Category Archives: films about writers

FAW: Secret Window (2004)

I have Star Trek, The Internship and The Great Gatsby to review and after a month’s dry streak I have to admit that what actually got me back to blogging is a film nearly a decade old. It has Johnny Depp, though. So I guess it’s understandable.

FAW stands for Films About Writers. It’s a feature.

Last night I was at my mum’s couch, nearly asleep, and Secret Window started. I’ve never seen Johnny Depp as a writer in a film even though I know he’s done that at least thrice. It peaked my interest.

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The plot’s this: Johnny Depp1 portrays a writer, currently suffering from writer’s block, hiding away at a remote cabin. He’s got issues with his wife, having found her a cheater half a year earlier; with her current boyfriend who she was cheating  on him with; and with a creepy Mississippi farmer Shooter who’s accusing him of plagiarism. And then things get more interesting and a whole lot darker.

The actors are excellent and that’s not merely Johnny Depp’s radiating awesomeness. The characters are few: Mort (the writer); his almost-ex-wife; her boyfriend; Shooter; the sheriff; a private investigator Mort hired; a town citizen called Tom Greenleaf — but they all deliver and more. Since so much focus is on the characters, it helps the film a lot.

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Somewhere in the middle of the film2 it struck me that this story would fit into Stephen King’s works gloriously. And the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Now I looked it up, and yep, apparently I can recognise my favourite author’s3 writing even when it’s in a film. Whether it’s the fact I’ve read so much of his writing or if it was the film, the biggest issue throughout the film is it being predictable – I figured out the twist way too soon into the film, as the hints to the twist are a bit too obvious.

Secret Window isn’t brilliant, I suppose. But it has everything it has to have which makes the film simple in a good way. And it gave me chills4 which is always a good sign. The main attraction is that I loathe commercials but lived through them all even though it was 2 am and I was dead tired – predictability and suspense are both there. And Johnny Depp makes a damn good writer. And it’s the perfect cure for your average writer’s block.

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1 I’ve said his name three times already, so what. You do get why, right?
2 during another commercial break. I realised why I don’t watch cable about eight times watching the film.
3 one of them – I couldn’t choose between Vonnegut and King.
4 I am extremely easily scared so that’s not exactly hard to do but still – it has that thrill you need to have in a psychological thriller.

FAW: Ruby Sparks (2012)

tumblr_mj3uoqFwGd1ruxjroo2_500 tumblr_mj3uoqFwGd1ruxjroo3_500Films, for me, are an escape route. Much like books, they hold the wild stories of others, safe for me and my mind. Sometimes a film comes along that challenges that. Ruby Sparks made me want to write and never stop, not letting me rest. Chris said that it cures any writer’s block and I think I’m getting my hands on a tangible Blu-Ray copy of this because it did.

I liked a lot of things they did with this; like Calvin’s disbelief that she was real; the way he got mad at his mum; the scenes where Calvin blankly stared over the typewriter; Calvin’s awkwardness overall; Ruby’s youth montage; and the part where Calvin yells at his ex1. He was so damn believable, the controlling self-centred writer – they are somewhat stereotypical but usually lack the plausibility. Paul Dano does an excellent  job on this one, though.

It is remarkably surprising how dark the film got. I was disappointed some half hour in because every time a film has an introduction and then has a cliché montage of overjoyed everything-is-going-perfectly dazed happiness2, I know what’s going to happen next. Ruby Sparks shook me out of it right away, though, because it simply carried me along, keeping me hooked. It was rather amazing. The darker scenes were excellent, too, manic and depressing and exceptionally sad all at once.

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Ruby and Calvin together were incredibly natural. It couldn’t have been any other way because they fit.3 Zoe Kazan (Ruby) wrote the script which makes it all the more amazing and of course, rises the question of how much real life is in the film.

The tagline is marvellous, too: she’s out of his mind. I’m not sure how but it somehow captures the entire being of the film.

1 powerful!
2 first, it’s cliché; and second, it reminds me of the rollercoaster setting of film scripts. I found it when writing for Script Frenzy and it ruined a lot of the mystery in films for me.
3 one of the reasons might be that their actors are dating in real life.