Monday, February 12, 2018

Mira T. Lee's "Everything Here Is Beautiful"

Mira T. Lee's debut novel, Everything Here is Beautiful, was named a Top Winter/2018 Pick by more than 30 news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, O Magazine, Poets & Writers, New York Magazine, Chicago Review of Books, Seattle Times, Buzzfeed, Marie Claire, Real Simple, and Electric Lit, among others. It was also selected as an Indies Introduce title (Top 10 Debut) and Indie Next pick by the American Booksellers Association.

Here Lee dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel:
Everything Here Is Beautiful is a messy cross-cultural family drama starring two Chinese-American sisters, a one-armed Israeli, a Swiss urologist, and a young Ecuadorian immigrant. Sometimes it still amazes me that the story was published in written form, never mind dreams of having it made into a movie (a long shot, given the cast, says my film agent. But… I have a film agent, how ridiculous is that?!).

There are still relatively few prominent Asian/Asian-American actresses today, and even fewer leading roles for them, though it’s hard to say which is supposed to come first. Miranda, the older, more strait-laced sister, possesses an ingrained sense of responsibility that bumps up against her desires for freedom and self-fulfillment. The inimitable Sandra Oh, or Fresh Off the Boat’s Constance Wu, or Downsizing’s luminous newcomer, Hong Chau, might fit the bill. Lucia, the younger sister, struggles with a serious mental illness, making hers the more challenging role. She’s quirky, free-spirited, bursting with life — until her illness takes hold, and then she’s sheathed in darkness, paranoid, irrational, often irascible. Heavily medicated, she takes on another dimension: dulled. We haven’t seen an Asian-American actress in this kind of dramatic role, which would demand a virtuosic range, but I’d try out Kelly Marie Tran (who lights up Star Wars: The Last Jedi), Hawaii Five-O’s Grace Park, who might shine portraying Lucia’s softness along with fierceness, Mission Impossible III’s Maggie Q, or comedian Ali Wong.

For the men in the sisters’ lives, we have plenty more options. Stefan, the Swiss doctor, has the “essence” of an elk, calling for a Colin Firth or Viggo Mortensen type, albeit younger - Tom Hiddleston, most recently of The Avengers, or Matt Smith, of The Crown. Yonah, the Israeli, is ceaselessly charismatic, even as he wavers in and out of midlife crisis. Brash and warm, he’s Mandy Patinkin twenty years ago - possibly Big Bang Theory’s John Galecki, or Sacha Baron Cohen, though going in another direction entirely there’s also Jay Duplass (of Transparent fame). Manny, the Ecuadorian, is younger, solid, steadfast, though as an undocumented immigrant with a baby daughter, he’s also anxious and skittish. Diego Luna of Rogue One fame could play up his sensitive side, though Anthony Ramos is the more fitting age. Then there’s Oscar Isaac, who has the perfect look (does he have a younger brother?), and whose versatility also makes him an excellent candidate for Yonah - because who doesn’t want an actor like Oscar Isaac somewhere in their movie?

A lot of great roles for a diverse cast, that’s for sure. Ang Lee to direct. (Though a mini-series for Netflix, or Oprah’s network, or produced by Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine would be just fine, too).

Now, wouldn’t it be amazing if a movie like this could actually get made in today’s Hollywood? Sigh. One can dream.
Visit Mira T. Lee's website.

--Marshal Zeringue