Saturday, February 26, 2011

Thelma Adams's "Playdate"

Thelma Adams has been Us Weekly’s film critic since 2000, after six years reviewing at the New York Post. She has written for Marie Claire, the New York Times, Cosmopolitan and Self.

Here she shares some casting ideas for an adaptation of her new novel, Playdate:
Inspired by the upcoming Academy Awards, I’m casting my book from current Oscar nominees. Playdate began with a simple movie pitch: Shampoo meets Mr. Mom. Clearly, Warren Beatty and Michael Keaton have aged out of playing my stay-at-home-dad (SAHD) protagonist. And the book has grown well beyond its one-sentence premise, so that each character, male and female, child and adult, became their own ornery being.

Cast Lance, the SAHD, and the rest of the book falls into place. This modern, easy-going dad loves his daughter Belle, is trying to father another child with his distracted wife Darlene, and has Tantric sex with Wren, the wife of Darlene’s business partner Alec. See Mark Ruffalo in The Kids Are All Right as the charming sperm donor trying to wiggle his way in to his biological children’s nuclear family after a lifetime of casual sex, and there are the seeds of Lance.

What about Lance’s Tantric sex partner? At the New York Film Critics Circle Awards last month, I heard Michelle Williams tell a story on her friend Ruffalo, as she was presenting him with his best supporting actor award. She described going to visit him with her daughter Matilda, and how he scooped up child’s vomit from the backseat of a car – and it wasn’t even his child! I knew I found my Wren. There’s a glowy beauty to Williams, a passive quality, and a maturity born of being a mother and weathering tragedy. I’d love to see how she and Ruffalo fit together.

Lance’s wife Darlene is tougher. She was the toughest character in the book to write. I had to convey to readers why Lance might cheat, and still make him sympathetic. In so doing, Darlene suffered. She was too brittle at first; I hard to warm her back up. That took at least two revisions. If you see Amy Adams in the brilliant indie sisterhood movie Sunshine Cleaning, opposite Emily Blunt, you’d see Darlene, a mother and entrepreneur that’s hooked on a better future who only in the end understands the great gifts she has in the present.

Alec, the yuppie businessman, was always based on Alec Baldwin: “He was a tall, broad-shouldered Baby Boomer originally from Massapequa, Long Island, who knew how to fill a booth, the eldest brother in an Irish Catholic, Kennedy-worshipping family of boys and thus more used to leading than to being held accountable.” But Baldwin has done this role before; he got a Golden Globe but isn’t in the Oscar race. I believe Colin Firth could take this part and make him irresistibly smarmy, playing against Firth’s recent type as the nice guy, the wounded romantic lead.

To finish up, Jennifer Lawrence of Winter’s Bone could play the tattooed, trouble-making babysitter Julia, who catches Wren and Lance together and makes her own play for the SAHD. As for eleven-year-old Belle, the beauty at the center of the book, trying to make sense of the uneasy undercurrents in her home, it’s too early to cast her. Child actors age out so swiftly – at one time it could have been Anna Paquin, or Keisha Castle-Hughes. And, although True Grit’s Hailee Steinfeld would have worked even three years ago, at 15, she’s already over the hill for this part.

One thing’s for sure: Playdate is ready for its close-up.
Learn more about the book and author at Thelma Adams' website.

The Page 69 Test: Playdate.

--Marshal Zeringue