Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Marriage Plot: About the Book

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
366 pages

Screen rights acquired by Scott Rudin late in 2011.
Stars?
Directed by ?
Released ?


About the Book:
This book, written by the writer of the Pulitzer Prize winning Middlesex and The Virgin Suicides, has been on a ton of Best of 2011 lists. And having heard this was going to be made into the film, I was eager to read it, eager to like it.
It starts out promisingly enough, three young people on the verge of  graduating from their ivy league school. A bright and beautiful young English major, Madeleine Hanna, who is working on her senior thesis vis a vis, Jane Austen, George Eliot and the "marriage plot" at the heart of many an old english novel.  The handsome, charismatic scientist Leonard that she becomes erotically and emotionally entangled with.  And Mitchell Grammaticus, thoughtful, sensitive, obsessed with Madeleine; looking for love and looking for God.  A perfect love triange. What's not to love.
I liked this book a lot. I didn't love it. Maybe I was in the mood for something less messy, less life-like, more escapist. A love story that resolves itself the way those 'marriage plot' books do.
Yes the road to true love is difficult and marred with obstacles but alls well that ends well.
But that's not The Marriage Plot.
Instead I was frustrated with these characters and Eugenides for giving them life. I really related to Madeleine but was irritated that she couldn't see what a great guy Mitchell was. And I was irritated with Mitchell; come on, I wanted to shout at him DO SOMETHING! But of course, she's attracted to Leonard who is completely self-absorbed and isn't that attractive? Mitchell takes off on a round the world spiritual quest, Madeleine and Leonard move in together.
I didn't enjoy reading about Leonard's downward spiral. I didn't enjoy the armchair trip I was forced to go on with Mitchell to India. I wished that Eugenides could have given me the pat romance I was looking for. Instead it was a complicated story of friendship, love, frustration, mental illness, spirituality, growth and self-awareness. The characters were very well drawn out, if anything too much so. I couldn't keep my distance from them; it was less like reading a book and more like listening to the lives of friends and family unraveling and you wish you could help but you can't. All you can do is shake your head in sympathy and cluck.
Producer Scott Rudin has acquired the film rights for the book. He doesn't shy away from difficult material - he is the producer behing Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close - and I'm curious to hear who will write the adaptation. And who to talk about in terms of casting. Perhaps because I just saw her at the Golden Globes, Shailene Woodley strikes me as a potential Madeleine although perhaps she's a bit young. Characters should be about 22 - 24. Have you read the book? I will have to think about it; but Joseph Gordon Levitt could be quite wonderful as Mitchell. In fact, Anna Kendrick, his love interest in 50-50 might make a good Madeleine too. Leonard, fiery, unpredictable, utterly dashing, a young Robert Downey Jr or Johnny Depp. Who is that? Where are our twenty something actors with real chops?

Interesting side note: Jeffrey Eugenides was asked about his Oscar picks.
In that context he made a couple of interesting comments about the film adaptation of The Marriage Plot
"And recently the producer Scott Rudin bought “The Marriage Plot.” No director is attached, but if Mr. Eugenides had to choose from this year’s crop of nominees he’d go with Alexander Payne of “The Descendants,” which also happens to be his pick for the adapted-screenplay Oscar this year. “I think he would be good at the kind of quiet, humorous realism required for ‘The Marriage Plot,’” he said. “And I’m a huge fan of ‘Sideways.’”

4 comments:

  1. A bunch of people had read this before me and all liked it, but some said it was kind of trashy. I don't get that. It was intelligent and engaging--a page turner, without BIG plot elements. Jeffrey E, really knows how to use symbolism/deeper meaning to inform a setting. Definitely recommended.
    top voted sites, delicious BeefJerky

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    1. Trashy??? I don't get that at all. I'm in complete agreement with you. Every once in awhile I check to see if there's any movie news, none so far except that it's in development, scheduled for 2015 but that seems unlikely at this point. Thanks for the reco, didn't really need the Beef Jerky link but all righty:)

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  3. While the rapid literary references abate as the book goes on, they are always there in the background, and towards the end there is a rather startling reflection of Jane Eyre. Indeed that is apposite, as, if at the end, this book resembles the work of any Victorian, it is that of Charlotte Bronte with its theme of growth through suffering.

    Highly recommended.

    Marlene
    Info site for Fishing Lodge Alaska Information

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