Revolutionary Road

Institute History

  • 1990 June Screenwriters Lab


Suburbs/Western Connecticut. 1955.

Frank and April Wheeler live in their sweet little house on Revolutionary Road. It is not a tract house, and that's its virtue. They have two very young children. April's pregnancy with the older of these children created: 1) their marriage, 2) April giving up her hope of being an actress, and (3) Frank giving up his hope of being a writer. Frank went to work for Knox Business Machines ("a safe and dumb job"). His father had been employed by this company for the full run, including the gold watch.

Frank and April are united by their conviction that they are superior to most others. And they spend a great deal of time with their best friends, Shep and Milly, reassuring each other of this important fact.

Frank drinks. April feels trapped and Frank feels controlled. Now, at least, everybody has somebody to blame and even more time is spent doing that. Covertly, for sure, even openly on the right day.

The film opens at a dress rehearsal of the local community theatre's production of "The Petrified Forest." April is "Gabby." The rehearsal is the single finest moment of her life. She is that good. The next night, opening night, is the single greatest disaster of her life. (The leading man is ill; the director, filling in, does not know a line, and his panic runs like a brush fire through the cast, including April.)

Violent arguments follow. April blames Frank for not letting her have an abortion in the first place. A hung-over day is lived through, ending with a Shep and Milly drinking session. Frank sees the unmistakable contempt April has for him. He drinks more. On the Monday following this weekend, Frank has an affair with the wonderful Maureen from the office. He arrives back home in terrible shape to a surprise party—his. (He had forgotten.) April now has a "plan." She takes him to bed (more sex, big day) and talks through the night. Yes, he will quit his job, they will go to Paris, yes, she will support him while he "finds himself." Yes. Yes, to anything. The next day, in this new wondrous space, Frank does something he has never done—he does some good, creative work. This attracts the attention of Bart Pollack, a very big man in the company.

Frank and April, excited over their new plan, tell everyone (except the office). They tell Mrs. Givings (real estate person who sold them the house). And she finds the courage to ask Frank and April if she could bring her son John (currently in the local mental hospital) over for a visit. Why not? They can handle anything. The visit is a great success. John has an interesting characteristic. He tells the truth. All the truth, and he supports this new plan. Leave? Great!

Later, Bart Pollack offers Frank a promotion. April is pregnant. The war and the wooing are on. And Frank "wins." It appears. No abortion, he'll take the promotion. It's the next John visit and John does not like this new plan. John explodes, Frank explodes. Finally April explodes ("I don't love you, I've never loved you").

The next day, a tender and loving scene as Frank explains computers to April ("She was so damn nice"). April tries the abortion, fails, dies. Epilogue. See what Frank becomes.


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