Wednesday, June 14, 2023

Christina Lynch's "Sally Brady's Italian Adventure"

Christina Lynch’s picaresque journey includes chapters in Chicago and at Harvard, where she was an editor on the Harvard Lampoon. She was the Milan correspondent W magazine and Women’s Wear Daily, and disappeared for four years in Tuscany. In L.A. she was on the writing staff of Unhappily Ever After; Encore, Encore; The Dead Zone, and Wildfire. She now lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. She is the co-author of two novels under the pen name Magnus Flyte. She teaches at College of the Sequoias. The Italian Party is her debut novel.

Here Lynch dreamcasts an adaptation of her new novel, Sally Brady’s Italian Adventure:
Castles! Villas! Luxury Hotels! But also air raid shelters, prison cells, and POW camps. And hats! Lots of hats! These are the first things that come to mind when I think of Sally Brady’s Italian Adventure: The Movie.

I love books and movies with a fast pace, gorgeous settings, a mix of dark comedy, romance, drama, reframed history, and characters forced into excruciating choices--so of course I made those the central ingredients of Sally Brady’s Italian Adventure. And I have a background in TV writing, so the novel is intentionally very cinematic. It moves from humor to drama and back again as Sally, an intrepid and irreverent young American orphan-turned-gossip columnist, gets stuck behind enemy lines when Italy slides into World War II. I was thinking of 1930s screwball comedies like My Man Godfrey when I wrote it, but also of course Casablanca. I was fascinated by the idea of how life in all its complexity carries on in wartime—not to mention the echoes for our own era. No one tone was enough to tell Sally’s story—and in fact the real life WWII diaries of women like Iris Origo and Hermione Ranfurly weren’t soppy or tearstained; they were resourceful, funny, pragmatic, and able to manipulate the male ego as needed. Enter Sally, stage left…

Coming of age stories are demanding, but Jenna Ortega (Wednesday) has the smarts and range for Sally, and Elle Fanning (The Great) would be Sally’s pal Lila. Sally is a tricky role—we follow her from being a homeless redheaded 11-year-old urchin on the streets of Los Angeles in 1931 to a glamorous platinum blonde undercover gossip columnist in Rome in her late teens, and then a plucky POW turned resistance agent behind enemy lines in Italy in her early 20s. Sally’s got some great scenes—mocking the aristocracy at parties while blending in, bantering for her life with Fascist officials, and finding love in a destroyed wine cellar hideout.

Michelle Yeoh would be perfect as Sally’s adopted mom Patsy, an Anna Mae Wong-inspired actress who escapes to Europe to avoid typecasting and has an affair with the legendary partygiver Elsa Maxwell, who would be played (of course) by Margo Martindale.

Rufus Sewell, who was so convincing as Italian detective Zen, would be Lapo, the Italian writer selling his soul to keep his family and friends safe. Timothée Chalamet would be suitably heartbreaking as Alessandro, a teenage anti-Fascist who finds himself posted to Prague and who eventually intersects with Sally when they are both on the run.

If Anthony Minghella (The English Patient) were still alive, he’d probably be my first choice to direct the movie, because I think he could capture the glamourous ironic fizz of costume balls as well as the terror of an air raid in a topiary garden, but even better would be Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag). I think she’d nail Sally’s satirical gaze—plus she could cast herself in the role of Alba, a narcissistic princess who resorts to cannibalism (dark times). Maggie Smith would be a perfect Clio, the 92-year-old resistance fighter who enlists Sally, and Corey Mylchreest (Queen Charlotte) would steal the show as Favagrossa, the reluctant Fascist officer with a crush on Sally.

And of course, Jungle Red for the lipstick!
Visit Christina Lynch's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Italian Party.

--Marshal Zeringue