Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lucille Lang Day’s "Married at Fourteen"

Lucille Lang Day is a poet, memoirist, and short story writer whose many honors include the Joseph Henry Jackson Award in Literature and a PEN Oakland – Josephine Miles Literary Award. She is the author of a memoir, a children’s book, and eight poetry collections.

Here she dreamcasts an adaptation of her award-winning memoir, Married at Fourteen: A True Story:
I was a juvenile delinquent, adolescent bride, and teen mother in the 1960s. Married at Fourteen tells about running away at 13, marrying at 14, having my first child at 15, divorcing my husband at 16, marrying him again at 17, and leaving him again at 18 because he didn’t want me to go back to school. After we separated the second time, I finished high school in three semesters and two summer sessions and was admitted to the University of California, Berkeley, when I was 19.

My thoughts about the movie:

Director: My choice would be  Stephen Frears, who did a wonderful job with Philomena, another movie about a woman who gave birth as a teenager. Philomena deals compassionately with Philomena in both her youth and her old age. Frears understood that a teenager can love her child as deeply as any other mother does. Moreover, he saw humor as well as tragedy in telling Philomena’s story. In my own story, there was humor in my awful relationship with my mother and in my disappointments with my husband, Mark. My mother was so overprotective that she never let me take swimming lessons for fear I would drown, yet she let me get married at 14. This is both horrible and funny. On my 16th birthday, I got all dressed up expecting a surprise party, but my surprise was that I spent the evening watching my husband work on his car. One can laugh and cry about things like this, and I would not want a director who missed the laughter.


Lucy: Abigail Breslin, currently 17 years old, would play me between the ages of 13 and 19. I was spunky, outspoken, rebellious, and precociously sexy. I was also a dreamer and a romantic who believed in the movie version of true love. Ultimately, I was smart enough to figure out that my life was on a fast track to nowhere and change trains. Breslin is a top-notch actress. She has received many awards, and at the age of 10 she became one of the youngest actresses ever nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Little Miss Sunshine. I believe she would be able to handle the multiple aspects of my teenage self.

Mark: Daniel Radcliffe, currently 24 years old, would play my husband Mark between the ages of 16 and 22. Like Mark, Radcliffe has dark brown hair and blue eyes. Radcliffe is Irish and Jewish; Mark was Irish and Cherokee. In looks, they both benefited from their diverse genes. Mark was a rebellious high school dropout who drank too much, but he was also intelligent and funny and had a huge and unusual vocabulary acquired by doing crossword puzzles. Like me, he proved to be able to change. I think Radcliffe, who has succeeded in playing characters as diverse as Harry Potter and Allen Ginsburg, would be perfect as Mark.

Evelyn: Sally Field would play my neurotic, nagging, once-beautiful mother, whose difficult early life put her sufficiently out of touch with the feelings of others to make it impossible for her to understand me. As Mary Todd Lincoln, Field has shown that she can play a woman whose deep sorrow casts a shadow on her life.

Dick: John Goodman would play my childlike, happy-go-lucky father. Like my dad, Goodman is 6’2” tall and overweight. A comedian as well as an actor, Goodman could capture the complexity of my dad: compulsive gambler, overeater, sensitive photographer, doting father, and film buff who remembered the cast and plot of every movie he’d ever seen.
Learn more about the book and author at Lucille Lang Day's website and follow her on Twitter.

The Page 99 Test: Married at Fourteen.

--Marshal Zeringue