Monday, May 23, 2011


  by Gina Sestak

No, this is not another post about the Pennwriters Conference.  Great as it was, that subject has been done to death.  I do want to mention one thing, though.  Last Saturday's keynote speaker, Jonathan Maberry, kept sneaking away to write tens of thousands of words to meet a midday Monday deadline.  How many of us could have managed to participate in the conference with that looming over our heads?  It seemed more like the kind of thing a writer would do in a movie than in real life.

That got me thinking about how writers are depicted on film.  Awhile back, I mentioned one of my favorite writing movies, Stranger than Fiction (2006).

Writer Karen Eiffel (Emma Thompson)  spends her time working out her plot and putting it into words, much to the dismay of her protagonist Harold Crick (Will Farrell).

Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) also came across as authentically as a novelist in Romancing the Stone (1984).

The scene in which she is scrounging her apartment for a tissue is priceless.  I don't know about you, but that certainly looks a lot like my writing life.  For those who haven't seen the film, the heroine finds herself thrust into a real-life adventure like the ones she writes about - complete with a romantic hero (Michael Douglas) - when she has to go to South America to rescue her kidnapped sister.

Romance novelist Mary Fisher (Meryl Streep), on the other hand, lives in a mansion on a hill.  She-Devil (1989) pits her against Ruth Patchett (Roseanne Barr), an average housewife, in a battle for Ruth's husband Bob (Ed Begley, Jr.) and romance meets reality when his kids come to stay.

Not all writers on screen are female, of course.  Norman (Craig Sheffer)'s autobiographical A River Runs Through It (1992) tells the story of two young men growing up in Montana.

Perhaps my all-time favorite writer on screen is Mary Call (Julie Gholson), whose beautifully written narration powers Where The Lilies Bloom (1974), the story of a girl's struggle to conceal the death of her father.

Unfortunately, youtube doesn't have a trailer for it.

How about you?  Who's your favorite writer on screen?


Annette said...

Gina, I actually have the BluRay of Stranger Than Fiction here from Netflix. Just need to find the time to watch it. I've seen Romancing the Stone and A River Runs Through It more times than I can count. I've never seen She-Devil or Lillies, though.

Have you seen Finding Forrester? I wouldn't say Forrester is my favorite writer on screen, but I do love the movie.

Gina said...

I haven't seen Finding Forrester. What's it about?

She-Devil is a great film, another proof that Meryl Streep can do anything.

Where the Lilies Bloom is narrated by Mary Call reading from her journal. It's a little-known but fantastic film, a serious story with a lot of humor.

Annette said...

Gina, (from the back of the DVD) Jamal Wallace is a talented 16-year-old basketball player in New York City whose secret passion is writing. Willam Forrester (played by Sean Connery) is a reclusive Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who never gave the world a second novel. After an accidental meeting, Forrester becomes Jamal's unlikely mentor, providing guidance to help develop the young man's exceptional skills. Soon, Forrester's harsh view of the world begins to change as both men learn lessons from each other about life--and the importance of friendship.

NancyM said...

Adaptation. It's a scream for writers. My husband had no clue what was happening, though.

The opening scene of Romancing the Stone--when Joan Wilder goes around her apartment peeling Post-It notes off the walls--that's my life right now.

Gina said...

I almost included Adaptation, Nancy, but I figured folks were getting sick and tired of me posting about screenwriting all the time. I love that film.

If we include screenwriting, we could list Leaving Las Vegas, too. And Sunset Boulevard! Of course, both those writers end up dead . . .

Ramona said...

Attempt #3--Seriously, Blogger, gimme a break.

Stranger Than Fiction--adore. Also Finding Forrester and Adaptation, although with the latter, I loved the book (The Orchid Thief) much more. Does Field of Dreams qualify? One of my feel-good flicks.

Cross Creek, the biopic about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, is excellent.

Good topic, Gina.

Gina said...

I forgot about Cross Creek, Ramona. And what about The Snows of Kilimanjaro? Isn't the main character in that a writer, too? Oh, Jeez. He's also dying.

Gina said...

I forgot about the creepy ones -

Has everybody seen Johnny Depp in Secret Window? He's very convincing as a writer being stalked by someone who claims to have written his work - lots of twists and turns and a surprising ending.

Then there's The Dark Half in which Timothy Hutton's character writes under the influence of his unborn evil twin. What else would you expect from a collaboration between George Romero and Stephen King?

Annette said...

I love Secret Window! No surprise there since everyone already knows I'm a huge Johnny Depp fan (just saw the new Pirates movie this afternoon!

Apollo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Apollo said...

"Howl" with James Franco as Allen Ginsberg is my current favorite film about writing and writers. I knew Allen. Certainly not as hot as Franco:)

The Paris Review article on Hollywood's treatment of writers takes a different view than you:)

"In movies, writers are only slightly less morally repugnant than serial killers (unless the writer is a serial killer). According to Hollywood, writers are either parasites (Deconstructing Harry, Barton Fink, Capote, Misery); perverts (The Squid and the Whale, Adaptation, Wonder Boys, American Splendor); addicts (Permanent Midnight, Barfly, Leaving Las Vegas, Sideways), or sociopaths (La Piscine, Deathtrap, The Shining). They have monstrous egos and tiny, wizened hearts. Their moral compasses are permanently cracked; their personal relationships are cynically contrived to produce “experience,” which they feed to the insatiable maw of their craft. They are creatively constipated. They practice poor personal hygiene. They are not lovely to look at. It almost goes without saying that they are almost always male."

(3.18.11, "The Writers of Hollywood" by Jennie Yabroff)

Gina said...

Apollo - All I can say is, "Yikes!" I think we're more like Karen Eiffel (Stranger Than Fiction) in real life.