Saturday, November 27, 2021

Joy Castro’s "Flight Risk"

Joy Castro is the award-winning author of the post-Katrina New Orleans literary thrillers Hell or High Water, which received the Nebraska Book Award, and Nearer Home, and the story collection How Winter Began, as well as the memoir The Truth Book and the essay collection Island of Bones, which received the International Latino Book Award. She is also editor of the anthology Family Trouble and served as the guest judge of CRAFT‘s first Creative Nonfiction Award. Her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Senses of Cinema, Salon, Ploughshares, Gulf Coast, Brevity, Afro-Hispanic Review, and elsewhere. A former Writer-in-Residence at Vanderbilt University, she is currently the Willa Cather Professor of English and Ethnic Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Here Castro dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Flight Risk:
I love imagining who could direct and star in a film version of Flight Risk, because I write film criticism, too, and I love watching films and imagining how various books could be brought to the screen. Flight Risk is the story of Isabel Morales, a sculptor in her late 30s who's married to a wealthy doctor and living a picture-perfect life in Chicago. But all is not as it seems, and when her mother dies in prison back in West Virginia (where I'm from), she returns home to reckon with her past.

If he were available and interested, Todd Haynes, the director of Far from Heaven and Carol, would do an impeccable job with Flight Risk. He has a gift for lush melodramas that never feel melodramatic--they feels subtle and keenly observant--and he captures the delicacy of individual women so well onscreen--their internal struggles, dreams, and despair--so I think he would do a luminous job of rendering Isabel sympathetically. He knows how to illuminate the dynamics of families and couples, which are very much at play in Flight Risk, and he understands how difficult it is to traverse the divides of class, culture, race, and sexuality.

Another director whose take on Flight Risk I'd love to see would be Kelly Reichardt. She's excellent at exploring women's loneliness, yearning, moral struggles, and endurance, as in Wendy and Lucy and Certain Women, and she renders women's sudden turning points so brilliantly: those moments of ethical challenge when they suddenly grip and wield their strength, as in Meek's Cutoff. Reichardt also just finished a film, Showing Up, about a woman who's a professional artist, as Isabel is. Reichardt's style is very different from Haynes's: she emphasizes a certain ruggedness, an uncompromising stubbornness in the face of a brutal world, and those are elements of Isabel's character, too, in addition to her delicacy. A Reichardt Flight Risk would be very different from a Haynes production, but just as interesting, or perhaps even more so.

In terms of casting, Isabel’s character was sparked when I watched Morena Baccarin in the first season of Homeland. Baccarin plays the wife of Brody, the soldier who returns home unexpectedly after being presumed dead, and she's so trapped, so beautiful and haunted, torn between her desire and her responsibilities. It's easy to imagine Baccarin playing Isabel, who has so many secrets and vulnerabilities and is struggling to do her best. Regarding Jon Turner, Isabel's old-money Chicago husband, a book club that recently read Flight Risk insisted that Eric Bana would be perfect. They were quite enthusiastic about it. He's very handsome and certainly fits the description in the book: chestnut curls and so on.

Amanda Seyfried would be outstanding as Anna, the legal secretary, because she can seem deceptively ditzy, which is exactly what Anna is. My dream to play the artist Sondra would be Lupita Nyong'o, due to her quiet intensity and moral rigor. Margo Martindale could wipe the floor with the character of Aunt Della, but she might be almost too perfectly typecast; I think of her in the TV series Justified, for example: pure evil. I'd love to see a ragged, strung-out Brad Pitt play Billy, but he'd need to have bloodshot eyes and a bit of a hangdog stoop, because Billy's a wreck of his former self--but his former self was quite something, and an actor would need to convey that. As for Nic Folio--well, I'm not sure the perfect blend of temptation and danger has yet been sufficiently incarnated in human form, but that's what the role deserves.
Visit Joy Castro’s website and Twitter perch.

Q&A with Joy Castro.

--Marshal Zeringue