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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Middlemarch Watch: Can Mendes do Eliot Justice?

So now that "Revolutionary Road" is over and done with and la la la, Sam Mendes' next project is slated to be a big screen adaptation of "Middlemarch" with Andrew Davies as screenwriter. As an obsessive fangirl of Dorothea Brooke-Causabon/Will Ladislaw love, I've decided to inaugurate a "Middlemarch watch" feature to track the progress, if there is any, on this film. George Eliot in Hollywood--it would definitely be a first!

Here is my inaugural find: a blogger called John at purple state of mind writes about the pros and cons of Mendes at the helm of the project. I pretty much agree with what he says; that Mendes' earlier projects are stagey and rather airless (I forgive my 16 year old self for being sooooo obsessed with "American Beauty" which I now see was not quite as deep as I thought). But, he notes that "Revolutionary Road" was a huge step up. I really liked Rev Road despite not wanting to. I thought the actors were electric though the screenplay was a bit pat.

And let's face it--Frank and April Wheeler ARE extremely similar characters to Rosamand Vincy and Tertius Lydgate in almost all ways, including weirdly parallel baby/no-baby plots and professional aspirations and well, everything. Anyway, here be John's thoughts:

So Mendes is getting better, and I’m inclined to see his decision to make Middlemarch as further evidence of growth. Much has been made of the fact that this British director is now taking on his first native project. He must sense the opportunity...

On the evidence of Revolutionary Road, I’m prepared to believe that he’s looking home for a reason. He may sense in Eliot a chance to work with the same ambition on more fertile ground. His movies demonstrate an unmistakable interest in the interplay between individual conscience and social imperative, whether the setting is American suburbia, the United States military or criminal enterprise. Middlemarch affords a classic framework for such concerns. In its massiveness, it could also be a trap for the director’s worst impulses. In the absence of a point of view with which to harness the material, prettiness would be the default position.

In other words, if Sam Mendes wanted to put himself to the ultimate test, he’s found it. No matter what he does, George Eliot’s reputation will remain intact. It’s an open question whether his will.

Up next will be a discussion of casting, which is already causing sparks to fly on the imdb board. Let's just say the anti-Kiera Knightley folks are out in full force. God bless them.

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