Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk: The Women in Billy's Life Kristen Stewart, Deirdre Lovejoy, Makenzie Leigh and Laura Lundy Wheale



 Kristen Stewart (Billy's sister, Kathryn), Deirdre Lovejoy (Billy's mom) and Joe Alwyn (Billy) PHOTO via @itsoktobeyouorg


I loved Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk so much I'm just going to keep right on blogging about it until the movie is released in November 2016. Whaaaat? That's like a gazillion months in the future. We might not even be here by then! Why so long? Probably because genius award-winning filmmaker Ang Lee is not only shooting Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk in 3D —remember how stunning his Life of Pi was in 3D— he's also shooting in hyper, uber, very very fast, like speed of light fast (okay, that's an exaggeration) but it's an insane 125 frames per second fast. It's unprecedented fast. Lee says it's to immerse the viewer in the war experience, all that unremitting action barreling at you. In order to give you a frame of reference, Peter Jackson shot The Hobbit in 48 frames per second, the fastest ever. That kind of techno wizardry takes quite awhile, not only to shoot but to put together.

It's clear Ang Lee isn't going to flinch when it comes to the dark underbelly of this particular story. It's an anti-war movie so Lee will want to show the actual horrible war behind the surface celebration, the heroism that cost lives, the battles, the bullets, the explosions that made the boys from Bravo the heroes George Bush sent on a "I'm here to pump you up" Victory Tour. I don't know how that will translate to the quieter moments in the film like the day Billy goes home to see his family, or his relationship with Faison, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. The whole thing makes me incredibly nervous but I have to remind myself Ang Lee's a genius. 

So ... since we've already met the Boys from Bravo, let's take a look at the women in Billy's life; his mother and sisters, and of course Faison, the cheerleader who sends him to the moon.

Kathryn, Billy's Middle Sister


Kristen Stewart plays Kathryn, Billy's middle sister. She's the reason Billy is in the military at all. Here's how we meet her in the book...
"So Billy told them about Kathryn, his middle sister and the star of the family, an extremely beautiful girl and gentle and smart who won a partial scholarship to TCU."

But she gets in a horrible car accident, and almost dies. And her fiancĂ© dumps her.
"Fractured pelvis, fractured leg, ruptured spleen, collapsed lung, and massive internal bleeding, then the complicated lacework on her face and back, 170 stitches below the neck, 63 above. You're gonna be fine, the plastic surgeon tells her the day after. It may take a couple of years but we'll get you there, I do this all the time. But Pussy boy can't handle it. Three weeks after the wreck he drives to Stovall and breaks off the engagement, whereupon the gentle Kathryn thumps the engagement ring in his face, thumps it as you'd thump a spider or slug you found crawling on your hand."
And Billy, my kind of hero, goes on the attack and does some stuff he shouldn't do to 'Pussy boy's' car. He's arrested but instead of going to jail, he's given the choice of signing up for the military. 

Kathryn is also the most outspoken critic of the war in the entire novel. She feels guilty that that he's going through this because of her. In the novel she spends much of her time and energy texting Billy trying to convince him how he's being used as a pawn and that there's a way out. A way that he can stay home rather than return to the war.



Clouds of Sil Maria created a lot of new Kristen Stewart fans; I'm one of them and I think she'll be great in the part. Hopefully she'll get more face-time that she does in the book. She deserves it.




Faison, A Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader 


Faison is the other female that has a major impact on Billy. She's the beautiful young Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader in a sea of beautiful Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders that Billy feels an instaneous connection to. She's being played by Makenzie Leigh (The Slap).

My son asked if the actress playing Faison was pretty. I told him she'd better be and showed him this picture. When he pulled his jaw up off the floor, I reminded him she was the babysitter in The Slap, the young girl having the affair with the much older man played by Peter Sarsgaard. (Sarsgaard is so good at the slimy guy parts, isn't he?) As for Leigh, she has a sensual beauty that reminds me of Alicia Vikander. That's what the part of Faison calls for, a girl so hot yet seemingly innocent that Billy can't resist. 

Here's how Billy first sees her in the novel—
"Billy's attention swings back to the cheerleaders and he does an experiment, walking his gaze down the row of women to his right. As he catches each cheerleader's eye she breaks into pyrotechnic smiles—it's like flipping on a row of klieg lights, bam bam bam bam. But somewhere down the line his gaze stops, backtracks of its own accord to a petite, fair-skinned girl with a teased-out corona of strawberry-blond hair, soft bolts of which drape the rising tide of her chest. She smiles again, then silently laughs and crinkles her eyes at him. he knows it's her job, but still; his stomach does a drop-kick sort of bounce. A nice girl doing her part to support the troops. 
 p. 124
"Billy allows himself to pretend that, yes, she really digs him, that they'll meet, exchange digits, go out on a date, go out on more dates, have sex/fall in love, marry, procreate, raise excellent children, and have incredible sex for the rest of their lives and why the hell not, dammit, humans have been doing it since ethe dawn of time so why can't Billy have his turn? He has looked away and when he looks back they both smile and silently chuckle over this little thing they have, whatever it is." p. 125



Denise, Billy's Mom

Lovejoy with Mariska Hargitay filming SVU

Billy's mom, Denise, is played by Hollywood veteran Deirdre Lovejoy who a lot of you know from The Wire. She's one of those actors who works all the time and who you see in this cop show and that cop show, in Orange is the New Black, in Girls, but you might not recognize if you saw her on the street. She's the kind of actor I'd want to be. All that fame sounds great until you realize exactly how much of a prison stardom really is. You think I'm joking; I'm not. I'd hate it. So would most of you.



Here's how Ben Fountain writes her in his novel—
"For dinner Denise served up a spectacular chicken tetrazini feed. She'd had her hair done. She'd put on makeup. She wanted everything perfect, which Ray deftly sandbagged baby cranking up the volume for Bill O'Reilly and chain-smoking through dinner." p.78
and
"Denise waited on her husband's every need, though she was never quick about it, Billy noticed she seemed quite fine with him harrumphing a second and third time, and when she did get around to fetching, pouring, cutting, she performed with a multitask air of distractedness, like she was watering plants while talking on the phone. She was sneaky. She had those passive-agrssive wiles. Her hair was an indeterminate washed-out chemical color, and most the emotional muscle tone was gone from her face, though she was still capable of sad, skewed smiles from time to time, forcing the cheer like Christmas lights in the poorest part of town. She strove mightily to keep the conversation upbeat, but family troubles kept leaking in around the edges." p.78




Patty, Billy's Oldest Sister 


Billy's other sister, Patty, is being played by Laura Lundy Wheale, a newcomer to film and television but who received training at the Lee Strasberg Academy here in Los Angeles. If the part runs true to the book, it's small but interesting. Here's a bit from the novel—
"Patty snuffled a laugh around the cigarette she was lighting. Former hell-raiser, high school dropout, teenage bride; in her mid-twenties now she seemed to have slowed down to start thinking about it all."  p.82
 and when Billy asks her about husband, she sounds tired out already. Her mother in training. Billy notices ...
"She just smiled and looked away. In Billy's memory she was always so lithe and bold; now she was packing saddlebags on her hips and thighs, spare tubes on her upper arms. With the extra weight had come an almost palpable air of apology."  p.82 
 Ugh! As a woman, that just punches me in the gut. Poor Patty. Those are the key women in Billy Lynn's life; I'm always to surprise when male writers turn out to be such good reporters of female behavior. Ben Fountain doesn't disappoint. 


Now, have you met the Boys of Bravo yet?

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