Monday, August 17, 2015

Jonathan Freedland's "The 3rd Woman"

Jonathan Freedland is an award-winning journalist, a number one bestselling author, and a broadcaster. He is the Guardian's executive editor for Opinion and also writes a weekly column. He is a regular contributor to the New York Times and the New York Review of Books, and presents BBC Radio 4's contemporary history series The Long View. In 2014 he won the Orwell special prize for journalism.

Here Freedland dreamcasts an adaptation of his new novel, The 3rd Woman:
Of course, I would say this – but I reckon any director would love to be handed the task of turning The 3rd Woman into a movie. I’d like to think that’s because it's a gripping story full of twists and turns, with a compelling central character. But, if I'm honest, what would surely prove irresistible to a moviemaker is something much more straightforward: the setting.

The 3rd Woman is set in a Los Angeles – and an America – that is a lot like today’s, but with a crucial difference. This America is getting used to the fact that it is no longer number one on the planet, having lost its place as the global superpower to China. In this LA, the slang, the food, the calendar, even the air people breathe is different. There are Mao-themed restaurants. Everyone covers their faces to keep out the smog. In late January, red lanterns hang from the trees to mark the Chinese new year. And looming over the city is a vast, secretive Chinese military base.

I suspect an imaginative director – whether Ridley Scott or Danny Boyle – could have great fun creating this new, subtly different LA. They needn’t go full Bladerunner. At first glance this city would look like the Los Angeles we all know. Only on closer inspection would it reveal itself as ever so slightly changed - if not warped.

What about the cast? At the centre of The 3rd Woman is Madison Webb, a dogged investigative reporter whose skill in the professional realm is matched only by the chaos in the personal one. She’s a brilliant and resourceful journalist, but a pretty hopeless girlfriend, daughter and sister. She’s also a chronic insomniac, kept awake by something she – and we – don’t quite understand (not at first, anyway). When her own younger sister, Abigail, is suddenly found dead, apparently from a drug overdose, Maddy refuses to accept the official version spun by the police and the city authorities. She deploys all her talent and persistence to get to the truth.

I would love to see Jessica Chastain in this role, though technically she’s a little older than Maddy who’s just turned 30. She conveys the intelligence, the inner strength, that I think define Madison. Younger, and also plausible, would be Emma Stone.

For Quincy Webb, Maddy’s older, bossy sister, I can see Jennifer Garner doing it – especially alongside Chastain. (The two women could pass for sisters.) And Alicia Vikander would be magnificent as the ghostly presence of murdered Abigail in any flashback scenes.

As for the Webb mother, an important part, Julianne Moore is surely too young (though the right colouring to be related to Chastain.) A cameo for Meryl Streep, perhaps?

Leo Harris is Madison’s ex-boyfriend and the political magician who serves as aide to the LA mayor seeking to become governor of California. Jake Gyllenhaal looks the part and could carry off that coolly cynical exterior. But Michael Fassbender would be intriguing too.

The mayor himself – cunning and charismatic – would be a meaty role for John Slattery, whose silvery mischief was such a delight as Mad Men's Roger Sterling.

Now that I think about it, I can almost see this movie already. Can someone get Mr Scott on the phone?
Visit Jonathan Freedland's website.

--Marshal Zeringue