Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
The Girl in the Book: The Dark Side of Muse-dom
Alice Harvey never had the right temperament to be a Joyce Maynard. Instead,
her inappropriate relationship with celebrated novelist Milan Daneker only led
to psychological hang-ups and complexes. However, it gave him plenty of
material for his breakout bestseller. When Harvey is forced to work on Daneker’s
latest impenetrable tome, it brings her unresolved issues to the fore in screenwriter-director
Marya Cohn’s The Girl in the Book (trailer here), which opens
tomorrow in New York.
seems to know just enough about book publishing to get things wrong. Take an “ARC”
Harvey’s boss tells her, handing her a jacketed hardcover. Wow, those are some
ARCs (advanced reading copies), but the book in question is a backlist staple,
so why print any kind of ARCs at all? He then assigns her the entire launch
campaign for Daneker’s new hardcover. Trust me, houses have entire marketing
and publicity departments for that sort of thing—and especially for a
Salingeresque bestseller. He then demands she reschedule an appointment with
his shrink. Okay, that one—maybe.
these publishing details really matter? Rightly or wrongly, I can’t get around
them, because obviously. Make your own judgement on that score. Regardless,
Harvey is stuck working with the one person she most wants to avoid. We
basically get the gist of their awkward awkwardness right from the start, but the
creepy details will be steadily parceled out in flashbacks. The dynamics of
their relationship (for lack of a better term) are actually quite credible, in
part thanks to her problematic literary agent father. We can believe she craves
the attention Daneker gives her, even though we suspect his intentions.
should be duly stipulated Ana Mulvoy-Ten is absolutely terrific as young
Harvey. It is absolutely painful to watch the rude disillusionment of her naïve
sensibilities. Michael Nyqvist is also remarkably compelling as Daneker. Cohn
offers no excuses or mitigation for his behavior. Yet, despite Nyqvist’s
charisma, he largely comes across as sad and pathetic rather than a
the contemporary scenes with older, self-destructive Harvey are often pretty
cringe-worthy, especially when she gets involve with a vapid (but supposedly
soulful) political activist who heads up a group called—nausea warning—“People for
the People.” Honestly, you will want them to get back together so they won’t
get involved with any innocent bystanders. At least, Ali Ahn supplies some
effective reality checks as Harvey’s long suffering best friend, Sadie.
TGITB definitely gets at something when it explores
the dark and exploitative nature of mentor-muse relationships. Unfortunately,
it is watered down with insular Silk Stocking navel gazing and undermined by a
superficial understanding of the glorious book business. Frankly, Mike Nichols’
Wolf is probably still the best publishing
movie and it also has werewolves. Its merits just aren’t worth its frustrations
when The Girl in the Book opens
tomorrow (12/11) in New York, at the Village East.
Labels: Book Publishing