Thursday, January 21, 2016

Failing Writers, Silly Girls

Now Playing: Kirstyn Hippe ft. Mary Kate Wiles and Joey Richter - Horcruxes and Honeydukes (I Ship It soundtrack)

I got tricked into watching The Spectacular Now about two months ago. It was after the weird, documented string of events that led to rage and annoyance. Someone kept suggesting the movie to me because I would relate to it so well and I would get some kind of epiphany out of it and it's "not like typical teenage films" and "I know you don't like Shailene Woodley but you HAVE TO TRY."

So I gave in. I was like, okay, this movie's got good critical feedback, people I admire like it, and you know what, I need this kind of introspective teen movie about the struggles of incoming adulthood.

No. Fuck that. The Spectacular Now sucks. It bored me to tears, its attempts at discussing the nature of time and adolescence and belonging were soulless and forgettable, and I couldn't find a single character that I found likable or interesting.

Plus, I'm getting really sick and tired of that whole Writing-The-College-Admissions-Essay in media res framing device so many fucking movies try to pull. NOBODY GIVES A SHIT ABOUT THE ESSAYS. Believe me, that's not what gets you accepted to university so it's utterly pointless. Even the better made, better filmed, better acted Me and Earl and the Dying Girl has that framing and it's still a touch annoying. Although it works better with the unreliable narrator and, again, that's a much better movie. It's still not needed, per say.

But anyways.

It's always easier to hate a movie or book everyone seems to love than it is to like a movie or book everyone seems to dislike. Mostly because as soon as I start hearing criticisms, a part of me just goes "shit, bro. You're so right."

It happened that way with Man of Steel. I still love and will defend that movie to the ends of the Earth, but I'm not gonna pretend it's a flawless masterpiece either.

Anyways, I bring this up because I think the reaction I was supposed to have with The Spectacular Now happened instead with this other movie. One that was met with a resounding critical "meh, it largely sucks" response.

But that same film had me cringing and awkwardly giggling and rolling around Wednesday night. I don't even like painful, cringe-worthy, sympathy-pain comedies, but I was relating to this so impossibly hard that it punched me into an endless laughing fit. It's like being mercilessly tickled and it's painful and awkward and horrible and yet you can't stop laughing. But see, that sounds horrible. Yet it's not an It's-So-Bad-It's-Good situation. It's a genuine This-Spoke-To-Me situation!

Throughout the afternoon I was sprawled on the floor, half-reading Grace of Kings, half-revising my book, when I decided to put a movie to play in the background. And yes, I know, mega-multitasker. I can't speak of the quality of my work begat by said multitasking, but it's about the only way I work proficiently.

Anyways, I guess because of my sporadic marathoning of American Horror Story, Netflix decided to recommend me an Emma Roberts/Evan Peters (with John Cusack!) movie.

About a poet.

A young, 22-year old, down on her luck, unpublished debt-ridden poet.

It's called Adult World.

Here's something odd about me: I cannot read books about writers. I have a ton of Goodreads!friends who love or at least mildly like Rainbow Rowell's Fangirl, but two things have effectively put me off from reading it: a) Silvia kinda hated it and b) it's about a college-aged/awkward/anxious writer in a workshop class.

It's a bit of a shame since I really liked Eleanor and Park. Either way, I just can't.

Similarly, much as I love Stephen King, I feel this odd sense of discomfort whenever he writes about writers. And that's like, one of his main things. He does it a lot. It's completely inexplicable (lolno it isn't), but it stresses me out.

That said, I really like watching movies about writers. And maybe that's because, as a visual medium, the actual work produced by the characters is largely kept away from the audience. You're never given complete examples of the work, or, if you are, it's done sparingly, so the focus remains on the creators and the way others respond to their work.

I try and watch as many of these type of movies as possible. Some of them are pretty solid, all the way from original stories like Finding Forrester or Stranger than Fiction, to adaptations like Wonder Boys, to those based-off real life events like Kill Your Darlings and Saving Mr. Banks. Others are just horrendous, like that piece of shit, utterly simplistic, misogynistic, creepy as hell drivel called Stuck in Love.

Even though I'm not a poet, I was immediately interested in Adult World. Whether it was good or bad, I needed to watch it.

I really like Emma Roberts and Evan Peters as actors. I sat through The Art of Getting By because of Roberts and I'm seriously considering watching Scream Queens too. I don't know what it is, but I really like her acting. It's endearing and/or captivating, even when she's going around calling people sluts and whores and just generally being all girl-hatey in an amusing way.

(You know what it is? She kinda reminds me of Ren in some of her roles. Just realized it right now.)

Oh, and, yeah, Evan Peters is a great actor and he's really cute. Especially when movies make him look slightly disheveled. And he's got mega dark eyes so that's a good bonus. Adorable!

It was supposed to be a background movie. That got shot to shit about five minutes in.

I. Couldn't. Look. Away.

About halfway through the movie, I had to text Silvia because I just kept cringing back into myself and then laughing endlessly. Other reviewers say that this movie isn't very funny, it's just childishly over the top, but. . .I don't know. I'm not someone who's entertained easily and I don't find a great deal of things funny. But I found this funny.

Even while trying to describe it to Silvia, she just kept commenting how awkwardly painful it sounded. And it was. It really was!

Emma Roberts's character, Amy, is so delusional. She's every former-wunderkind, willful, oblivious writer we all make fun of but we so secretly are. Or were!  Worse is, she's not even entering university, she already graduated. She's an adult! And she's in debt, broke, and had to take up employment in a sex shop of all places to stay afloat. She even sucks at reading work out loud. (I do too. I am terrible and I HATE IT).

Plus, she's so creepy. I feel really bad for John Cusack's character, Rat Billings--dude could have placed a restraining order on her and I would have supported him every step of the way.

Amy is a complete and utter child and doesn't even realize it. There's a scene where her roommate/friend gets stoned and starts philosophizing about the in-between nature of being 22, and both her and Rubia and even Alex are like, "shoot me for fuck's sake, this is so pretentious."

But she doesn't realize she's pretentious too and that her writing is shallow and cliche and amateurish. She doesn't realize it until she gets a cold, hard reality check and then it's really, really painful.

She's also super jealous when her friend gets published on her first try and it's just so cute to watch her constantly stare in awe at Rat Billings, going, "wow. You are so deep and amazing," at anything he spiels out.

Much as I hated The Spectacular Now, I didn't hate it for being cliche and predictable. Adult World is also pretty cliche and predictable--and has some weird handling of certain characters--but I still really enjoyed it.

I think it's because it's not about a misunderstood genius who stays true to her craft and is eventually recognized for her talent. Amy isn't a skillful poet waiting to be discovered, she's horrible at it. She's not even a likable person.

It doesn't have anything particularly insightful to say about art, talent, poetry, or being a millennial adult. At least, nothing we haven't heard already. But it still feels genuine. It's not above having Amy fail in every way imaginable. Also, even though I've been angrily avoiding anything with romantic undertones as of late, this has a really charming romance subplot. So much cuteness.

Admittedly, it does a have a bit of a pandering-ish ending. Not to give too much away, but I kind of dislike how easily things come together and get wrapped up in the last few minutes. The way her relationships are finalized is done well, I have no complains about that, but I do think the change given to her in terms of her writing career is a bit predictable and unrealistic. Especially since she writes the piece on a whim and doesn't revise much yet gets a surprisingly high monetary offer for it.

It definitely bothered me in hindsight, but still not enough to make me hate the movie.

If anything, still in the high of giggling awkward joy, I was more than happy to see Amy's character be given that ending. The rest of the movie spends an awful lot of time shitting on her--as a person, as a writer, as a fangirl, as a retail girl. It's nice to see her succeed at something without it being some over the top fairy tale ending. It admits she's still got a long way to go and that's the most hopeful message you could put in this kind of movie.

I'm back to revising after I post this. My dad bought me two David Bowie albums--a Greatest Hits album and the latest Blackstar--so I'll put it on in the background and write and revise and feel a little better now than I have in weeks.

Thank you, Adult World. You weird, weird movie.

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
- Carl Sagan, in his message to future explorers of Mars.