Sunday, May 22, 2005


Dennis the Menace in America

Inside every fat novel is a thin movie, wildly signaling to be let out. Or so I thought when I read (at Monsters and Critics) about Jerzy Skolimowski's $19 million adaptation of In America. The late Susan Sontag's final work of fiction is something of a strange choice for the big screen. Why? Because although the story revolves around an actress--the Polish diva Maryna Zalezowska, who founds a failed utopian commune in California and then rises from the ashes to become the J. Lo of the Gilded Age--the book itself is very interior and anti-dramatic. There are long stretches of gorgeous, almost hallucinatory exposition, an occasional dab of sex, but no car chases that I can recall. I assume that the plot will be neatly filleted for the film (which has been economically retitled America.) Skolimowski may do a great job. He's Polish, after all, and to judge from Moonlighting, he has a gift for sneaky, comical concision. Isabelle Huppert sounds just right for Maryna. What wigged me out, though, was the news that Dennis Hopper will "star" as the manager who revives the diva's career. Maryna was unquestionably the star of the novel--the other characters were doing cameos, more or less. What will happen when a drawling, pop-eyed psycho assumes center stage? And can't they find a part for Topher Grace in there?

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