Finding Forrester (2000)
In a way, I just couldn’t start with any other movie, simply because Finding Forrester was so cute and sweet and sincere that I almost cried at the end.
Starring Sean Connery and his manly voice in the role of William Forrester, a very successful and yet reclusive writer, this movie actually has some pretty good advice on writing.
Connery’s character, loosely based on J.D. Salinger, through a string of events, ends up helping Jamal Wallace with his writing. Jamal is black and sixteen, and just about ten different characters say it’s remarkable that he’s black, sixteen, and also a good writer. The film also stars Anna Paquin will all her clothes on and Busta Rhymes.
As I said earlier, besides the melodrama and some pretty good jokes and some bad jokes and the inevitable romance and one or two cliches about writers (like all writers are notorious drunks,) this movie actually has some good advice on writing. Much like this one:
Forrester: Why is it that the words we write for ourselves are always so much better than those we write for others? Go ahead.
Jamal: Go ahead and what?
Jamal: What are you doing?
Forrester: I’m writing. Like you’ll be when you start punching those keys. Is there a problem?
Jamal: No, I’m just thinking.
Forrester: No thinking – that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is… to write, not to think!
And, of course, there’s this fabulous exchange between the remarkable black teenage writer Jamal and Sean Connery’s fantastic accent:
Jamal: Women will sleep with you if you write a book?
Forrester: Women will sleep with you if you write a bad book.
Barton Fink (1991)
Without a doubt this is one of the best movies about writers ever made. Written in three weeks by the Coen Brothers because they were suffering from writer’s block and they were struggling with the script for Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink won the Palme d’Or and was nominated for three Academy Awards.
Universally acclaimed, this movie tells the story of a young New York playwright who is hired to write movies scripts for Hollywood. John Turturro, in what is maybe the best performance of his career, reminded me, in a bizarre way, of Fitzgerald’s The Pat Hobby Stories, or any other of his shorts based on Hollywood for that matter.
I’m perfectly aware that this movie isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Damn, it’s even difficult to categorize. It’s a film noir, surrealistic, and whenever I have to describe it, I use one word: VERTIGO. This should do the job. It’s really worth the time.
Secret Window (2004)
I have a special relationship with this movie. I first saw the movie trailer at the cinema, and since I was very young at the time, I misunderstood what it was about.
What I understood from that trailer ended up years later as the basis for my novel The Writer.
Based on Stephen King’s novella, this movie is not as much scary, as it’s thought provoking. To a certain level, the psychological side of this movie appealed to me more than the horror part. And, of course, Johnny Depp’s performance, who for the past ten years or so, has played each of his roles impeccably.
Secret Window tells the story of Mort Rainey (Depp), a very successful writer who one night follows his wife into a motel, where she was busy having extramarital sex. Of course, they divorce, and he moves to their lake house. He’s suffering from writer’s block and spends most of his time either sleeping or drinking.
Until one day, when a guy named John Shooter (John Turturro) pays him a visit and accuses him of plagiarizing one of his short stories. Of course, things get nastier and nastier, and Mort Rainey finds himself locked in this strange game, when he’s constantly outsmarted and harassed by this Shooter guy. Then there’s the inevitable, mind-blowing twist at the end, which you will discover on your own.
I liked this movie, mostly because I’m a big fan of Depp, but also because Stephen King is one of the few writers who actually manage to create writer characters that appeal to non-writers; characters that actually add a bit of insight into what it feels like to be a writer.
What I admire about this movie is that it took a lot of courage to make. Hunter S. Thompson’s novel has a specific, hallucinatory imagery, and the story almost spirals out of control toward the end.
Those of you who’ve read the novel won’t be disappointed. A tale about addictions in its many forms, but mostly drugs, this movie stars Johnny Depp as Raoul Duke and Benicio del Torro as Dr. Gonzo, who’s some sort of lawyer, as we’re constantly reminded every two pages of the novel and two minutes of the movie.
Like Barton Fink, this movie isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It gets scary at one point, and it offers the visual equivalent of spinning around and around for twenty or so minutes.
The story it’s pretty simple. Raoul Duke, a journalist, and his friend Dr. Gonzo, go to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race. The idea is that they also buy all the drugs imaginable to man. And, of course, they try them.
Deconstructing Harry (1997)
I have this odd relationship with Woody Allen’s movies. Match Point, for instance, is one of my favorite movies. I loved just about everything in that movie: the beginning, the whole metaphor for luck, the smart dialogue, the story, the soundtrack, Scarlett Johansson. I really recommend it if you haven’t seen it already. It’s really, really good.
You Will Meet a Talk Dark Stranger (this one’s about writers too) is one of the few movies I genuinely hate. If I could, I’d ask for my two hours back. It was dreadful, even though it featured great actors like Anthony Hopkings, Josh Brolin, Antonio Banderas and many others.
But Woody Allen really gets the whole idea of being a writer. He understands the process, the quirks, the doubts and the lack of sanity. And Deconstructing Harry, featuring himself as Harry Block, a very successful writer, is one of the best movies about what it feels like to be a writer. The story is told through a series of flashbacks that add emphasis on the central plot of the movie, which in itself is pretty simple. Harry Block’s driving to a university to receive an honorary degree, accompanied by a prostitute, a friend, and his son.
This is a great movie, worth seeing by any aspiring writer. It offers insight into the mind of the writer, a feat not accomplished by many movies.
Midnight in Paris (2011)
Another one of Woody Allen’s movies, this one is a cute romantic comedy starring Owen Wilson as Gil Pender, a Hollywood screenwriter struggling to write his first novel.
If you like Rachel McAdams, then this is the movie for you.
It was enjoyable, though not as great as to deserve three Academy Award nominations.
Basically the storyline goes like this. Gil Pender and his fiancee are vacationing in Paris. There, through a magic only Woody Allen and Harry Potter know about, Pender ends up meeting Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, and many, many others.
As I said, the idea is quite cute, and, well, there’s always Rachel McAdams to look at, and it’s not the least bit boring (at least it wasn’t for me.)
The Rum Diary (2011)
As I said at the beginning of this post, this is a list of my favorite movies about writers, not that much about writers actually writing. In this one, there isn’t as much writing going on as there is drinking, but it’s worth a shot.
Based on one of Hunter S. Thompson’s novels (Johnny Depp actually stumbled upon the long forgotten manuscript of this novel during one of his visits to Thompson’s house), I gave this movie a try simply because there’s a very good female character in it.
Chenault (she doesn’t have a last name) played by Amber Heard, is a femme fatale unlike many other characters I’ve seen in movies. Well, maybe the novel version of Chenault is a bit more complex and original, but Amber Heard is simply ravishing. She’s sexual and sensual, and, sadly, that’s about it.
Oh, there are some laugh out loud scenes, there’s a lot of politics, and a lot of dialogue. And, of course, as the title suggests, rum, rum, rum.
The Libertine (2004)
This movie has it all. A controversial theme, a true artist type, the one who indulges himself in the most decadent of eccentricities, very good dialogue, and a very smart ending.
It even has character arcs, which isn’t something you don’t see too often these days. For those who love a bit of Shakespeare, a bit of The Tudors, this is the movie for you. And, of course, we shouldn’t forget about the sex. There’s lots of it, but then again, if you’re watching HBO…
The Words (2012)
This one’s kind of cool, because it’s about one or two things we rarely talk about: there’s a limit to what one can do with words and paper. Sometimes what one can do with them is not enough, and this leads to depression and starvation and some other stuff.
It’s also a movie about how much you’re willing to pay for getting what you want most.
And it’s also a nice love story, and it tackles the incredibly real idea of writing about a tragic event in order to get over it, which is kind of cool.
Really worth the time, because this one’s got a great cast (Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Irons, Dennis Quaid)
I know there are many, many more movies about writers. And there are some that are should be on the list, and maybe I’ll write a second blog to add them to the list. There are many of Stephen King’s adaptations, there’s Naked Lunch, and many others, like Capote, for instance.
What is your favorite movie about a writer/writing?