Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Julie Luongo's "The Hard Way"

Julie Luongo has worked as a university instructor, freelance writer, researcher, editor, reporter, and business consultant. She’s written about theater, fishing, and entertainment.

Her new book is The Hard Way.

Here she develops some ideas about the cast and director should her novel be adapted for the big screen:
When I imagine The Hard Way based on the novel by Julie Luongo coming to a theater near you, I generally think of it as a rich romantic comedy with a who’s-who ensemble cast and a top director. And I’m no literary snob. I have no problems at all with the Hollywood elite.

But The Hard Way would also work as a dark and/or quirky indie film with soon-to-be famous actors. What I mean is that I could imagine—I do imagine—a lot of different directors handling the subject material well. Judd Apatow would make it young and light; Sofia Coppola brooding and layered; Wes Anderson quirky and beautiful; Ron Howard fun and Oscar-worthy.

However, if I were directing my movie, I’d probably go with a Robert Altman style a la Short Cuts to mimic my book’s novel-in-stories structure. (Incidentally, I think Richard Linklater would pull this off well.) I’d give each vignette its own cast, tone, and style.

Nooo, I haven’t wasted a ton of time on this fantasy. Nope, not much time at all.

The Hard Way takes place over the span of 30 years (1970-2000) and is about one woman’s journey toward self-awareness and personal fulfillment. Lucy has a long road though. Her childhood was spent as the reluctant subject of a painter her parents were supporting when she was born.

In the vignette of her childhood, I’d cast Lucy as Miranda Cosgrove (Summer in School of Rock). Her self-involved parents would be played by Catherine Keener and Harold Ramis. The painter, a smug artist who occupies the bulk of her time, would be played by Johnathon Schaech (Jimmy in That Thing You Do).

When Lucy is in college, she goes on a tropical vacation with her mother, her mother’s new boyfriend, and his unhappy adult children. In this story, she’d be played by Alia Shawkat (Maeby in Arrested Development). Lucy’s sister Nancy appears here as a shrill, tense, and jealous woman. I think Judy Greer would pull off nicely (another Arrested Development actress – she was Kitty, the secretary). There is also a great male character, a moody man-child, which would be an excellent part for Jason Schwartzman.

After college Lucy stumbles through some ill-chosen careers. In her first one, as a freelance reporter, Lucy would have to be played by Lauren Ambrose (Claire in Six Feet Under). Probably in a misguided attempt to mourn her father, she dates a self-possessed older man who is distracted by his own issues. Bill Murray is my top pick for this character.

Lucy makes more than one misguided choice in love and leaves a number of discarded boyfriends in her wake. One of my favorite boyfriend characters is Keith, a wacky guy with a lax work ethic and a penchant for retro slang. I think Owen Wilson would have fun with this role (opposite Kate Winslet as Lucy).

Lucy’s least favorite boyfriend is Todd, who tells her what to do, what to eat, and how to act, which is amusing to her at first and eventually annoying then exhausting. Todd also suffers from road rage. People who don’t give the courtesy wave beware! I think Matt Damon could expertly reveal Todd’s suppressed fury.

Everyone’s favorite boyfriend of Lucy’s is Ben. He’s a Dean Martin with a little Jerry Lewis, which means he’s confident and sweet; handsome and goofy. I imagine that Paul Rudd or even James Franco could do a lot with this character.

If nothing else, The Hard Way, The Movie has range with cheek to rival Juno and depth enough to kill a mockingbird. (This synopsis rated H for Humble.)
Read more about The Hard Way at Julie Luongo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue