Twenty-something Richard travels to Thailand and finds himself in possession of a strange map. Rumours state that it leads to a solitary beach paradise, a tropical bliss - excited and intrigued, he sets out to find it.
It's 1955. Frank and April Wheeler, in the seventh year of their marriage, have fallen into a life that appears to most as being perfect. They live in the Connecticut suburbs with two young children. Frank commutes to New York City where he works in an office job while April stays at home as a housewife. But they're not happy. April has forgone her dream of becoming an actress, and Frank hates his job - one where he places little effort - although he has never figured out what his passion in life is. One day, April suggests that they move to Paris - a city where Frank visited during the war and loved, but where April has never been - as a means to rejuvenate their life. April's plan: she would be the breadwinner, getting a lucrative secretarial job for one of the major international organizations, while Frank would have free time to find himself and whatever his passion. Initially skeptical, Frank ultimately agrees to April's plan. When circumstances change around the Wheelers, April ... Written by
Though it's never named in the film, in Richard Yates' source novel, the play April acts in (apparently badly) is Robert E. Sherwood's "The Petrified Forrest," written in 1935. In the play, the main female character, Gabby, dreams of leaving what she sees as a humdrum existence in the U.S. to move to France, just as April does. See more »
After Frank leaves the hospital, he runs past the same 1955 Packard Constellation three times. See more »
A dreadful parody of "Man in the Grey Flannel Suit"
The art of storytelling, whether in a play, a novel or a film is to create characters who become real. And once you identify with the characters, their lives become the vehicle for the tone and message of the work. Without such realism, such verisimilitude, there is nothing but parody, and the manipulation of stock figures.
I am a great fan of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, so I was looking forward to seeing them in a serious exploration of an era that I lived through as a young man. This work was stunningly without substance. Oh there were emotions, but the characters were not believable, and worse there was no attempt to make it so. The clue is the two children, throw away place holders, so they never even became people. Yet children are a part of any family, and we can't know the family without knowing the joys and trials of these most vulnerable members.
A good test that I use of the quality of any film is whether there are throwaway characters, or if every person seems to have walked in from their own full life. If they only utter a single line, you can still tell. The mental patient visitor was some kind of a joke I imagine. Not like anyone with schizophrenia that I ever met, and I met a few.
And it's not trivial that Frank could never describe exactly what he did for a living. The writers never bothered to create an occupation that would have fit the plot. So he was just a man in a cubicle. A nobody, with no interest in his work, but who was made a key member of a team to develop the most complex product of the era, who had no idea what it did, or how it worked.
Some may consider this transcending details to provide a cultural everyman. But everyman is no man at all.
This wasn't a dysfunctional marriage, as that implies that there is first a marriage. The film "The Squid and the Whale" was about a dysfunctional marriage, where the couple were at each others throats Yet both of them and their children were real unique struggling humans trapped in their history and that of their circle. That was a true work of art, while this was an exercise in a drama class.
For those who think this is some accurate depiction of America in the 1950s, believe me it isn't. If you want to see a film about a dysfunctional couple of the era, try "Come back little Sheba" or "Death of a Salesman." Each of these films created actual characters, and we were drawn into their lives as we learned about the era.
This film was about 2008, and how when two super stars are signed for a film deal there is no need to throw away money on writers who flesh out their characters, and provide plausible circumstances of their lives.
I just learned that the director of this film was the same man who directed, "American Beauty," one of my all time favorites.
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