Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Megan Hustad's "More Than Conquerors"

Megan Hustad has written articles, essays, and commentary for the New York Times, New York Post, Salon, Slate, The Big Money, The Daily Beast, The Awl, and American Public Media’s Marketplace, and is the author of How to Be Useful. She has lived in Minneapolis, London, the Caribbean, and Amsterdam, and currently lives and works in New York City.

Here Hustad dreamcasts an adaptation of her latest book, More Than Conquerors: A Memoir of Lost Arguments:
I am tempted to joke that Keira Knightley should play everyone—my sister, my mother, me, my father, grandmother, great grandmother, etc. All non-family members, male and female, would be played by either Peter Sarsgaard or Bobby Cannavale and we'd arrive at some Charlie Kaufman-esque caper.

The problem is that this memoir spans a lot of time as far as actors' appearances are concerned. You have me at age four and age 27. My mother at 31 and 64. So we'll need to suspend physical law. Picking from actors both quick and dead, too old or not old enough:

Sandy Duncan for my mother. There's the sweet smile. The bob. Duncan has the same perkiness, somewhat undercut by wistfulness, that my mother has. They came of age in the 1950s and something of that era still animates their expressions. I'm thinking of Duncan circa this episode of The Muppet Show. All this said, my mother's a brunette but doesn't sound like one.

In the book I mention that my father was said to look like Marlon Brando when he was younger. But I'd give the role to Mark Ruffalo, who not only has the right look but consistently plays roiling emotions—whether born of confusion or conviction—in a way that reminds me of my father. Dana Stevens of Slate wrote of The Kids Are All Right that "Ruffalo just Ruffaloes it up" in the film. Elsewhere Roger Ebert remarked on "his gentle response to other actors." That captures something of my father, too. Ruffalo could definitely Ruffalo it up in the More Than Conquerors movie.

My sister. Sarah Polley. A taller Naomi Watts with hair straight and short. Anyone who plays fierce pride warring with intense vulnerability well.

Me. Emily Blunt crossed with Allison Williams? I have no idea. I like Blunt's near-perpetual look of cautious defiance. It appears she can't help it, as if her skepticism is congenital somehow. There's a slight chance I'm suggesting Allison Williams only because I associate her face with Greenpoint, Brooklyn apartments like the one I had in 2001.

My grandfather Orville. It's a small role. Herewith we start raising the dead. Paul Newman.

My grandmother Marian. Julie Christie lacks Marian's round cheeks but otherwise, I can see it. The resemblance lies more in her presence, even while puttering around in house dresses, chattering mindlessly.

My grandmother Vivian. Vivian Vance.

Many smaller roles I won't belabor here. Viggo Mortensen would look good striding across the Boone Biblical College campus in a long black coat. Carey Mulligan plus twenty pounds would make a heart-rending young Clara. Lucinda = Gennifer Godwin, by a mile. Stephen Dillane would get one sleepy scene in a posh hotel room.
Visit Megan Hustad's website.

--Marshal Zeringue