Tag Archives: film

Review: Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub

6th September 2012

*I received this book from the publisher Riverhead Books in exchange for an honest review.

Elsa Emerson grows up walking the boards at her family’s playhouse in Door County, Wisconsin in the 20s. Her childhood is full of costumes, actors and actresses running through dappled sunlight, and nights under the stars watching magic on stage until her older sister gets involved with one of the actors and has her heart broken. Devastated, Hildy kills herself, and the playhouse and Elsa’s life change forever. Determined to recapture some of the pleasure of those heady nights on stage, Elsa marries and moves to L.A., where a movie exec discovers her, has her dye her hair dark, and renames her Laura Lamont.

In this golden era of Hollywood, stars are made, not born. The studios craft very careful images of their stars, grooming them to their specifications based on the types of films they shoot. And Laura is made, driven not only by her desire to act but also a sense that she should since Hildy cannot. After she outgrows her first marriage, she marries Irving Green, the studio exec who first discovered her, and the novel is the story of her life, the ups and downs of a film career, and the reality of raising a family in the most unrealistic place.

If you know nothing else about me, you know I love classic film. And not in the “I collect Audrey Hepburn posters, but I’ve never seen these films” kind of way. [And yes, that was me being snooty. ;)] It isn’t the films alone, however, that I love. The studios had such character and personality, that you can definitely tell an MGM film from a Warner Bros. film. Ownership to that extreme also engendered pride in making films that you just don’t feel today – at least not in the same vein.

Irving is part of that magic, and when he turns his spotlight on Laura, it’s a dream. When she marries him, Laura says she “decided it was reasonable to think of it as her first wedding, because the previous one had been someone else….There were an endless number of things that Laura was going to do that Elsa never would, and she couldn’t wait to find out what they were.” This disconnect between Elsa/Laura continues throughout the novel, and it’s something she, at times, seems aware of but mostly ignores. There’s no depth to her, so when her world is turned upside down a couple of times, she loses who she is and isn’t quite sure how to regain either of her selves.

It was when the plot began heading for the typical Hollywood story – actress past her prime, troubles with pills, selfishness – that my affection began to wane. Particularly because Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures uses one or two familiar names, but for the most part, all the actors and studio names are fake. I can understand there were possible legal reasons for this, but I’ve read plenty of books that use real names and brands. And, if you do choose to go the “anonymous” route, then I wouldn’t recommend giving the actors specific identifying marks. It’s confusing and annoying. There were moments when I was more caught up inwhothe real actors were than in Laura herself.

Ultimately, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures is an engaging read and a promising debut. It may not be for the die-hard classic film fan, but it is a great story of life, love, and identity, perfectly summed up in this line: “No one could tell Laura Lamont what to do; she was too old for that. Let them come and look at her, let them try to swallow her up into their old-fashioned story lines. Laura was going to sew herself into the shape of happiness all on her own.”

Add it to your Goodreads shelf or check out others’ opinions.

Picky Boy: The Kids Are All Right

14th July 2010

When I sat down to watch The Kids Are All Right, my mind was on other things. The pizza I’d just eaten (it was alright)…the Cole Haan shoes I want to buy (I can’t afford them)…the A/C unit we desperately need in our living room (wouldn’t it be nice?).

I simply wasn’t prepared.

Here I sit, two days later, and I cannot stop thinking about this movie. Just a quick synopsis for those of you residing in places where this film probably won’t be released: The Kids Are All Right, written by Lisa Cholodenko, centers around two lesbians, Nic (Annette Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), whose two teenage children have decided to exercise their age-determined right to contact the sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo) their moms used to conceive them.

That’s what you could say if someone asks what the film is about. But you’d be underselling it by a long shot.

First things first: The acting is phenomenal.

Though she is wonderful in The Hours and Far from Heaven, it’s so nice to see Julianne Moore successfully tackle a current woman again. Her portrayal of Jules is unnervingly honest and I was reminded of the gritty ‘Moore of yore’ in Magnolia and Boogie Nights …and as to why I regard her as a truly great actress.

Once again, I was charmed by Mark Ruffalo who stole my affection years ago as the bumbling, loveable druggie inYou Can Count on Me.

And Annette Bening is perfection as the uptight, breadwinning and wine-loving matriarch, Nic. Bening, prone to roles in which she gets to stretch her overdramatic muscles (a la American Beauty and Being Julia), unwaveringly steamboats her way through this film, unafraid to knock anyone from her path in quick, concise judo chops of wit & severe candor.




The Kids Are All Right

It would be sophomoric to claim that this movie is a statement about gay couples with children. There are so many currents pulsing through The Kids Are All Right, it is difficult to classify the film. It’s hysterical without pause to beg for laughter and it’s heart-wrenching without device-motivated melodramatic outbursts.

I guess it suffices to say the movie is true. It’s a glimpse into a home, not just a family unit. They have fun together, smother each other, support each other, say hurtful things and do even more hurtful things to each other. They laugh, cry, yell and curse. The parents have sex (gasp, it’s two women!).  The kids holler and stomp up the stairs, screaming (You just don’t understand!). The film boldly and unapologetically explores the complexity of relationships and illuminates what can happen if we become complacent and stop seeing the ones we love when they’re right in front of us.

In one pivotal scene, Jules interrupts her family watching a television program to apologize. Through tears, she explains that “marriage is hard. It’s fucking hard.” And all of a sudden, as a viewer, I was struck with the clamor of the film’s voice. The sexuality and gender of this couple…it’s irrelevant. No one is exempt from making mistakes or above hurting the ones we love (especially the ones we love). Even those who have fought for the right to be with the person they love or to be able to adopt/have children. No matter the partnership, be it a straight or gay couple, committing your life to another person is a process. And it’s hard. Year after year, the game changes. You grow, you learn—about yourself and your partner. Life is in constant flux and the world changes around you. For you to somehow change as a unit…how can one not make mistakes along the way? It’s how we approach the resolution, that’s the key. Is it worth fighting for? Has too much time passed? Were we looking for an out anyway? Can we mend this? There are so many questions when trust is broken. It’s refreshing to see a film approach these issues in a mature, realistic manner.

I strongly recommend seeing The Kids Are All Right, alright? It’s a beautiful film with a lot to say, so listen up. Picky boy out!