#TBThursday Review: Authors & Writers in Film

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IMG_0676Writers portrayed in film have a complicated relationship with being in the spotlight. Often times they self absorbed emotional wrecks with little-to-no social skills, but damn, can they make for interesting protagonists– or, in some cases, side characters. Hollywood has relegated them to the sidelines making them the butt of a joke. For instance, looking at Woody Allen; he crafts the author to be a neurotic ladies man.

In James Ponsoldt’s impeccable film THE END OF THE TOUR, the impassioned persona of an author, especially a brilliant one like David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel), can often lead to a lonely life. In Wallace’s case, it can lead to one’s demise. Sadly, for a lot a lot of these minds who have the propensity, they drink themselves to death as seen in LEAVING LAS VEGAS. Then there’s the case where we just want to laugh at their pain, but only if it’s done tactfully, which we will discuss further below with SIDEWAYS.

Read our review for THE END OF THE TOUR here.

It’s difficult to choose one that resonates the most, and as fans of literature as a whole, there are films that capture our heroes during their most romantic period like John Keats and Fannie Brawn in Jane Campion’s intimate film BRIGHT STAR. Or, the less romantic but equally brilliant portrayal of Virginia Wolfe in THE HOURS.

The point being is there’s a broad spectrum of writers with an eclectic mix of personalities and styles. Here are a few that have manifested themselves in memorable ways, and we have embraced every single one of their imperfections.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman  Photo Courtesy of Dreamworks PicturesALMOST FAMOUS (2000)
Lester Bangs

Lester Bangs can teach all critics something. He said, “The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with somebody else when you’re uncool.” Philip Seymour Hoffman’s brief but insightful performance as the gonzo journalist is filled with conviction for his duty as a rock n’ roll critic. And even though he claims that rock is dead, Bangs is in search of truth and imparting his wisdom upon his young protege, William (which is a stand-in for writer/director Cameron Crowe). He doesn’t do this to boost his own ego, Bangs is a purist of the highest order and his eight minutes of wisdom in ALMOST FAMOUS can be seen here.
– Cole Clay

Zoe Kazan (left) as the titular Ruby Sparks and Paul Dano (right) RUBY SPARKS (2011)
Calvin Weir-Fields

How hard is it to find the person of your dreams? And if you do find them, what happens when you get exactly what you want? These are some of the many questions asked of the audience when watching Zoe Kazan’s enthusiastically quirky, original romantic-comedy titled RUBY SPARKS.

The film focuses on a writing prodigy named Calvin Weir-Fields (Paul Dano), who wrote an acclaimed novel as a younger man. After one experiences fame and writes a book that many consider to be one of the greats, we often wonder what’s their next plan of action?

While writing his next book about his ideal girl, Ruby Sparks (Kazan, who also penned the screenplay), Calvin notices that a lot of strange things have been going on his house. Like magic the following morning, Ruby Sparks is lifted from the page and becomes a real person.

This film explores what many films about authors/writers who experience fame do: how difficult it is to maintain your image and this idea that people have about you because of your writing. But it also explores where one can find inspiration.

RUBY SPARKS is a delightful film that tests the limits of reality, serving as an Altoid for its genre. I recommend it to fans and non-fans of romantic-comedies because it proves that the genre can produce seductive films when it’s in the hands of filmmakers who know what they are doing and are good at it.
– Preston Barta

Paul Giamatti (left) Thomas Hayden-Church (right) Photo Courtesy of Fox SearchlightSIDEWAYS (2004)
Miles

When I first saw SIDEWAYS, part of me was taken aback by how much I could relate to Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti). There wasn’t anything personality-wise that I was drawn to, with Miles being a morose drunk. However, I could relate to the pain he was feeling in love lost and clinging to his last hope. The plot is framed around Miles and his best friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church), who travel through California wine country for Jack’s bachelor party of sorts. However, it becomes clear that Miles is not in a good place from the title sequence, showing Miles’ car pressed up under someone’s bumper from driving home drunk, a juxtaposition to Miles telling someone over the phone he’s heading out the door but then shows him sitting on the toilet, reading. Miles is indifferent to anyone else’s feelings, caught up in his own self-importance. As the movie progresses, it becomes clear that Miles isn’t as self-important as he seems, but he is definitely a broken man. Jack breaks it to him that his ex-wife is getting remarried, which sets off the rediscovery that Miles has to go through.

Most of Miles’ dialogue revolves around wine as it detracts from his problems with letting go of his ex-wife and the possibility of his book not getting published. He clings to the things that keep him on airs with those around him; he talks wine because it gives him importance, he takes so long writing his book because it keeps people interested in him. He scrambles to even have a title for the book and comes up with “The Day After Yesterday”, which shows that he’s holding onto the past so hard he can’t even think of the word today. The fact is that other people mention the book… it’s not something he brings up initially, which shows a relatable fear for the audience. The best parts of Miles are shown in close-ups, because it translates to the emotion that he feels at that time. It gets the audience past that façade of a renaissance man to see the actual renaissance of Miles unfold.
– Jared McMillan

All the above films are available on Blu-ray/DVD. THE END OF THE TOUR opens in theaters tomorrow.

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