Well, this is a first for me. I’m blogging to you from 40,000 feet on my way to California. Why is it that any time you fly and they show sitcoms it’s the ONE EPISODE of that sitcom that you’ve already seen? And why does time move so slowly on an airplane? Back on earth, no doubt three years have passed while I’ve been cowering in this seat praying to any kind of immortal being that happens to be listening.
What a weird thought—I’m not on earth right now.
But I digress. I’m here to talk about the JEREMY FINK PREMIERE in NYC last night! Watching it on a big screen with a live audience was an amazing experience—especially when most of the cast was in the audience with you. The humor and heart of the movie really jumped out at me, and the actors who brought it to life did such an amazing job. I know there were a lot of tough choices to make in terms of what to keep from the book and what to let go, and I hope when you guys see it you’ll keep in mind that not everything can make it in. That said, they added some things too, which I wound up loving. Too bad I can’t rewrite the book to include some of them! The cast and crew worked so hard last summer in the sweltering NYC heat to bring the book to life and finally got to see the fruit of their labors. The writer/director Tamar Halpern brought her own insights and heart to the film while and strived to make every scene special. She added some super-cool stop-action animation throughout that conveyed Jeremy’s thoughts in a way that live-action couldn’t.
The moment I met Max Beer I knew he was Jeremy. Seeing him on screen only strengthened that belief. He brought Jeremy’s insecurities to life in such a believable way, and then grew along with the character as he went on his journey. As Lizzy, the wonderfully talented Ryan Simpkins brought a vulnerability and feistiness to her character that lit up the screen. The beautiful and gifted Mira Sorvino as Jeremy’s mom brought her own unique magic to the film. She was able to give the relationship between Jeremy and his mom more depth than it had in the book. Joe Pantoliano as Mr. Oswald was hilariously wacky. His interpretation of the character was very different from the book’s, but I loved it. (I should note, I’m a longtime fan of these guys. Rory and Michelle’s High School Reunion? Midnight Run? Modern classics!!)
I also thought it was amazing that the director and producers found such talented, spirited actors to play the people that Jeremy and Lizzy met on their journey. Even if they only had a scene or two, each of these actors brought something special to their role and they were a pleasure to watch. I loved every scene with Michael Urie as James. He had such a believable connection with Jeremy and an ever-present glint in his eye. Mike Starr as the police officer who gives them community service brought unexpected humor to that scene (as did the kids). Betsy Brandt did the same with her role as Madame Zalensky near the end of the film. Her accent! Those facial expressions! I could watch that scene over and over. And talk about facial expressions—Markley Rizzi as Oswald’s housekeeper was hilarious in a really subtle way. Marian Seldes threw herself into the role of the unstable Mrs. Billingsly with zest. Roscoe Orman (the beloved Gordon from Sesame Street!) as the astrophysicist Dr. Grady just lit up the screen with his gentle warmth and bright-eyed enthusiasm. Heather Braverman and Ryan Glassman brought the perfect amount of snark to their roles as new neighbors Samantha and Rick. David Thornton added a whole new level of oddness to the role of Simon Rudolph, and Daniel Cosgrove brought humor and kindness to the role of Lizzy’s dad.
I think the movie and the book really compliment each other. If you see the movie first, then read the book, you’ll find some subplots that couldn’t fit into the movie and these will fill out Jeremy’s world even more for you. And if you see the movie after you read the book, then you’ll get to see this imaginary world brought to life by amazingly talented actors who truly embody their roles.
The producer of the film, Lauren Bullock, spoke beforehand. She stressed how important it is to live every moment, to embrace it all, to fully live life, the ups and the downs. To prove her point, she had to leave the premier early to visit her dad in the hospital. And that’s exactly how life is. It gives you great moments of joy, and great moments of sadness, often within hours of each other. And it does this over and over again like a giant roller coaster. I can attest to that, too. I spent the day of the premier waist deep in water that swept away half of our house. A line from the poem Desiderata by Max Ehrmann helped me to remain sane as I washed off the mud and put on a dress: Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. Being surrounded in that theater by relatives, old friends, new friends, my wonderful publishers and agents gave me a night I will never forget and I am very grateful. I am grateful too, for the readers of the book who have waited so patiently and enthusiastically for the movie to come out. And not one of them will complain that Lizzy’s hair is blond not red. RIGHT? ;o)
So get thee to Walmart today for your very own Platinum Collectors Edition!
The plane is FINALLY landing in sunny California where I’ll be embarking on a week-long book tour for 13 GIFTS. The roller coaster ride of life continues. As I am forced to “turn off all electronic devices” for landing, I will leave you with this hope—may all your roller coasters only go up. At least for a while.
And in Northern California where I bought my copy!