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Revolutionary Road: Too Good a Book to Be a Movie


Recently there has been a surge of books being turned into movies. While that's not a new concept, it's becoming a frustrating trend, mostly because the film versions so rarely live up to the experience of reading the book.

I am squeamish about The Time Traveler's Wife (despite some good casting choices) as well as the adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir Eat, Pray, Love. I can just envision the most powerful moments in those books being reduced to neat little scenes that can't possibly deliver as strong a punch. Just this week, too, there was the news that The Bell Jar is being made into a film, and I'm still not comfortable with that idea. Simply put, some things should not be adapted for the big screen, and The Bell Jar is one of those things.

Joining this parade now is Richard Yates' 1961 novel Revolutionary Road. As TIME Magazine puts it, Yates' "great novel is a bitterly funny and bitterly unfunny account of lethal disappointment in the Connecticut suburbs in 1955." Having just finished reading it, not only can I not imagine it on screen, I definitely cannot see the casting choices in the two main roles: Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. While I think they're both exceptional actors (or rather, Winslet is and DiCaprio can be), I just don't want to see this book adapted for film. For more on why, read more

It's an astounding work of fiction, touching on issues and complexities from the time period in a way I've never before encountered. It's a very dark tale but not without humor, and the way in which Yates presents this couple's experiences — along with comments on the society at the time — feels like a three-dimensional experience. To force it into two dimensions will be to dramatically detract from the story.

Director Sam Mendes is on board for Revolutionary Road, which makes sense in some ways since he was responsible for another stark tale of American suburbia, American Beauty. Thus, I'm not utterly without hope. At the same time, I feel the need to encourage everyone to read Revolutionary Road before it loses its shine on the big screen.

What books do you wish were not made — or were not being made — into films?

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