February 2, 2009

Disorientation in the Afternoon

There is something so special and at the same time, so disorienting about going to the movies in the afternoon. Especially during a work day, when you should sending emails and editing other people's work. I just spent two hours in an extremely dark and incredibly cold theatre watching Revolutionary Road, starring Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. I, along with three other co-workers, had received a gift certificate to the local independent movie theatre from our boss for fine work in the previous quarter. I hate that our time, our lives, are divided into quarters, precise increments of three months. But that is perhaps for another blog post. Our manager had given us the gift cards with the explicit instructions to "take an afternoon off and go to the movies." The three of us, young women in our early twenties, planned one day, than had to cancel because we were two busy and one of us forgot her card that day.

This Monday, however, we were actually able to make it. The movie was at 1:40 PM. We all three at our lunch at our desks to minimize our non-working time on the company clock. Then at 1:18 PM, I grabbed my coat and purse and headed out to the bathroom. Then another girl grabbed her coat and bag, doing the same. The third came a bit later. We had decided that a trickle effect would be a more subtle approach to an activity that might be misunderstood by the coworkers who had not received the same recognition.

The afternoon was unseasonably warm and sunny. It was a ten-minute walk to the theatre, where we quickly purchased our tickets and walked into the theater, darkened despite the large screen, glowing with the previews.

Eventually, the movie began. The sparse, cold, clean feeling I had gleaned from the novel filled the room. The singualar, slightly dissonant tones of Thomas Newman's composition slide into their places, uneasy. And there was the face of Kate Winslet, her Stratevarius (as called by NYT's A.O. Scott). Her face, full of pain and longing, yet sparse in physical construct. In fact, she looked comparably gaunt next to her faces of Marianne Dashwood and Rose DeWitt Bukater. Somewhat ironically, Leonardo DiCaprio's visage had gained a certain fullness and weight as compared to the visage of Romeo and Jack Dawson. DiCaprio, while feverish in his role, felt more like an afterthought in the movie as compared with Winslet's austere, sometimes sopranic, demeanor. She held the movie all on her own.

I find ironic justice in this fact as Richard Yates' novel was meant to glorify Frank Wheeler. There's the line in both the book and movie where April calls Frank something like "the most beautiful thing in the world: A man." Yet, it is a woman that carries the movie. She holds this film on her face, in her hands, and finally, in her blood, as it drips on the perfectly beige carpet in the Wheeler's living room.

I found myself more invested in the movie through April Wheeler's experience, unlike the character in the novel. Her desperation and sorrow over her life's course hit me in the square in the chest and I could not move from her moment. Perhaps this is because I am a young woman who is dealing with the same choices between the monotonous comfort of domestic life and a life of feeling and adventure. This begs the question: is it possible to live and feel in a life in the same pattern lived by so many others?

Frank, as the man in this 1950s period drama, is the breadwinner and the story shows his daily communte on the train, walking to his city office through the masses of communters, and sitting at his desk, mostly doing nothing and then, mistakenly, having a stroke of brilliance that is defined by the elation by "some folks" in Toledo and his boss, whose happiness is only derived by the praise given by his boss. It's a chain of praise and false pride that fills Frank, with, well, something. It was here that I related most to Frank and his lot in life, this being 2009, and me being the breadwinner of my own existence. Seeing the similarities between Frank's job and my own turned my stomach sour. What am I doing in this job? Market research? Who the hell cares about selling advertising online? I certainly do not and never have. Yet, as my parents point out, there are loans and bills to pay. I must begin saving for my future. Having this job is the responsible thing to do. I should be lucky in this current economic climate to have any kind of a job, etc.

Then how come I feel so empty? How come I feel like the hollow shell of a woman as Frank describes April? What is the price of my happiness? Having meaning and passion for my work? I'm not entirely sure how to answer these questions. Neither was April. She couldn't leave. She couldn't stay. So where was she go? Her inevitable choice is something I could never render. But the feeling she had. The question. The feeling and question left with Frank. I know these in my own way, and every day, I wake up and try to absolve them.

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