Smell disfunctional marriages, can ya?

It’s good to see Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet in something that wasn’t written by an author whose ideas of romance (and class) are those of a 16-year old. Revolutionary Road is a beautifully, if at times somewhat archly, acted study of a marriage stifled by society and by individual cowardice.

The film could easily have gone wrong – the script isn’t particularly strong, with a number of oddities (e.g. where are the Wheelers’ children? they seem to exist only when it’s deemed necessary, whereas the rest of the time they seem to be locked away in a stasis chamber), clunky lines (“You’re the most beautiful and wonderful thing in the world. You’re a man!” Excuse me, but WTF?!) and hackneyed characters. The mathematician son of a friend of Frank and April’s is basically that old chestnut, the wise fool – but the acting makes him into something more real than the script would warrant.

It takes the film a while to spin on all cylinders and move beyond its conventional story of societal pressures and marriage as an exercise in mutual resentment, but once it does it’s gripping and moving, thanks mainly to Di Caprio and Winslet’s acting. And the ending is effectively devastating as Frank Wheeler surrenders to the quiet dispair, the “hopeless emptiness” of his life.

I was less taken with last night’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy. The series has never been particularly good at introducing new characters, and it’s even worse at giving a send-off to regulars. Dr Erica Hahn’s leaving was handled especially badly, coming across very much as a spur-of-the-moment decision by the producers to axe her and the budding lesbian relationship she’d started with Callie Torres. Similarly, the two new characters weren’t given any lead-in – they were just there suddenly. Especially with Sadie this was done quite insultingly badly; obviously we were supposed to think, “Eh, she really comes out of the blue, which doesn’t make sense if she’s supposedly Meredith’s former BFF, but she’s hot, so whatever…”

And her character Virginia Dixon, a heart surgeon who has Asperger’s Syndrome, highlighted one of the things I’ve come to hate about the series: its manipulative use of music. It’s okay if it’s earned, and they often have a good hand at choosing songs to underline sad moments – but the jaunty comedy music is annoying, especially when what we’re seeing simply isn’t very funny. It’s just a step away from canned laughter. And when the series invites us to laugh at the weird new doctor (after all, the music tells us that this is a comedic scene) to then turn around and have her say that she doesn’t particularly like being made fun of, chiding us for what the episode suggested was the intended reaction? Well, that strikes me as more than just a tad hypocritical.

One thought on “Smell disfunctional marriages, can ya?

  1. magenta March 3, 2009 / 3:18 pm

    ”You’re the most beautiful and wonderful thing in the world. You’re a man!”

    It does look awful when you see it written down, but I actually liked the line at the time. You are, you know!? 😉 Seriously, maybe it’s a gender thing. The one thing I mainly struggled with was that I couldn’t for the life of me relate to April Wheeler. I mean, yes, rationally, there’s a 1000 reasons why she should react the way she does and end up doing what she does, but on a gut level she remained disappointingly mysterious to me. I experienced a very light version of the feeling I had at the end of Virgin Suicides – which left all my male friends rapt, and me and most of my fellow females singularly unimpressed – the feeling that what we got was the male view of the unfathomable woman. I’m just sexistly claiming this, of course, knowing that the script writer was a man, but there we are.

    one of the things I’ve come to hate about the series: its manipulative use of music

    I recommend rehearsing “Wonderwall” on the guitar while watching GA. Does wonders.

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