Young Adult, the latest movie from the Jason Reitman/Diablo Cody team, tells the story of thirty-something Mavis Gary, the writer of a long-running teen fiction series about a high school called Waverly Prep. When the series is cancelled, recently-divorced Mavis returns to her hometown in the backwaters of Minnesota in an attempt to relive the glory days of her own high school. Bereft of inspiration for the final instalment of the series, she eavesdrops on teenagers in fast-food outlets and cannibalises her own life, which yields plenty of material as she relentlessly pursues an old flame in an alcohol-fuelled frenzy of self-destruction.
It’s a dark comedy, with the darkness mostly outweighing the humour, especially as the film progresses. There are many uncomfortable scenes (see the clip below), and a few that are downright excruciating.
Young Adult got me thinking about the depiction of writers in movies. When writing is going well, a person simply sits at a desk for hours at a time and well, writes… not exactly cinematic gold. So a compelling movie about writing requires the drama to come from elsewhere. How about some writer’s block? Marital dramas? Mental instability? Substance abuse? What the hey? Let’s go with all of the above!
There are some good lists of movies about writers/writing here, here and here. Some of my favourites are:
Adaptation – a surreal ‘metafiction’ which fictionalises screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s attempt to convert the book ‘The Orchid Thief’ into a movie. Already confused? It gets better.
Wonder Boys – the only time I’ve ever really liked Michael Douglas is in this move, where he plays a writing professor seven years and 2500 pages into his second novel, and still nowhere near to finishing
Stranger than Fiction – a mild-mannered tax accountant experiences in real life everything that an author he has never met writes in her novel
D.O.A. – the death of a promising writing student sets off a crazy chain of events in this slightly corny thriller starring Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid. Not exactly highbrow, I admit, but I like it.
The Shining – all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, mwahahahaaaaaa!
Of course, these are all movies about fictitious writers. There are many great movies about actual writers but I think they deserve their own list. What are some of your favourite movies about writers or writing? And please don’t say Barton Fink!
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