What’s up with the Wheelers on Revolutionary Road?

Dear Reader

Would you read a book even if you have already seen the movie adaptation? As a child, the answer for me was always a hard no, until I saw the movie “Bridge to Terabithia.” The film left me thinking— that can’t be what really happens! … can it? Not long after leaving the movie theater, we picked up the book copy and, yep, the awful twist that played out before our eyes was indeed born from the book.

Now, as an adult, I enjoy reading the book even after seeing the movie, because I’ve become more of a reader than a watcher. For this reason, when I learned that the movie Revolutionary Road, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet (a film that I have seen multiple times) was based on a book, I was all too eager to find the audiobook version.

Unlike other cinematic adaptations, Revolutionary Road the movie follows the 1961 book by Richard Yates almost to a tee — I appreciated this. For example, in contrast, “You” the Netflix series based on the books by Caroline Kepnes, takes very many creative liberties. In the Netflix series, book characters who were killed off survive on screen; some characters are added, others subtracted, and a few others still are transformed almost beyond recognition. In addition, new perspectives are added (Guinevere Beck is not, a narrator in the book for example) as well as subplots (like the bit about Paco, the neighbor kid), and the plot metamorphoses. While I am a huge fan of the book series “You” (more here), I couldn’t bring myself to finish season two on Netflix… but I digress.

Anyway, Revolutionary Road! On one level, this book concerns a domestic drama— Frank and April Wheeler, a young couple with two kids, move to the suburbs in the Revolutionary Hill Estates. Set in the 1950s, the Wheeler’s have achieved the American dream. Frank works a mind-numbing office job, April languishes at home, and the kids get their jollies from reading the “funnies” and playing in the yard. On another level, Revolutionary Road is a work of transgressive fiction — Frank (the main narrator) feels confined to his middle-class suburban life and longs for an escape. He and April see themselves as outsiders in their neighborhood and dream of moving to Europe. This book is deeply psychological and takes you inside the minds of the Wheeler’s and their neighbors to paint a picture of contentment and discontent in the American suburbs.

“And every time he saw a pretty girl on the beach or at traffic lights on his daily drive to Stanford and back he would use her to strengthen his belief that the world was full of better looking, more intelligent, finer, and more desirable women than April Wheeler.”

            – Frank Wheeler (aka husband of the year…)

The movie and the book are very much in sync. The opening and closing scenes of the movie are spot on (with most of the middle retained) and a lot of the dialogue is verbatim from the book.

While I enjoyed the book, this is one of those few (and very far between occasions) when I preferred the movie. Namely, because the movie did an excellent job of retaining the story and emotions, while keeping up the plot pacing.

So, if you get your thrills not from action and adventure rather from domestic drama and difficult conversations — consider reading (or why not just watching!) Revolutionary Road.



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