Friday, December 18, 2009

In the Pursuit of Happiness

(Disclaimer: It would be better if you saw the movie first, if you haven't yet, so you won't think I'm a whiney, rambling movie-watcher. But otherwise, it's the usual fare. :-))

On a whim, I decided to check out this movie I had heard about last year, Revolutionary Road ,(please be forewarned, clicking on the link will lead to spoilers) which stars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Perhaps it was not the best time to watch it, as I was feeling a bit tired and down (and not my usual peppy self) when I popped it in the player...

The theme was about the danger of unfulfilled dreams and sinking into the depths of despair because of them...all aptly set in suburbia and the humdrum of the (then) corporate grind of the 50s.

The movie started with the two of them meeting at a party...with casual glances here and there, and a few scenes later, they became a young married couple ready to move into a suburban household (with the "white picket fence" ideology) and ready to start having a family.

At the start of the movie, April (Kate Winslet), who was studying to be an actress, was in a play that wasn't well received. Many people were commenting that she wasn't good enough, and Frank (Leo) was within earshot. When he saw her backstage, the first thing he said was something like, "it wasn't stellar", and patted her on the back.  And then he goes on and on about how she wasn't the only one in the play (which implied that if it sucked, she wasn't the main reason why the play was fact the other actors were terrible, as well). When she sniffled and would not talk anymore, he got mad and said that he didn't want to put up with her "bullshit" and ticked off four, maybe five points about how he was right and she was wrong.

(Honestly, I've never seen another male husband character who was so daftly stupid.)


Now, I suppose this is going to be a long-ish entry on my thoughts regarding the movie, because I have not had the chance to discuss it with anyone else so far... But for what it's worth, I'm summing the movie up as one of being about relationships, marriage, "conjugal dreams", future plans, and essentially, choosing to live life, and not just to exist...

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio were really very good in this movie...two very talented people who played, yes, the very normal suburban pair (who would've thought it would take two award-winning actors to play such a normal role?) who had to struggle with choices to be made, and dealing with life on a daily basis (they made it look so stressful and difficult, I might add, I'm almost scared to be a suburban housewife, .. I read on wikipedia though, that this mentality was common in the 50's...).


Since one of my favorite things to talk about is the human condition, I certainly have a number of things to say on some things. Work with me now... :-)

"It wasn't exactly stellar..." - was what Frank said to April when he went inside her dressing room after her very disappointing performance, and to make it worse, he patted her on the back... Any self-respecting (and loving) husband would try to soften the blow first, by being more appreciative of her, and maybe comment on something else, say something nice. (And yes, if a woman doesn't want to talk about something, then she doesn't...although she will,eventually.)

"Let's go to Paris..." - was what April suggested they do when she saw how terribly boring and routine their lives were, and because she remembered him saying the first night they made love, that "Paris was the only place where he really felt things..." She thought that they would take up their stakes and just leave...just go, start a new life somewhere new. Although it didn't sound particularly, well, sound, the idea of them leaving for Paris in a couple of months really made them both happier and gave their marriage a lift...she was happier, and he was doing better in his job.

I would agree, you know... having something to look forward to would give anybody an extra bounce in their step. It is human nature to desire relief from pain (of boredom, and the daily grind), because realizing and not having any prospect of release from a very stifling situation could really break anyone's spirit. Leo's character was just another grey suit on the constantly going morning train that carried other grey suits and delivered them to their cubicles where they would work their daily 10 hours, on and on and on until, well, they retire. And they don't even love their jobs! (How can you expect to live life like that?)

However, on the other hand, responsibilities are to be weighed with the desire to go off into the unknown. Under normal circumstances, we can't always have what we want, and as much as we just want to "just get up and go", it is almost impossible. Why? Because we are tied down...there are other people involved who we have to think about. A friend of mine, R., had this to say when I said that I loved being in Manila, "So why don't you just go?" Of course, it was easier said that done, I had to tell him.

"We can always have the baby in Paris..." In desperation, she had tried to abort the baby (their 3rd, and "accidental") but Frank wouldn't hear of it. She must have been really unhappy to contemplate murdering her unborn child/fetus. And that sealed the deal...Frank was able to convince her that she wasn't thinking right, and that maybe the idea of going off into the unknown and Paris wasn't such a sane idea after all. (He won that round. They stayed.)

" I Love You..." - was what the couple's friend Shep said after  he and April did the deed (after getting drunk and some suggestive dancing in the club), a hurried one, in his car.  That was so silly. Which got me to think that maybe he had a really boring life...

"I loathe the sight of you..." was what April angrily said to Frank when he told her that he would try to make things better between them, even though they weren't going to Paris anymore. I think she was so full of getting disappointed that she figured she didn't care (that he had an affair), and that she couldn't take anymore of his promises when he couldn't deliver.

After which, he became such a terrible nag...going after her, trying to ask what was wrong. She was so mad and you could see how terribly frustrated she was that he didn't get that it was all his fault and that she didn't have any choice left.

It was a weird twist to see her act as if nothing happened in the morning after their big fight, and he should have suspected something was up, but he didn't. He thought everything was back to normal. He happily went back to his work as a salesman in a grey suit, oblivious to the fact that she was just putting on a pretense.

My heart went out to her, you know, in one of the final scenes where she tried unsuccessfully not to cry while she was doing the dishes. In a last attempt at salvaging her chances at what could have been, and in desperation, she tried to abort her fetus herself. she ended up bleeding to death, and dying...

Which made for a very sad ending. In the closing scenes, we find Frank, the husband, sitting on a bench, smiling, looking on while his two kids played in the swings, with a sad sad look in his eyes.

Regret? Maybe...

His boss, who was impressed with his work and wanted to promote him, tried to make him see that there were probably only one or two chances in life where he could possibly become big. Successful. All that jazz.

Well, in retrospect, maybe going off into Paris was probably one of those chances. It was an uncertain future, but who knows, they would've made it together... and everyone would have been happier.


Lesson learned? Everyone is entitled to his or her own happiness, and oftentimes,it takes a backbone to go after what makes you happy (in the same way that it takes  a backbone to stay and be responsible.), too. A life not well-lived is no life at all.

People, even if they try not to, will always disappoint you in some way or  other., they'll break your heart. Maybe it would be prudent not to depend on people to supply you with the happiness that you need all the time. * sigh *  (Helplessness and Hopelessness, and being brave enough to admit it, too.)

Oh, and another thing...there was this one thing I failed to note... In one scene, Frank confessed that yes, he had been seeing a girl, and that yes, it was definitely over. And April asks him why he had to tell her that, when it was in fact over. What good would it do her? And he says, "I want you to tell me how you feel.." (Duh.)

Haha. Cheating... If that were me, I'd say he didn't have to say it. (In the past, I was cool with hearing about "stories about the past", but now that I'm older, I prefer only "necessary" disclosures. I don't know, that's just me realizing it now.)


She used the word "Loathe".

(Which I said, in the same breath, could mean, detest, abhor, hate.)


All in all, a thought-provoking, discussion worthy, "bloggable" movie.  And I'm not the only one who thinks so, even Kurt Vonnegut put in his two cents worth on the book this movie was based on...

Good night!

~  S.


  1. I have yet to see this movie.
    We're all bound to get disappointed in one way or another so maybe what we should do is to lessen our expectations and always be forgiving ─ this applies to a person that we really love.

  2. I think that people become mere shells of what they are if they have nothing to live for...and if they get disappointed too many times. Sure, we can lessen our expectations, but not too much, because the other person could become complacent and thus take us for granted.

  3. life is a series of disappointments. it never ends. but we keep going and going and going. parang energizer lang yan...

  4. bleaker and bleaker ang mood dito.. :-p A series, eh? well, I reckon it's hard to stay too positive when there is no end in sight, but that's speaking from the point of view of a very bored suburban housewife.

  5. I've never read the novel but I did watch Revolutionary Road this time last year, along with Julianne Moore's Far From Heaven. It was a double-header of domestic despair which echoed my personal dramas at the time.

    You've said plenty of my own observations about RR so beautifully and eloquently here already. And a year later - and forever, I wager - the lives of the main characters in both films can be summed up in Thoreau's eternal quote:

    “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.”

  6. haven't seen the movie, have this impression that it was super madrama. and i wasn't a big fan of titanic. =P

  7. @rudeboy: thanks...maybe the novel has a different feel to it, but kate and leo were pretty good in the movie. so convincing.

    @engel: yeah, it was super madrama in some parts, but they were really convincing. Although I'm a leo fan, i just have to say that he should really improve on the "constipated" look he gives when he's really angry. haha. ok, I'm nitpicking already.



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