Book vs. Movie: REVOLUTIONARY ROAD

I saw "Revolutionary Road" – movie version – tonight. Here's my take on book vs. movie.

RR First, I wonder if I was crippled by having JUST read the book. I felt as if I were watching a play, one whose script I knew by heart. This made the movie seem more like a performance than a believable world that pulled me in. The movie is pretty faithful to the book. There are some plot points in the book that don't make it into the movie, and a few details are changed in the movie. Some of these changes make sense - of course the book had to be streamlined to turn it into a two-hour movie. Some of the changes make less sense, but I don't want to get into them here for fear of spoiling the movie for those who haven't seen it.

Like the book, the movie is not uplifting. And like the book, some of the fights between April and Frank Wheeler are not convincing or well-explored. Why is she so angry at him at the end? Does she honestly believe that she doesn't love him? Have all of her prior kindnesses toward him been purely calculated to get her where she wants to go? The movie is even more spare than the book, and offers less explanation for why April is who she is.

I will say this for the movie – visually, I got a better sense of why April and Frank's world was so inflexible and suffocating than I did reading the novel. I know I wrote in my review that I didn't think Revolutionary Road the novel was necessarily successful as a statement about the 50s. The movie, however, changed my mind a bit. April's unhappiness – her restlessness – made a lot more sense after seeing the movie and understanding how she lived.

All in all, I didn't love either the movie or the book. But I definitely found reading the book to be more satisfying and ultimately more enjoyable than watching the movie. So… Advantage: Book.

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6 Comments

  • January 4, 2009 - 9:30 am | Permalink

    I almost always prefer the book over the movie. As a matter of fact, I usually avoid a movie if I’ve read the book.

  • January 5, 2009 - 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I just finished the book and you have confirmed what I feared..so no movie for me. I already pictured Kate & Leo while reading. I couldn’t help but think that April seemed like Esther Greenwood from the Bell Jar, married with children.

  • January 6, 2009 - 11:16 am | Permalink

    I’m so happy to read your review of the movie and book. I read the book recently knowing that I will see the movie. I feel the same way, I didn’t love the book and I want to see how the movie explores some scenes in the book.

  • January 7, 2009 - 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the comparison. I haven’t read the book. I wonder if that would make it easier for me to enjoy the movie?!

  • January 14, 2009 - 5:53 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I was surprised by how much I liked the book. And one big thing I liked was April’s realization at the end that she wasn’t in love with Frank. I thought it rang very true – she’s spent all this time being completely untrue to herself, and pretending to him and to herself that she’s where she wants to be, and suddenly she realizes, but it’s much too late and she’s trapped.
    And it is easy to tell yourself lies in a relationship, because you want it to work; and if you didn’t realize, if you didn’t have a solid point of reference for what a marriage should be like, it could easily lead you to where April ends up. So I liked it.
    I wasn’t planning to see the movie, but now I’m sort of interested to see how Kate & Leo play it.

  • Michela
    January 26, 2009 - 1:24 pm | Permalink

    I watched the movie ten days ago, and I enjoyed it very much. I found it very real and intense. I found the characters their human, in their desires, their contradictions, their fear, their aspirations and their limitations, too. I don’t feel a need to find all the explanations in the movie or in the book: in life one can never found all explanations, and perception depends on our character, personality, history and sensitivity.
    I read the book after seeing the movie, and I am happy I did this in that sequence. I personally found that, even if the plot and the facts are the same, the book differs from the movie in the first 2 parts, in that it is more detailed in picturing the characters. My perception was different when I saw the movie compared than when I read the book.

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