> Chapter1-Take1: July 2018

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer: My Take on the Book #review

The Wife book cover for novel by Meg Wolitzer, behind the movie starring Glenn Close

The Wife by Meg Wolitzer

Published in 2003, The Wife by Meg Wolitzer is the basis for the Glenn Close film due out August 17th. 

The book took me entirely by surprise, beginning as it does quite early on, with Joan telling her hugely successful author husband Joe Castleman that she wants a divorce. They’ve been married many many years, the book looks back on those years interspersed with events from the current trip to Finland where the big-deal writer is getting a very big deal prize—akin to, but not, the Nobel prize for literature.

Here's how the publisher, Simon & Shuster describe it:

The Wife is the story of the long and stormy marriage between a world-famous novelist, Joe Castleman, and his wife Joan, and the secret they’ve kept for decades. The novel opens just as Joe is about to receive a prestigious international award, The Helsinki Prize, to honor his career as one of America’s preeminent novelists. Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career, finally decides to stop.
Important and ambitious, The Wife is a sharp-eyed and compulsively readable story about a woman forced to confront the sacrifices she’s made in order to achieve the life she thought she wanted. “A rollicking, perfectly pitched triumph…Wolitzer’s talent for comedy of manners reaches a heady high” (Los Angeles Times), in this wise and candid look at the choices all men and women make—in marriage, work, and life.

It’s not a book I would expect to be surprised by. We see her as the ultimate wife, giving up her writerly dreams to support his efforts, raise their children. Be a WIFE. Where he throws his weight around like a big man on campus she is self-effacing, withdrawing from the spotlight except as his sidekick when he wants one. Often he’s accosted, as all famous men are, by women who want to tell him how marvelous he is. Usually, she looks on from the sidelines. Sometimes she will complain loudly later, mostly she lets it go. She knows he cheats, but hey, don’t they all, she seems to shrug. As she says of super successful men like her husband (the name Castleman says it all) ... 
‘As a rule the men who own the world are hyperactively sexual, though not necessarily with their wives.’
There is a lot of this kind of anger throughout the book, anger at herself. Anger at her husband which is surprising since she met him in a creative writing class at Smith, and ignoring the fact that he was married and had a little girl, she set about bedding him. What’s that story about the snake? You knew who I was before you let me in?

There’s anger too about giving up her own writing. ‘‘Oh I don't do that anymore’’ she tells people who ask because they know she wrote a few wonderful pieces as an undergraduate student. ‘‘Joan is extremely busy,’’ Joe would add, ‘‘babysitting for my ego.’’

Joan tells us she could have been like Joe but she gave it up for love. That his kind of big swaggering genius is unlovable.
‘I could have been like Joe if I’d wanted to. I could have swaggered around; I could have been hostile, lyrical, filled with ideas, a show-off, a buzzing neon sign. I could have been the female version of him, and therefore not lovable but repellant.’’
Interesting. A man can be full of himself, call himself a (stable) genius and still be given adulation. Even when he is a short little overweight man which Castleman is in the novel—in the book he is played by tall, slender Jonathan Pryce, not sure how that impacts the action. Anyway, a woman, according to Wolitzer’s Joan, cannot be a swaggering genius. My question. Does genius have to swagger? Is there no way to be quiet about it? In our Facebook/Twitter/Instagram world probably not. 

I found myself fairly angry with Joan Castleman by the end of the book. All that pretending not to see what her husband was doing, all the pretending, period. How could you, I wanted to scream at her. How could you?!

In addition to Glenn Close—who I can’t wait to see in this part—and Jonathan Pryce, the cast includes Christian Slater as a devotee of Castleman’s who stalks him everywhere, hoping to write his autobiography and Elizabeth McGovern as a famous female writer who warns Joan not to listen to the men, the ones who decides who gets to be published, who gets to be acclaimed. It’s a conversation we’re also having in the world of film.Harry Lloyd and Annie Starke play the young Joe and Joan.

The film comes out August 17th here in the US.

Sharp Objects starring Amy Adams: On location at the Crellin Estate

The Sharp Objects Home: Gothic and Gorgeous

Earlier this week, we looked at Barnesville, GA, which stands in for Wind Gap, Missouri in Sharp Objects, starring Amy Adams. 

If you go wandering to Barnesville for a look-see what you won’t find is Adora’s gorgeous Gothic home. The gated mansion sits thousands of miles away in the Redwood Valley area of Mendocino County in California.

The Sharp Objects house: 11535 East Rd, Redwood Valley, CA 95470

The show’s location manager Gregory Alpert told Vulture that director Jean-Marc Vallée “had very specific marching orders for the mansion: “I want a house that if someone was screaming, you would never hear them.” 

Alpert was sent photos of the house by the Mendocino County film commission; 
the 7500 square foot five bedroom, four bathroom home is boasts a foyer with a staircase, formal living and dining rooms, a gourmet kitchen, a breakfast room, a family room, and a home office. The 1,700-acre ranch also features its own nature preserve and 24 miles of road. The $6.2 million home had just been purchased as a retirement property. 

“Once I drove off the county road, the driveway itself is about a mile long,” Alpert said. “As I was driving up and the house exposed itself to me, I had one of those epiphany moments that, unfortunately, are few and far between. Oh my God! That’s the Crellin estate! I just fell in love with it. I did this quick 30-second video where I stood in front of it and did a 360-panorama and when I finally showed it to Jean-Marc, he went, ‘Boom! That’s it!’”

The then-yellow house was painted the more traditional Victorian blue-green color which I just adore. Vulture reports production tracked down the original painter.

“We were up against the clock and we didn’t want to bring out giant cranes,” Alpert said. “You had to put scaffolding precariously placed on some of the tiles. By tracking down the original painter, it gave comfort to the homeowner. We gave him two choices of traditional colors and he picked one with the understanding that we would leave the color.”
 The main gate, fence and some landscaping were all added. 

Now ... about all those mysterious rooms that lay upstairs, Amy’s bedroom with the deep bathtub, Marion’s room kept in pristine shape like a shrine ... none of that is inside the house. In fact, no one from the production ever saw the inside of the home, contractually they were limited to exteriors only! Production designer John Paino and his team—construction guys, set decorators—built the entire interior of the house on a soundstage here in Los Angeles... including some exteriors.

The foyer and that wallpaper you've been salivating over

“The house, although nice, didn’t have any of the grandeur that our set did,” Alpert said. “Any time you see Amy or Patricia walk in and out of a door, that was the extent of it. We were never inside the house.”

Camille's stepdad tinkering with that damn sound system

*Not that Adora’s husband—such a vapid, seemingly emotionless character I can never remember his name—would hear a thing anyway, deaf to the world as he is, muffled in his headphones. That’s an $80,000 stereo system he has installed in there by the way.

I feel like everyone I know is watching Sharp Objects. Are you? It’s not too late to catch up with previous episodes before watching Episode 4 tonight! Can not wait.

Ewan McGregor is Christopher Robin in Long, Lovely Extended Trailer

Poster for Christopher Robin movie starring Ewan McGregor

Ewan McGregor stars as Christopher Robin

Silly old bear. Christopher Robin opens one week from today on August 3rd. And I couldn’t be more ready to go back to a time of sweetness and light. I’m betting I’m not the only adult who wishes they could go back to The Hundred Acre Woods which is probably why we’ve been given a new extended—a whopping four-minute—trailer.

Ewan McGregor stars as Christopher all grown up, with Hayley Atwell and Bronte Carmichael as his wife and daughter but it’s Pooh—created by A.A. Milne, voiced by Jim Cummings (who also voices Tigger) that mesmerizes us with his silly old antics. 

There are some other big names behind the lovable menagerie from our childhoods—Brad Garrett as Eeyore, Toby Jones as Owl, Peter Capaldi as Rabbit—but the story really belongs, as it always has, to Christopher and his silly old bear.

For me, Milne’s creation has always been such a strong reminder of the importance of the imagination, the necessity of allowing your imagination to run free that I actually quoted Winnie the Pooh in an article I wrote for Children magazine. You can read The Importance of Free Time for Kids here, if you’re so inclined.

Look. I know you’re all grown up. Your childhood, like mine, is a distant memory. But be honest, is Christopher Robin on your must-see list?

Marc Forster (Finding Neverland, Kite Runner, Monsters Ball) directs.

The First Christopher Robin Trailer

Connecting with British Isles Friday

The Wife starring Glenn Close: Based on the book by Meg Wolitzer #book2movie #timesup

Movie Poster for The Wife starring Glenn Close & Jonathan Pryce based on the book by Meg Wolitzer

‘‘As a rule, the men who own the world are hyperactively sexual, though not necessarily with their wives.’’ The Wife, Meg Wolitzer

I’ve just started reading Meg Wolitzer’s The Wife; the screen adaptation starring Glenn Close is due out on August 17th. It’s an extremely short book weighing in at 218 pages but at a mere sixteen pages in, I know I’m in for a female-empowered ride. Published way, way back in 2003, it feels right for our #MeToo #TimesUp times, proving I suppose, that the road to real equality is two steps forward, one step back. 

Here’s how the publisher puts it ...
Meg Wolitzer brings her characteristic wit and intelligence to a provocative story about the evolution of a marriage, the nature of partnership, the question of a male or female sensibility, and the place for an ambitious woman in a man’s world.
The moment Joan Castleman decides to leave her husband, they are thirty-five thousand feet above the ocean on a flight to Helsinki. Joan’s husband, Joseph, is one of America’s preeminent novelists, about to receive a prestigious international award, and Joan, who has spent forty years subjugating her own literary talents to fan the flames of his career, has finally decided to stop. From this gripping opening, Meg Wolitzer flashes back to 1950s Smith College and Greenwich Village and follows the course of the marriage that has brought the couple to this breaking point—one that results in a shocking revelation. 
With her skillful storytelling and pitch-perfect observations, Wolitzer has crafted a wise and candid look at the choices all men and women make—in marriage, work, and life.

Check out this powerful trailer and pay close attention to the exchange between the young Joan Castleman and Elaine Mozell (Elizabeth McGovern) 
Don't ever think that you can get their approval.
The men. The ones who decide who gets to be taken seriously.
A writer has to write.
A writer has to be read, honey. 

The time is right!

Sharp Objects on Location: Welcome to Wind Gap! #book2screen

Photo tour of the real town of standing in for Wind Gap in Sharp Objects starring Amy Adams

On Location in Wind Gap AKA Barnesville, Georgia

Where is Wind Gap, Missouri, the main location for Sharp Objects based on the book by Gillian Flynn? You won't find the location for her novel—almost a classic southern noir with sweltering days and nights—on a map. Which meant director Jean-Marc Vallée had to search far and wide to find a place with just the right sleepy—dare I say creepy?—vibe.

According to Vulture, location manager Gregory Alpert dug up a variety of locations across three states to create the world Sharp Objects so uniquely inhabits. The series was shot in St. Louis, Missouri, in both Northern and Southern California—where 16 different communities are seen in the series—and the town that’s been Wind Gap’s primary stand-in, Barnesville, Georgia.

Hello Betty! says photographer & film fan Tracey Phillipps

I’m grateful to Tracey Phillipps, a member of the Sharp Objects Facebook group and a fellow film fan, for allowing me to share her photos of the real town behind the show. Tracey lives about an hour from Barnseville, Georgia, the stand-in for Flynn's fictional Wind Gap and decided to go have a look. Kathy Oxford, the film liaison from the county even gave her a personal walking tour and says the town is thinking about offering tours in the future. In the meantime, you can stop by the Chamber of Commerce to get started. 

Thanks for the tour, Tracey! You can find Tracey Phillipps on Twitter and Instagram, both at @scrappnfan. She’s also on Facebook. Tracey is a contributing host at a site called SoManyShows.com where they cover television shows via reviews, podcasts, and radio. Bosch fans are going to want to tune in! Thanks again, Tracey! Your photos were both informational and gorgeous to look at.

Now, if you’re anything like me, you’re lusting after the Crellin estate, the “home’’ Camille returns to in Sharp Objects.  More on that on my next Sharp Objects post but—spoiler alert—it’s not in Georgia. The location manager told Vulture that Vallée “had very specific marching orders for the mansion: “I want a house that if someone was screaming, you would never hear them.”  This gorgeous home up in California’s Mendocino County fit the bill. With Realtor in my background, I can’t help but wonder what a manse like this goes for. Any guesses?

Movies Based on Books ... Coming this Fall #TIFF #book2movie

Poster for Beautiful Boy starring Steve Carell and TImothée Chalamet based on the father and son memoirs by David and Nic Scheff

Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet in Beautiful Boy

The fall festivals are getting their lineups lined up right now, with some of our bookish faves making the cut. While Beautiful Boy debuts here in the US on October 12, the film will screen at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September first.

After making a huge splash last year in Call Me By Your Name, young Best Actor nominee, Timothée Chalamet was on a lot of director’s wish lists. Belgium director Felix Van Groeningen got their first with Beautiful Boy, the true story of a father and son as based on the memoirs by David and Nic Schiff. 

The logline

Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years.’

Book Cover for If Beale Street could Talk by James Baldwin

Barry Jenkins directs screen adaption of James Baldwin’s novel

The screen adaptation of If Beale Street Could Talk by James Baldwin is set for release on November 30th but makes its debut at TIFF in September. Barry Jenkins—who directed last year’s Best Picture Oscar for Moonlight—helms from his own screenplay based on Baldwin’s novel. Dave Franco, Ed Skrein and Pedro Pascal star with Kiki Layne as Tish, the young woman in Harlem.

The logline  

A woman in Harlem desperately scrambles to prove her fiancé innocent of a crime while carrying their first child.

Hugh Grant stars as Gary Hart in The Front Runner based on the book All The Truth is Out by Matt Bai

Hugh Jackman as Gary Hart in The Front Runner

Also at TIFF, The Front Runner starring Hugh Jackman as Gary Hart. Jason Reitman directs based on Matt Bai’s All the Truth is Out, who also wrote the screenplay.

The logline

American Senator Gary Hart's presidential campaign in 1988 is derailed when he's caught in a scandalous love affair.

Some of us—me—can’t wait to see Ryan Gosling as astronaut Neil Armstrong in First Man based on Armstrong’s autobiography. 

Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy in First Man

The logline

A look at the life of the astronaut, Neil Armstrong, and the legendary space mission that led him to become the first man to walk on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

While the film debuts at the Venice Film Festival on August 29 in Italy, the audiences attending TIFF will get a chance to see Gosling and costar Claire Foy in First Man before it hits movie screens here in the US on October 12.

Sharp Objects Episode 4: Teaser Trailer

Amy Adams with Taylor John Swift in Sharp Objects

After Episode 3 of Sharp Objects left me tearing my own eyelashes out, I can’t wait for episode 4. Like Big Little Lies, this is a limited series from director Jean-Marc Vallée to watch and rewatch. I have to take some time to wrap my head around episode three, and try to post something later on today. What an explosive hour!

Sharp Objects starring Amy Adams: Hidden Words to the Wise

Amy Adams stands outside bar door with No Minors painted on outside in Sharp Objects on HBO
 No Minors: Is there a meaning here.

I’m so intrigued by hidden words lying in plain sight in Sharp Objects that I had to share Kathryn VanArendonk’s piece on Vulture.com verbatim here. So many hidden messages! 

All of the Hidden Words You Missed in Sharp Objects
Kathryn VanArendonk

The HBO mini-series Sharp Objects is full of shadows and echoes and things you can’t quite fully glimpse — mysteries you know are there but can’t yet see, stories with contours you can’t totally make out. History lurks underneath everything, and after two episodes, we can mostly just see the outlines. But it’s also a show with words scratched on its surface. Sometimes they’re pitch-black, slantwise jokes about femininity and social expectations, sometimes they’re warning signs, and sometimes they’re straight, uninflected daggers of self-loathing.

As we discover in the last shot of the premiere episode, Camille Preaker literally carves words into her skin, turning herself into a lexicography of pain. She writes the inside words on the outside, naming and defining her story on her body. If Sharp Objects is an extension of Camille’s own self, an indication of how much its camera is also Camille’s eye, it makes sense that many of those words are also scratched and painted on the show itself. They hide in plain sight, suddenly visible in one frame and disappearing in the next.

Many of those words are hallucinatory, appearing in places that words wouldn’t otherwise show up, or you can only see them for a moment. Beyond Camille’s own hallucinations, Sharp Objects extends her fixation on words into a broader visual style, often using signage and lettering as a wry commentary on characters and their actions. These uncanny, hallucinatory images are a huge part of the show’s meticulously off-balance, unnerving feel, but they are insistently not clues — not in the traditional sense, at least. You don’t need to see them to anticipate what’s coming, nor are they a bread-crumb trail of tips to lead viewers to a hidden riddle. Their meanings are not hard to interpret: They are words from Camille’s mind, from how she understands herself, from the narrative of herself. They’re barely visible versions of everything Sharp Objects is already showing us, made explicit in language. Don’t think of them as hints; think of them as labels. Troubling, alarming, deeply scarring and scarred labels.

“Vanish” (Episode 1)

“ASK!” is seen on a cubicle wall. Photo: HBO

The first hidden word we see seems completely innocuous. Camille (or someone else) has used thumb tacks to spell out “ASK!” on the divider of her cubicle in her St. Louis newspaper’s office. It’s exactly the sort of meaningless, mindless thing you’d do while sitting at your desk. And its message reads as a chipper reminder for Camille to do her job. Once you see it in the context of the rest of the episode, though, “ASK!” seems like the viewer being prodded to ask about hidden mysteries, and like Camille begging to be asked real questions. On Sharp Objects, it surely can’t be a mistake that the word is spelled out with literal pins.

“BAD” and “A DRUNK” are carved into Camille’s table. Photo: HBO

Now we get into the less cheery vocab. There are many words scratched onto Camille’s desk, but the two most visible are “BAD” and “A DRUNK.”

“DIRT” is written on Camille’s car. Photo: HBO

This is the first of the clearly hallucinatory words. It could easily be something scrawled onto Camille’s dirty car with a finger, but there’s no word on the trunk in the first several frames, and then it appears suddenly. (The image also returns in one of Camille’s memory flashback sequences.)

Photo: HBO

Visible on a highway sign as Camille drives from St. Louis to Wind Gap: “Last Exit to Change Your Mind”

Photo: HBO

This one isn’t a hallucination, but it’s an example of the way Sharp Objects uses written language as part of its visual design. In a show where we already know about one murdered girl, another missing, Camille’s deceased sister, and the likelihood of other mysteries of Camille’s past, a sign reading “DON’T BE A VICTIM” falls somewhere between sincere victim-shaming and a very dark joke about the cruelty of the patriarchy.

“TOLERATE” and “LIMIT” are seen behind the glass. 
Photo: HBO

Another of Sharp Object’s bleak jokes, there’s a sign about knowing how much alcohol you can handle lurking behind an empty glass in the Wind Gap bar.

Photo: HBO

Right before Camille passes out in her car outside the bar, her stereo system flashes a message: “WRONG”

When Chief Vickery kneels by Natalie Keene’s body in an alley, the word “YELP” is scratched on the door frame to his left.

“GIRL” is seen on a painting in Amma’s dollhouse. 
Photo: HBO

The sneakiest one of the episode: When Amma shows Camille her absolutely fantastic, uncanny Gothic miniature dollhouse version of Adora’s southern mansion, the word “girl” is briefly visible, scratched onto one of the perfect replicas of the house’s artwork. Based on the layout of the house, it hangs right outside Camille’s room. (Also notable: Camille’s is one of the few rooms not built into Amma’s dollhouse — the tiny door to where her room would be leads nowhere.)

Photo: HBO

In the final shots of the episode, Sharp Objects gives us the reveal that will be familiar to anyone who’s read the Gillian Flynn novel: Camille’s skin is covered with scarred words. They’re all over her back and her legs, and in the final frame, the episode title, “VANISH,” appears suddenly highlighted on the back of her arm.

“Dirt” (Episode 2)

Photo: HBO

Sharp Objects hasn’t yet given a clear shot of Camille’s entire body, but we do get a flash of one scar in the montage at the beginning of the second episode.

At Natalie Keene’s funeral, a church banner that previously read “Hope” changes to “Hurt.”

As Camille sits in her car outside the memorial at Natalie Keene’s home, Bob Nash comes storming out of the house. The license plates on the surrounding cars read “BUNDLE,” “PUNISH,” and “TANGLE.”

The word “SCARED” is seen scratched on Camille’s car as she slams the door and walks into the Keene house.

Another onscreen textual joke: Camille looks around Natalie’s house and spots a girl’s pink T-shirt with “Whatever” printed on the back. It’s a fantastic encapsulation of the person Camille decides Natalie was — someone stuck inside a set of girly social expectations and restricted to a palette of pink and purple, but whose own tastes and interests didn’t conform to the feminine norm.

Photo: HBO

We then get another shot of Camille’s car door. This time, the word shifts to “SACRED.”

Source: Vulture.com’’

Which leaves me with two questions. 

Does the No Minors sign on the bar doorway have a specific meaning? This is a show where words we can see have a specific meaning, and the uneven, slapdash sign saying No Minors is too deliberate a choice not to have some other meaning. Clearly, according to the sign, no one under 21 is allowed YET we see the brother of the missing girl drinking so we know the sign is a lie, and the bartender giving him a pass. Why?

2    What words will be hiding in plain sight on tonight’s episode?
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