Thursday, August 6, 2015

Maggie Mitchell's "Pretty Is"

Maggie Mitchell has published short fiction in a number of literary magazines, including the New Ohio Review, American Literary Review, and Green Mountains Review. Her story "It Would Be Different If" is included in the Bedford Introduction to Literature. She teaches English and creative writing at the University of West Georgia.

Here Mitchell dreamcasts an adaptation of Pretty Is, her first novel:
How irresistible, to envision the main characters of Pretty Is embodied by actors I admire! It seems particularly, inevitably apt, moreover, because the novel is in fact partly about the process of adapting a novel to the screen. Pretty Is tells the story of two girls who are abducted and held captive for six weeks when they are twelve; years later, when both are twenty-nine, their lives intersect again. One, Lois, has become an English professor (and, secretly, a novelist); the other, Chloe, is an actress whose movie career is slipping. The situation is complicated by the fact that Lois has written a novel loosely based on the abduction which is actually being made into a movie--so in fact the question of casting is explicitly addressed in the fictional realm, and it makes a strange kind of sense to take this improbable process one step further.

I think Jennifer Lawrence would make a perfect Chloe. (Since this is a fantasy, I feel free to ignore practical issues like availability, and the fact that Jennifer Lawrence is probably already committed for the next three years or more.) She is beautiful, certainly, but also possesses the kind of girl-next-door prettiness that Chloe despairs of and fears relegates her to the screen rather than the stage. More importantly, she has a sense of humor and something of Chloe’s brashness, and she’s more than capable of matching Chloe’s occasional vulgarity. (If you cross her characters from Winter’s Bone, American Hustle, and Silver Linings Playbook, I think you get a slightly younger version of Chloe.)

Carey Mulligan would be a good Lois: she’s petite and a bit elfin, and therefore a good physical match; but she also projects a quiet intensity and seriousness that would be perfect for my secretive professor. She can do an excellent American accent, but if an occasional hint of Britishness slipped through, it wouldn’t be out of character for a scholar of eighteenth-century British literature (notorious anglophiles, generally speaking). Lois’s sanity is in question for part of the novel, and I’d love to see Mulligan go a bit dark. (Literally: she’d have to dye her hair dark brown for the role. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind!)

The toughest character, for me, is Zed, who’s almost a movie cliché: tall, dark, handsome, mysterious, charming but dangerous…. And here I am going to go out on a limb and tap Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick on The Walking Dead. Another Brit, though you’d never guess it on the show, he’s equal parts volatile and laconic, charming and unnerving; he’s handsome but he has the necessary edge.

The younger girls should be played by unknowns, of course, as they are in the novel.
Visit Maggie Mitchell's Facebook page and Twitter perch.

--Marshal Zeringue