This post deeply delves into the movie Revolutionary Road and the toxic marriage between L. DiCaprio and K. Winslet’s characters.
Revolutionary Road is a story about a young and toxic couple in the ’50s who grapple with the struggles of life and kids as they navigate their problems within their marriage.
Directed by Sam Mendes, Revolutionary Road showcases the two main characters, April Wheeler and Frank Wheeler, played by Kate Winslet (My hella girl crush) and Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the best actors of our generation, as a young, struggling married couple.
These two are iconic and bring pure magic to the screen with their chemistry.
I wholeheartedly believe Leo has his rotation of supermodels because Kate Winslet has been and will always be the love of his life, and he would marry her in a heartbeat if she were on board.
That’s why they have magical performances together such as this.
Change my mind!
I digress haha
Frank and April meet as happy-go-lucky singles pursuing their passions.
They meet eyes at a party, where they first make acquaintances and dance the night away.
The rest is history.
April gets pregnant by accident.
Then, as many young, unmarried couples did in the fifties, they had a shotgun wedding and married.
They bought a lovely two-story house on a hill in the suburbs of small-town Connecticut on Revolutionary Road street and were ready to play out their marriage as everyone expected.
All should be bliss.
Revolutionary Road is far from the romantic Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet movies we are used to!
If you are looking for signs of a toxic marriage or are concerned you are in one, take a gander through this post and see if you notice any similarities between your marriage and Frank and Aprils.
This post deeply dives into the toxic marriage portrayal in Revolutionary Road.
These happened a lot back in the day.
Our grandparents would get frisky, and if they got pregnant, that’s when you tied the knot!
You would not shack up and raise a baby out of wedlock together in the 50s. Imagine the looks you would get! *gasp*
So, like many of their time, April and Frank married shortly after she got pregnant.
They also decided to forgo their ambitions by choosing what they thought they had to do.
Work a traditional 9-5, have the lady stay at home, move into a house, and have some kids like everyone else.
In a time with no birth control options other than condoms, vasectomies were unheard of, and a lack of sex education, it was tough to avoid pregnancy.
Women who got pregnant out of wedlock but didn’t want to get married would end up in a home for unwed mothers where their children were then adopted.
Unfortunately, as optimistic as the 50s were, the culture revolved too much around the opinions of others and valuing your image above all else.
This led many men and women, like April and Frank, to go through the motions and live the life they were expected to live by society instead of what made them happy.
Leading a life others want you to lead only generates toxic results.
Once April got pregnant, Frank decided it was time to move into the suburbs on a little street named Revolutionary Road.
Verbal and Emotional Abuse
April Wheeler is Avoidant; Frank Wheeler is Persistent
From the get-go, these guys fight and go to the jugular within their marriage.
April, an aspiring actress, plays a part in a local play where her husband Frank and their neighbors come to show their support.
The play, being slightly mediocre, leaves April in a defeated mood.
They had plans with their friends to get drinks after the play, but she wasn’t up for it.
The tension on the car ride home is evident.
Throughout the film, April portrays an avoidant personality and doesn’t like talking about her feelings or problems.
She has more of a; if you ignore it, it will disappear or cease to exist sort of mentality, which is toxic.
Frank, however, is the opposite, which pushes April in a way she doesn’t want to be pushed, which is also toxic.
They both retreat into their toxic patterns for self-preservation.
Her avoidance and Frank’s persistence is a clash that frequently happens within their marriage and showcases itself within a few minutes of the film starting.
Frank continuously tries to make her feel better about the play, saying he’s proud of her and that she was the only one that could act, throwing her some sugar.
April has none of it and repeatedly asks him not to discuss it.
Frank, the persistent man he is, decides to take the car and pull it over so they can talk.
You Pathetic, Self-Deluded Little Boy!
Frank attempts to talk to April and comfort her to help her feel better.
However, it comes from a selfish place.
Even though April is avoidant, she makes her boundary clear here: she wants to be left alone to wallow in self-pity and doesn’t want to feel better.
Frank wants her to feel better, so he feels better, so he is so persistent in ignoring her requests.
April starts to get upset and more forceful when she tells Frank to leave her alone.
Ultimately, April leaves the car for a smoke to avoid the situation, and Frank leaves to follow her and persists.
They get into a massive heated argument where they have the following exchange:
“You know what you are?! You are sick! I mean that!”
“And do you know what you are?! You’re disgusting! You don’t fool me, Frank.
Just because you got me safely in this little trap, you think you can bully me into feeling whatever you want me to feel!”
“You in a trap! You?! Jesus Christ, don’t make me laugh!”
“Yes, Frank, ME! You pathetic, self-deluded little boy! Look at you and tell me by any stretch of the imagination, you can call yourself a man!”
At this point, Frank loses his sh*t, attempts to hit her, and veers away to punch the car at the last minute.
They’re REALLY good at arguing with each other.
That is just the opening scene.
Name Calling and Invalidating
When you watch Revolutionary Road, April and Frank verbally abuse each other and know how to push each other’s buttons.
They understand each other’s deepest insecurities and exploit them to hurt each other.
They go into a rotation of fighting, invalidating the other’s feelings and position as trivial and a joke, then scream, yell, and insult each other.
When emotions run high, our logic, the left side of our brain, turns off. We can’t hear what the other person is saying because we literally can’t.
All we can recognize is the hurt we feel.
Doctors go over this in the book The Happiest Toddler on The Block.
Since toddlers don’t have the logic to listen or understand rational thought, it is all emotion.
We go into a fight-or-flight response.
April goes into flight, and Frank goes into a fight.
Neither one ever hears what the other says because that part of the brain turns off.
All they know is they are pissed, hurt, and therefore what to hurt the other party.
They can’t see each other’s perspectives because they are only concerned with their viewpoint.
When their logic left brain turns off, it’s all emotional.
Related Reading: 5 Times Ruth in Titanic Was a Super Toxic Mother
After April and Franks blow out, Frank goes to work as usual while April stays home.
Frank starts flirting with one of the young, cute secretaries, as he needs a little ego boost.
Frank invites her to lunch, where he fuels her up with martinis.
After that, they migrate to her place, where they do the dirty deed.
After bidding the young lady farewell, he catches the last train out of the city back into the suburbs.
He finds a surprisingly enthusiastic, loving, and excited April, dressed in a gorgeous black and white 50’s Tea Cup dress, wearing bright red lipstick and a smile on her face, greeting him.
April genuinely apologizes for her behavior since the play.
She tells him that she loves him so much and has a surprise for him.
Then, he walks into the house while April and his two children begin singing happy birthday in front of a delicious-looking birthday cake.
In which they all proceed to tell him how much they love him.
Frank is in tears.
Knowing he just smashed his secretary a few hours before, you can only cringe and facepalm.
April Wheeler Has an Affair
After April is confirmed to be pregnant, all of their previous plans and fantasies of Paris bleed out pretty fast.
Frank was serendipitously offered a big promotion with way more money and influence at his company.
April’s world was crumbling around her.
Frank attempts to convince April he can make her happy there. However, she is distraught over their plans being nuked by this pregnancy.
After Frank and April are out with their neighborhood couple of friends, April decides to stay behind at the bar with Shep, her friend’s husband.
Shep has always had a thing for April.
April, being in a place of mourning over the life she almost had, makes some poor judgment choices.
After dancing all night with Shep, they get hot and steamy in her car.
That is when they decide to sleep together.
Then, Shep confesses his love for her, which April brushes off and tells him to be quiet.
She is never really concerned with others’ feelings, and again, is avoidant and doesn’t want to deal with his feelings; she used him to feel better, and that was it.
In all fairness, though, Shep didn’t love April. He didn’t even know her.
He loved the idea of being with her when the thing is, she is just as miserable, broken, and messed up as anyone else that doesn’t handle their sh*t and projects it onto everyone leaving a trail of destruction in their path.
Like many lapses in judgment, that quickie romp in the car wasn’t worth it, Shep?
April never tells Frank about this one-time affair.
Everyone knows that proper and healthy communication is key to a successful marriage.
So many quarrels and qualms happen due to poor communication or misunderstandings.
We have already established their communication styles are on entirely different wavelengths, with April being avoidant and Frank being persistent.
Once April realized she was pregnant, she found a woman that performs abortions as long as it is within the first 12 weeks.
After she confirmed the pregnancy at ten weeks, they knew they had two more weeks to decide the direction they wanted to take.
Once the 12 weeks were up, Frank tried to comfort April by letting bygones be bygones as he attempted to reassure her that all would be well.
April takes it as an attempt from Frank to see why she is no longer intimate with him.
“You know I’m not sleeping with you and you want to know why. I’m sorry, Frank but I just really don’t feel like talking about it.”
“Then what should we talk about April?”
“Would it be alright if we didn’t talk about anything?
I mean, can’t we just take each day as it comes and do the best we can and not feel like we have to talk about everything all the time?”
Frank continues to pursue as April avoids.
April’s style of avoidance makes it difficult to have any conflict resolution. Her method is to avoid, act like it isn’t there, wing it, and by some miracle, hope it goes away.
Related Reading: 21 Best Scary Movies to Watch on a Date Night
F*ck Who You Like
When you watch Revolutionary Road, you sense that April is numb to her marriage and life and has given up.
April doesn’t want to talk. She wants to avoid communication like the plague and see what happens.
After Frank persists and April’s avoidance, he confesses to his affair:
“As a matter of fact, I’d like to tell you about something. I’ve been with a girl a few times in the city.
A girl I hardly even know.
It was nothing to me. But it’s really over now. If I wasn’t sure of that, I could have never told you about it.”
April, not that shocked, asks why he told her. What was the point of it?
Her reaction wasn’t what Frank was expecting.
April, over it, says:
“F*ck who you like.”
Once you no longer care if your partner is having sex with other people, you know the relationship is dead in the water.
April no longer cares; she doesn’t want to communicate because she doesn’t care anymore, so she also doesn’t care if he cheats anymore.
“April don’t you understand I want you to care?”
“I know, I know you do. I suppose I would if I still loved you.
But I don’t think I do anymore and I just figured that out. And that’s why I’d just as soon not do any talking right now.”
We finally understand April’s avoidance now.
She is apathetic toward Frank and doesn’t love him anymore, so what’s the point of talking?
What is the point of anything?
Unfortunately, April’s avoidance of talking about and working through their problems only worsened it.
Sweeping it under the rug and pretending it isn’t there doesn’t solve anything.
For April Wheeler, her avoidance brewed into resentment, ultimately consuming her.
When They Were Happy
Living Their Truth
When you watch Revolutionary Road, the only time Frank and April are genuinely happy and lit up about life is when they mutually decide it is time for a fundamental life change.
April suggested they move to Paris.
Frank had been to Paris before and mentioned how it was the only other place he could live.
April and Frank, starved of creating the life they always wanted, decided it was time to leap into the next chapter.
Frank would take the time in Paris to decide what he want’s to do next in his life, and April would work as a government secretary.
Of course, they were both met with much heat about April being the “supporter” when Frank wouldn’t be working.
How could he possibly even entertain that idea? *sarcasm*
Frank and April were not traditional people, which is okay.
They are genuinely excited and happy and are beaming with light at the possibility of a positive life change.
Yes, their vision may have been a little romantic at the time. However, they did say they have the money, and the timing works great, so why not?
“The whole idea of going off to Europe this way?
This is the way I felt going up to the line the first time, in the war.
I mean I am probably just as scared as anyone else, but inside, I have never felt better. I felt alive. I felt full of blood. Everything just seemed more real.
The guys in their uniforms. The snow on the fields and the trees.
All of us just walking.
I was scared of course but I just kept thinking this is it, this is the truth.”
It Was a Different Time
In this generation, this legit would not be taboo at all.
People move everywhere, single, with kids, within a marriage, and nobody bats an eye.
More people work remotely, and women make good money in the workforce.
So, of course, in Revolutionary Road during the 50s, April Wheeler and Frank were met with raised eyebrows and skepticism when they shared their news with people.
This wasn’t what you were “supposed” to do, so what were they doing?
They wanted more than what they were getting and were, for a short time, brave enough to pursue it despite others’ opinions.
They wanted to tell April and Frank they couldn’t either because they couldn’t do it.
It takes guts to step out of line and pursue your way of living.
You can tell, deep down, they were possibly critical of their jealousy of wanting to take that leap but not as brave to do it.
So maybe being a little jealous that they have a chance to truly make something unique out of their lives instead of just slowly atrophying living in one you feel imprisoned over.
To be perceived as happy by others instead of doing what makes you happy, regardless if it’s out of the norm of what’s traditional.
Honestly, people seemed annoyed they were so alive and happy they wanted their misery to have company.
April and Franks’s lightness, happiness, and love were almost off-putting to everyone.
Just wishing they could have what they have.
Unfortunately, that was the only time their marriage was genuinely strong. Well, even though Frank was cheating on her. *sigh*
The Only Voice of Reason
In Revolutionary Road, Michael Shannon plays the “lunatic” son, John, of April and Franks realtor, Kathy Bates.
You can say he is more Hyper-Sane like the Joker.
John has a keen awareness and isn’t consumed with the toxic positivity BS everyone is playing into and calls it out like it is.
He lives authentically, doesn’t roll with the crowd, and doesn’t blow smoke up people’s asses or throw BS onto people to help them feel better.
Back then, people like John, authentic eccentrics, rubbed people the wrong way.
So they deemed him unfit for society like he was freaking Richard Ramierez.
Like many eccentric people back then, since he wasn’t your traditional conformist with traditional conformist ideas, he was sent to a psychiatric hospital and underwent electric shock therapy.
John could come out into the outside world and meet April and Frank.
He admired them for being untraditional in their ideas to move to Paris and live their lives.
That is, until the next time they meet, John finds out they aren’t moving anymore due to April’s pregnancy and calls it out for what it is.
April Wheeler, realizing he is right on the money with what he is observing, sits there quietly as she lights a cigarette as the scene unfolds.
Funny, the person deemed insane is the only one able to see their marriage for what it is.
No, This Isn’t Inevitable in Marriage
People love to use Revolutionary Road as an example of why they don’t want to get married, a typical take from the current nihilistic and cynical culture that only values hedonism.
Since they can’t do it, nobody else can, so marriage always ends up as this.
April and Frank isn’t the default marriage experience, no matter what.
Nobody is destined to become like April Wheeler and Frank.
April Wheeler was a toxic lover, and so was Frank.
Both April and Frank were toxic individuals and never helped themselves to heal from their traumas and baggage, nor did they live the lives they wanted, which was a massive contribution to the failure of their marriage.
There were a lot of toxic marriage signs that contributed to this dumpster fire of a marriage.
April and Frank Wheeler ⎜ Signs of a Toxic Marriage
- They were both immature and selfish.
- Both of them had toxic behaviors.
- Neither of them had the full opportunity to discover themselves as individuals.
- They hardly knew each other once she got pregnant.
- They had a shotgun wedding since she was pregnant.
- They were both broken and toxic people that never dealt with their sh*t to heal, and it bled into their lives, including their marriage.
- Instead of just having one kid, they care more about their image, and April admits they only had their second child to save face that the first one wasn’t an accident.
- April and Frank only settled in the suburbs to live a traditional lifestyle because they thought that was what they should do instead of doing what they wanted.
- They had conflicting communication styles and an unwillingness to compromise and grow to be better.
- They blamed each other for their misery instead of considering how they contributed to their suffering.
- They didn’t live their truth.
Watch Revolutionary Road
Is Marriage Toxic Like This?
Does it mean every marriage will inevitably become toxic? No.
Not if you take command over your life and stop living it the way you think others expect you to.
When we aren’t living as our authentic selves and are just going through the motions of what we feel is expected of us, our will and sense of self slowly atrophy.
We lose ourselves and become a shell of the person we once were.
Revolutionary Road is a tale as old as time, for sure.
However, it didn’t happen to them, they created that life for themselves, and then they were stuck singing the blues.
It is an excellent movie with brilliant acting, superb dialogue, and storytelling.
If you want to see how it ends, it’s worth watching if you have the time!
With Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio at center stage, Revolutionary Road is a phenomenal piece on the utter turmoil of a toxic marriage.
If you are ever wondering what a toxic relationship, Revolutionary Road portrays it perfectly.
Watch Revolutionary Road, put it on your watch list, and enjoy!