> Chapter1-Take1: June 2017

The Beguiled: My take on the movie ... bewitched, bothered and betrayed by Colin Farrell #book2movies

Is it too easy to say I was beguiled by The Beguiled? As utterly enchanted by this group of giggling girls and women who fall under the spell of Colin Farrell's John McBurney as I was by the handsome devil Colin Farrell himself. Who wouldn't fall in love with him, so helpless, so handsome, so sweet and appreciative of their small attentions, their efforts to charm him?

I was swept off my feet from the first shot, of little Amy (Oona Laurence) humming a sweet song as she walks along a gloriously shot tree shrouded path bathed in the mist of an early summer morning. Her initial fear when she encounters the wounded soldier, his charming Irish-accented response, a quick and understandable friendship forms between the little girl and the wounded soldier she finds in the woods. 

Is it McBurney's fault he shakes things up when Amy takes him back to the seminary where Miss Farnsworth (Nicole Kidman) & Miss Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) look after their few remaining students? His fault they tumble over themselves to get his attention? Dress up in their Sunday best, putting on rarely worn jewelry to catch his eye? As women in 2017, we may pretend we're immune to this kind of thing but don't we all really know what one handsome man can do when plonked down amidst a group of females? The fox in the henhouse, so to speak. I assume it's much the same as the effect one pretty woman has on a group of men. Who hasn't been susceptible to the charms of a handsome devil, a smile, a cock of the head, a flirtatious stare you think is meant only for you. 

McBurney goes further, reading these women like open books, instinctively knowing his way into each heart. "You don't belong here" he tells Kirsten Dunst's restless Miss Edwina. "You're so brave" he compliments Kidman's competently in-charge Miss Farnsworth. "You're my favorite" he tells young Amy. To Miss Alicia played by Elle Fanning, McBurney doesn't need to say a thing. A provocative teenager, learning about the power of her own sexuality, all she requires is the male gaze. She gets that and more. 

Seeing The Beguiled was like being beguiled—bewitched, bothered and bewildered—by Colin Farrell and then betrayed all in the course of an hour and a half. And if you've ever found yourself seduced and then discarded you may know the urge to get your revenge. If you've ever gone that far, you probably know too, the sad and hollow feeling you have when it's all over. The old adage is hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. That may be true but it rarely leads to satisfaction. It doesn't change the basic betrayal. 

That's the up and down of The Beguiled. Lovely, lyrical, captivating like the sweetest summer romance, then the turn, the violent and harrowing climax and the anticlimax, mournful and thought-provoking. 

I'm not sure I understand the marketing concept behind the #VengefulBitches hashtag, as if the ending is deserving of a celebration. There really is nothing to celebrate.

Directed by Sofia Coppola, beautifully shot by Philippe LeSourd from a script by Coppola, Albert Maltz and
Irene Kamp, The Beguiled is based on the book originally title A Painted Devil by Thomas Cullinan. 

Did I like The Beguiled? 3 1/2 Apple Pies worth. In fact so much so that I'm going to see it again with my husband tomorrow. Is The Beguiled on your must see list? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Vanity Fair is getting a makeover #book2movies

Reese Witherspoon, Vanity Fair, 2004

I've just read that Vanity Fair is getting another re-do. The last iteration starring Reese Witherspoon was both a critical failure and a box office flop back in 2004 so word of a new version of Thackeray's classic satirical novel won't have anyone shedding tears. The news that the many many many paged book is going to be a seven part series—rather than a 2 hour film—is very good news for obvious reasons. 

Taking Witherspoon's place as Becky Sharp is Olivia Cooke, the young British actress many of you know from Bates Motel and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. We'll see her next year in the Steven Spielberg adaptation of Ernest Cline's Ready Player One and the intriguing sounding Life Itself, both coming in 2018.

Except for the fact that Becky Sharp is a social climbing adventuress I confess I've mostly forgotten the book which I think I read back in college. Or thereabouts. I might even have read it for pleasure, I went through a time in the 70's when I went through 19th century period novels like Austen's Pride and Prejudice, George Eliot's Middlemarch, Charles Dickens Bleak House and Henry James Portrait of a Lady like they were The Girl on the Train. These days, not so much. I may try to reread Vanity Fair but with the paperback weighing in at 848 pages, I'm not optimistic. 

Here's how the Bantam Classic is described on line:
A deliciously satirical attack on a money-mad society, Vanity Fair, which first appeared in 1847, is an immensely moral novel, and an immensely witty one. Called in its subtitle “A Novel Without a Hero,” Vanity Fair has instead two heroines: the faithful, loyal Amelia Sedley and the beautiful and scheming social climber Becky Sharp. It also engages a huge cast of wonderful supporting characters as the novel spins from Miss Pinkerton’s academy for young ladies to affairs of love and war on the Continent to liaisons in the dazzling ballrooms of London. Thackeray’s forte is the bon mot and it is amply exercised in a novel filled with memorably wicked lines. Lengthy and leisurely in pace, the novel follows the adventures of Becky and Amelia as their fortunes rise and fall, creating a tale of both picaresque and risqué. Thackeray mercilessly skewers his society, especially the upper class, poking fun at their shallow values and pointedly jabbing at their hypocritical “morals.” His weapons, however, are not fire and brimstone but an unerring eye for the absurd and a genius for observation of the foibles of his age. An enduring classic, this great novel is a brilliant study in duplicity and hypocrisy…and a mirror with which to view our own times.
My twitter friend who calls herself 'Crazy Book Lady' and goes by @rorysbooks on twitter reminds me they changed the ending of Vanity Fair in the Reese Witherspoon version—never a good idea for a lit loving movie fan. Any ideas for what else might have gone wrong? Does it have anything to do with this picture?

Here's the 2004 Vanity Fair trailer, should you want a reminder of how the movie went down. The new iteration comes from the producers of Poldark and Victoria and has been written for television (via Amazon and ITV) by Gwyneth Hughes, screenwriter of The Girl and Dark Angel. Production is supposed to begin this fall in London and Budapest so watch for more casting news in the coming weeks. 

Ready for a remake?

Linking up with Joy Weese Moll's British Isles Friday

The Beguiled Costume Design: If looks could kill~Dressing the women #book2movies

At this point I think we've all seen enough trailers and commercials to know what The Beguiled is basically about: a wounded union soldier (Colin Farrell) who's taken in by a group of women at an all- girl boarding school in the south during the Civil War; his presence sparks a lot of interest with the females competing with each other for his attention. Sounds like just another episode of The Bachelorette! There seems to be a lot of sexual tension, and some surprising—or maybe not so surprising—turn of events. After all the trailer and ads push pretty hard on the old 'hell hath no fury like a woman scorned' motif using the hashtag #vengefulbitches proudly. From what I gather, the ladies do something nasty with the apple pie. 

The film is coming to my local movie theater this weekend and since critics are mixed on what to make of it, I'm curious to see how I respond. I loved the first one starring Clint Eastwood back in 1971, mainly finding Clint especially sexy. Colin is sexy too but my understanding is this one is told more from the women's perspective. 

Penguin has just reissued the book, originally titled A Painted Devil as The Beguiled. Written in 1966 by Thomas Cullinan the novel is in the southern gothic genre

Let's check out the costume design. Stacy Battat, who also worked with director Sofia Coppola on The Bling Ring and Somewhere, told Vogue she met with Coppola plus the production designer & cinematographer before beginning her work. Par for the course in most movies:
We all sat down and talked about the world that we were going to create and knew we wanted one that was very ethereal and diaphanous, with pastels and light pouring through moss trees and big windows.

Because many Southern women would have been in mourning—the Civil War having killed thousands and thousands of husbands, sons, brothers, uncles and cousins on both sides of the Mason Dixon line—they would have typically been wearing black. The light colors suggest a quality of sweetness and light which, judging from the trailer, is little more than a sheer and pretty petticoat over a wicked black corset. These ladies are the ultimate nasty women. And not without good reason.

Nicole Kidman’s character Miss Martha is the head of the household, so we wanted her to be dressed in a way that spoke to her being in charge. We gave her a high neckline, and the dress she wears in much of the film looks as though it’s made with a vest on top. It’s very masculine for that era.” 
Women would never have worn their hair down, either, not even for bed, but Fanning’s character, Alicia, has locks that are always loose. For several scenes, Battat also styled her buttons to be undone just so at the chest.

She’s a bit wilder than the rest,” Battat says of Alicia.

Kirsten’s Edwina is from the city, so her looks were all a bit more sophisticated and more romantic, with decorated sleeves and more jewelry than the other girls.” Battat called upon Ten Thousand Things in New York to make Edwina’s bracelets, and Miss Martha does wear a Eugenia Kim hat, but the majority of the costumes were specially made based off of Battat’s sketches.

“I started by going to the Metropolitan Museum and looking at all of these fabric swatches from the textile department,” she recalls. “I looked at the era in which The Beguiled is set, but I also found inspiration in fabrics and colors and textures from years before and after that time. I’m sure we are going to get abused by Civil War reenactors,” Battat adds with a laugh.

I'm really intrigued to see this one. And I'm hoping you'll let me know what you make of it, if and when you see it too.

Trailer VS Trailer: The Beguiled ... Clint Eastwood vs Colin Farrell #book2movies

Update June 28th: The Beguiled made its debut at Cannes to raves, it's playing now to mixed reviews, some call it a haunting fairy tale, others 'gorgeous but stifling'. They mostly agree The Beguiled has been shot beautifully by Philippe Le Sourd. No matter the reviews, I'm hoping to see The Beguiled this week. I saw the original when it was released in 1971, gender politics were a lot different then so I'm curious to see how this plays out. What I mostly remember my 18 year old self thinking was that Clint Eastwood was hot hot hot! The 64 year old me risks being thought of a dirty old woman by saying the same goes for Colin Farrell.

When I first shared the release date for the remake of The Beguiled starring Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst: June 23, 2017, the studio hadn't yet released a trailer. 

And because they hadn’t released the trailer, I shared the vintage 1971 trailer of the original film based on the book by Thomas Cullinan. That movie starred Clint Eastwood and was pretty provocative viewing.

Guess what happened? The studio has now released the trailer for the upcoming version directed by Sofia Coppola! They couldn’t have done that in time for my post?

What to do? Compare and contrast, what else?




“You vengeful bitches!’’

Both trailers show the females are jealous of each other, eager for McBurney’s affection. Through the use of voice over, the trailer from 1971 is much more obvious about the sexual overtones of the movie, calling the women “man-deprived’’, the girls, “man-eager.” Those passions are attributes McBurney inflames for his benefit, using the women’s desire as a tool to try to achieve his freedom. 

While both men use the women (poor, lonely, men-deprived women!) notice how the 1971 version talks tough but we see Eastwood playing the role of a gentle lover, seductive and enticing with his kisses and embraces. 

In the upcoming 2017 version Farrell appears to be cast in a more violently aggressive role; ripping bodices, tearing clothing, forcing himself between legs. It’s hard to know from such a short trailer whether Farrell’s McBurney is a brutal rapist while Eastwood’s McBurney is a more insidious type of sexual predator. 

Has director Sofia Coppola directed a film about a bunch of jealous women getting their come uppance because a sexually enticing man has played them or is there more beneath the surface? What seems clear is that in the end, the women—those vindictive bitches—win. Huzzah to that!

What do you think? 

Is 'A Simple Favor' the next 'Gone Girl'? #book2movies

Updated 2/1/2018
Is this the next Gone Girl? It's not 100% but it looks like Blake Lively—who just signed on to star in the adaptation of Liane Moriarty's The Husband's Secret —and Anna Kendrick who has a sequel to The Accountant on her to-do list, are starring in A Simple Favor based on the thriller by Darcey Bell.

Blake Lively in Cafe Society

Anna Kendrick in The Accountant

Here's how the publisher sums up the book ...

She’s your best friend. 
She knows all your secrets.
          That’s why she’s so dangerous
A single mother's life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.
It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.
But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.
Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.
A Simple Favor is a remarkable tale of psychological suspense—a clever and twisting free-fall of a ride filled with betrayals and reversals, twists and turns, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge. Darcey Bell masterfully ratchets up the tension in a taut, unsettling, and completely absorbing story that holds you in its grip until the final page.
I am definitely going to have to read this! While I originally posted that Lively would likely play Stephanie, the mommy blogger, with Kendrick as Emily, the mother who just disappears, I was totally wrong wrong wrong. Anna Kendrick is Stephanie, the mommy blogger, Lively is Emily. I'm wondering which will come first for Lively, A Simple Favor or The Husband's Secret which is listed as being in preproduction but with no further details at all.

A Simple Favor was picked up by Hollywood over a year before its March 2017 publication date and has already been translated into several language including Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German and French (as Disparue, which I think means Disappeared or Missing) and of course, the king's English. I'm putting A Simple Favor on my must-read list, how about you?

Grantchester: Thanks for the memories, James Norton #book2movies

Grantchester came back last week, opening the new season with a Christmas episode. A Christmas episode in June. I still don't know why and as much as the marketing pieces tried to play up the whole magic of the season bit, it was hard to get into the spirit of Christmas with summer blazing away outside. 

That is, until the end of the program when everyone came together for Christmas dinner and even sour faced Mrs. Maguire got into the holiday spirit, actually smiling at Amanda. A huge concession considering Amanda is now the divorced mother of a newborn, in love with the reverend Sydney, the minister Mrs. Maguire mothers and keeps house for. 

I smiled too, in recognition of the tissue paper crowns everyone is wearing although they didn't show the actual pulling of the Christmas crackers, or the telling of the usually awful punny jokes hidden inside the crackers. There's also a silly prize. After dinner, like good Brits, they played a game of charades, another English holiday tradition I love. I'm very familiar with the mystified expressions on their faces—that happens to me when I'm the one giving the clues.

This is my family—I'm the out of focus one on the right—about 20 odd years ago.
I'm horrified by the sight of the soda cans sitting on our Christmas table! I can't remember any of us being that slackadoodle! Where are the glasses??? That little boy on the left, my pride and joy,  is 24 now.

The wearing of the silly hats and playing charades after 
dinner are two of the English Christmas traditions I grew up with and that my brother (middle of the picture, yellow crown), sister (second from back, on the right, yellow crown) and I still cherish. That appreciation of our British roots is evident even today in the bumper sticker I saw on my now-grown-up niece's car "Made in the USA with British parts." I can't tell you how happy it made me to see that! 

I still don't know why this season's Grantchester began at Christmas time, but I do love the memory jog back to my own family's traditions. And James Norton. As my mum might have said, pulling out her best Londoner 'he's a bit of a alright, he is'. And he is.

Grantchester, based on a series of books by James Runcie, airs on Sunday nights on Masterpiece Theater here in the U.S.  I've yet to catch up on this week's episode. 

Any other British telly addicts watching Grantchester too? 
I’m all ears.

Saturday Matinee: Mildred Pierce starring Joan Crawford #book2movies

I'm a huge fan of Feud but it's not fair to Joan Crawford that so many people will have that caricature embedded forever in their brains. That and Mommy Dearest. Lest we forget, Crawford won —legitimately won—the Academy Award for playing the titular character in Mildred Pierce based on the book by James M. Cain. A master of the noir genre, Cain also wrote the novels Double Indemnity and The Postman Always Rings Twice. 

Have you read the book?

In Mildred Pierce, noir master James M. Cain creates a novel of acute social observation and devasting emotional violence, with a heroine whose ambitions and sufferings are never less than recognizable.  
Mildred Pierce had gorgeous legs, a way with a skillet, and a bone-deep core of toughness. She used those attributes to survive a divorce and poverty and to claw her way out of the lower middle class. But Mildred also had two weaknesses: a yen for shiftless men, and an unreasoning devotion to a monstrous daughter.
Joan Crawford with Ann Blythe as the ungrateful daughter in Mildred Pierce

That 'unreasoning devotion to a monstrous daughter' was the film's undoing to the NY Times critic when the film came out in 1945.

Joan Crawford is playing a most troubled lady, and giving a sincere and generally effective characterization of same, in the new drama of James M. Cain origin, "Mildred Pierce"... But somehow all Miss Crawford's gallant suffering, even with the fillip of murder-mystery that was added to the novel by its screen adaptors, left this spectator strangely unmoved. For it does not seem reasonable that a level-headed person like Mildred Pierce, who builds a fabulously successful chain of restaurants on practically nothing, could be so completely dominated by a selfish and grasping daughter, who spells trouble in capital letters.

I selected Mildred Pierce for this week's Saturday Matinee (where we like to look back at movie classics) because I haven't seen it either. It might be fun—hah!—to read the book, watch the movie starring Joan Crawford, then watch the miniseries starring Kate Winslet, directed by Todd Haynes. Anyone in?

A flair for the dramatic

They say that instead of going to the Academy Awards, Joan Crawford feigned illness and stayed home. When she won, she ushered the press into her home and accepted her Oscar for Best Actress. 

Check out the trailer, let me know what you think.

As usual, you can stream today's Saturday Matinee for about three bucks on Amazon, iTunes, Youtube, Vudu and googleplay.

The Beguiled: The White-washing Issue #book2movies

The Beguiled is opening this weekend and while it looks enticing, and I plan on seeing it, with the film's opening comes the public outcry of another case of whitewashing. 

The Beguiled is based on the 1966 book by Thomas Cullinan, originally titled The Painted Devil.

The Beguiled—a gothic thriller set in the antebellum south—is a remake of a Clint Eastwood film about a Civil War deserter taken in by a school marm & her few remaining students. In the remake Colin Farrell takes on Eastwood's role with Nicole Kidman as the headmistress, Kirsten Dunst as a sheltered young teacher, and Elle Fanning as a young girl coming of age. 

Stuck in a broken down school, all the females are thrown into a flutter at the sight of the sexy Farrell. The air is filled with flying hormones. You can approve or disapprove of the old trope of women backstabbing and sneaking around behind each others backs in order to get a man's attention, the much desired male gaze (which is perhaps not that antiquated, I hear The Bachelor can get a trifle competitive) but the main problem the movie's critics have with the film isn't what's on the screen but what's not. The problem stems from writer/director Sofia Coppola making a movie set in the deep South in the Civil War era without any black people in it. Huh? How do you make a film about white southerners without showing the slaves who helped them maintain their southern charm? 

Coppola has been particularly criticized because she removed a black character that did appear in the original, a slave named Hallie who we see here shaving John Burney. 

Hallie, played by Mae Mercer, isn't just any old slave. As you can see, she's gorgeous. Judging from this still, all the sexual tension crackling in that house, crackled between these two as well. 

Why did Sofia Coppola remove her? 

Coppola explained her point of view to BuzzFeed—
“I didn’t want to brush over such an important topic in a light way. Young girls watch my films and this was not the depiction of an African-American character I would want to show them. I was clear about my decision—because I want to be respectful to that history.”
Ira Madison III offers a defense of sorts in the Daily Beast: 

In the ’60s and ’70s, it was standard to stick a token black character into a narrative to show the “pains” of slavery or being a black person in America. This hardly ever worked and most depictions, like 1971’s The Beguiled, are incredibly offensive in a modern context. Today, with films such as 12 Years a Slave and series like Underground, we’ve gotten three-dimensional, harsh, and humanizing portrayals of black women and men in bondage. But in a film about a Union soldier who terrorizes the young girls of an academy, that type of portrayal would be more than out of place—it would be horrific. There’s an odd irony in demanding the inclusion of a slave in a dream-like narrative while also wanting Hollywood to produce more accurate, savagely cruel depictions of slavery. For Coppola, it’s a catch-22. She’s damned if she includes a slave character and produces a demeaning portrayal of a black woman, but she’s damned if she decides to excise that character altogether as well.
Madison goes on to make the most important point. White men and white women don't tell the best stories about people of color. How could they? Whitewashing will stop when Hollywood gives diverse voices a chance—a real chance—of telling those stories themselves.
Gone are the days when we needed a Steven Spielberg to make a film like The Color Purple or a George Lucas to back Red Tails. We should demand that studios and producers give those opportunities to black filmmakers instead of looking for meager scraps from white people who don’t fully grasp our stories and will portray them horribly. 
So for now, we have Coppola making a female-centric story, one in which the females are white. I honestly don't know how I feel about it, whether Coppola could have included Hallie's character in an authentic manner without history washing! Hallie's role would be horrible, because the world treated black people horribly. That's historically accurate, whether we want to look at it or not. I do know I'm pleased to see a movie helmed by a woman featuring a strong female cast. Coppola's explanation makes a fair amount of sense to me. What do you think?

The AP just released this short video interview with the director and Nicole Kidman talking about the film and the female gaze. Whitewashing doesn't come up. 

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