John Wilder, age 36, steps off an airplane, just back from a business trip. Rather than go home, Wilder instead camps out at an airport bar and proceeds to get drunk. When he’s paged by Janice, his anxious wife, Wilder begins to rant, suggesting that he is more than simply intoxicated—he is losing his mind. Before long, his friend Paul shows up, sent by Janice to retrieve her husband. Wilder responds by abruptly hurling bar glasses into the crowd, and chaos ensues. At last subdued by the police, Wilder is dragged off to a psychiatric hospital.
Thus begins the strange, turbulent, and at times darkly humorous journey that is Disturbing the Peace. Adapted from novelist Richard Yates’ chronicle of an ordinary man tormented by his desire for an extraordinary existence, the film follows John Wilder as he returns to his home in Westchester, NY after his brief institutionalization, determined to “make some changes.” What those changes will be, however, remains unclear, even to Wilder himself. Barely coasting at his job selling magazine ad space, Wilder finds himself feeling equally detached in his roles as husband and father. Haunted by the conviction that he is destined for something better, he finds no inspiration in the resumed monotony of his days and the stifling blandness of his environs.
Just when another mental collapse seems imminent, Pamela Hendricks walks into Wilder’s life: 22 years old, spoiled and bored, and, like Wilder, fueled by lofty and vague aspirations in her search for something to do with her life. In his affair with Pamela, Wilder believes he’s found a way to temporarily fill the void threatening to engulf him. And then Pamela presents him with an idea—a big idea—one that could give their lives the meaning, the purpose, the “greatness” they both so desperately seek…
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