitely a popular daydream circulating in a lot of our minds, sure. Do we always do it? More often than not, something gets in the way, holds us back or scares us away.

It’s funny I mention that (well, convenient, actually), because this past weekend I was watching Sam Mendes’ beautiful 1950s period piece from last year, Revolutionary Road. The story, mostly a pastiche of bickering dissonance between two adults arguing like children over not getting their way (I’ll take Mad Men over it any day), did have an interesting subplot that emerged a quarter of the way into the film that is very relevant to us would-be world citizens: Laying it all on the line and leaving it behind.

It seems that suburbia, as Mendes would have us believe, is a stifling lie we’ve bought into (not exactly forging new territory here) and that drastic measures are required to break free. For the intellectual or the artist and what have you to really, truly exist on a exquisite plane of understanding and connectivity with The Universe, we must, as the main characters do, hatch a plan to escape. In their case, it’s to Paris, since, it seems, “people are alive there” (their words) — as opposed to the walking dead of America? I digress.

While a little hackneyed in the film, the central idea (minus the inflated self-loathing of it all) stands out as an important one. In one scene, Kate Winslet’s character suggests that Leo is a true “man” to “go after what he really wants.” And though I don’t subscribe to that particularly philosophy on gender, I do think that you can accept what you have, or subvert your circumstances and try again. The age-old cliche–“you can’t fail if you don’t try”–should serve as an antithesis to all of us determined to keep moving…to keep trying.

Now, the plan they hatch is, admittedly, a tad far-fetched when you consider the excruciating social norms of the time period. Winslet’s character suggests to her neighbors’ disbelief that she will be the breadwinner in Europe, giving Lil’ Leo some time to “really figure out what he wants to do.” You can imagine their unreasonably horrified reaction, and honestly, it makes your stomach churn in a “how quaint” kind of way that leaves a bitter, disturbing aftertaste.

The neighbors, and everyone else for that matter, seem incredulous (and a tad jealous) that a pair of young Americans would want to throw away the 9-5 dream, the suburban decadence and all, to root up and mosey on to France. A place not only full of…well, French, but one with no clear prospective opportunistic nuggets. Well, you might go as far as to think that this kind of idea would be left in the dust with Howdy Doody and all, but truly, not all that much has changed.

As I slowly reveal our plan to friends and people outside of my social circle, I get a lot of the same questions (funny how analogous they are to Mendes’ characters’ as well). These seeds of doubt, perhaps tinged with jealousy or relegation to failure are interesting, to say the least. Even I, at times, in those impossibly dark hours of the night, potted on drink or whim, think of how crazy…how stupid this could all possibly be.

But those are fleeting moments, and should be dismissed as such. It takes a lot, actually. More than you think. Doubt is as powerful as you let it be, and its strength only grows in those dark recesses. It’s time to turn on the light.



One response to “A popular theme

  1. Richard Yates’ book is one of my favourites. I’m dismayed the film didn’t live up to his prose.

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