Revolutionary Road Not Taken

December 8, 2008

Just when millions of people are losing their homes comes Revolutionary Road, a new Sam Mendes movie about the emptiness of the suburban dream.  The movie is in an unfortunate juxtaposition with history.  According to the film, the suburban dream is rife with adultery, abortion and insanity.

Granted, this may not be news to anyone with a television, but the movie posits this as revelation. I suppose the source material should be blamed, but Richard Yates wrote the novel of the same name in 1961, when a daring expose of suburban anomie was, if not prescient, at least,  interesting.

Tragically, with the movie being released during a new depression, it can only be seen as a hip putdown of the people who are desperately struggling to maintain a suburban living standard — or even just trying to keep the damn house.

Despite the movie, and the previous decades of revelations of suburban depravity, I think we will soon look back on the suburbs with nostalgia and no little envy.  The suburban period of American history — say, 1950 to 2007 — will be remembered as the golden age of the American middle class, a time when there were rising living standards, lots of inexpensive real estate, abundant energy, and a more equitable distribution of wealth.

We may never see such a time again.