“Where the Crawdads Sing”: going from book to movie all at once (+ one more controversy)

Cape Hatteras NC 2021-5

Yesterday, I went to real theater (the Angela Mosaic in Merrifield, VA) for the first time since the end of April (been too busy), to see the mystery “Where the Crawdads Sing”.  The real motivation is that this film (from Sony / Columbia ) is the first output from a production company called 3000 Pictures, founded by Elizabeth Gabler, as its first major project – the company aims to promote book-to-screen partnerships.   Bonnie Johnson describes all the business arrangements in a Los Angeles Times story July 14, link (paywall).  It may sound like a stretch, but the iUniverse PitchFest in New York City that I attended April 30 and made my pitches imagines the same idea.

The film is directed by Olivia Newman and adapted to screenplay by Lucy Alibar with the author).

trailer “Where the Crawdads Sing”

The bestselling novel by Delia Owens does show the value to authors of meeting characters “where they are”, as her protagonist is a young woman (Kya Clark, played by Daisy Edgar-Jones when grown) who raised herself in the North Carolina marshland after the family, in staged (mostly because of a brutal father) abandoned her (in 1953).  The system never intervened with, for example, foster care or attempted adoption (an observation at least tangential to the abortion issue, which Justice Barrett has pointed out). 

She takes an interest in the wildlife, especially drawing it and taking pictures.  This includes birds (herons or gulls) but also crustaceans like crawdads

The novel progresses as, in 1962, she meets the first of two potential lovers, Tate Walker (Taylor John Smith), who offers to teach her to read (he does – as in a school classroom she had spelled “dog” as a palindrome and then ran out from the humiliation).  He encourages her to send her drawings and photos to a publisher so she can have income from her talent, as if getting published was that easy.  Later she will learn that she had to pay back taxes in cash or lose the home (which was a shack) to a developer.  Tate builds toward intimacy (the scenes could have been more cleverly setup than they were – and it is always a guess when the natural urge toward sex, intercourse and ultimate parentage takes over – not everyone has that instinctive urge  — one day “blue eyes confuse you” my own father used to say) and backs away.  He goes away to college in Asheville.  (Sometimes the dialogue in the film doesn’t heed the distances between North Carolina cities at ends of the state.)

Later she meets a second boyfriend, Chase Andrews (Harris Dickinson) who is a bit more aggressive. She also gets a friendly brother Jodie (Logan Macrae) who is home from Vietnam (as it is now like 1968).  After some fights, Chase goes out near her property and climbs the nearby observation tower and falls to his death (recalling the plot of the Hitchcock masterpiece “Vertigo” (1958)).  For some reason, Kya is nearby and is arrested under suspicion of murdering him.

The story is told in layered fashion, as retiring attorney Tom Milton (David Strathairn) defends her, starting in jail, where a stray cat comforts her and where he leaves her a copy of one of the books she had published.  The film shows the 1969 courtroom drama interspersed with the entire plot going back to 1953 as backstory.  A crucial element is her alibi, where she had been in relatively nearby Greenville NC (I have been there) for a book conference. 

The novel (Wikipedia) (Amazon Stripes) is divided into two parts (The Marsh and The Swamp) but, like the film, flips back and forth between 1969 and the earlier years. 

There is controversy in screenwriting circles as to whether telling entire stories as flashbacks is a good idea, as it breaks up the attention to the (Harmon) story circle.  My own screenplay for “Second Epiphany” based on my three DADT books presents two backstories and one fantasy piece to show why the protagonist (me) is on the spaceship and why he (or I) was abducted, to set up a certain irony for the conclusion. 

There is an epilogue, a spoiler, which implies she lived happily ever after with one of the two suitors (the one with better character).

The show (at the Angelika) was preceded by a 5-minute black and white short, “Nothing Is Real“, by Masa Gibson. A flamboyant woman leaves a coffee bar and goes out into the world, and, well —

I wanted to add another video from the Unherd with Florence Read, who interviews documentary filmmaker Alex Lee Moyer, and her production company, Play Nice, regarding the film “Alex’s War”, a biography of Alex Jones and his Info Wars.  Social Media companies have refused to carry ads for the film because they believe it would promote Alex (rather than merely chronicle him for journalistic purposes).  At the end of the video, the Unherd hosts poses the question as to whether that channel could face a tertiary ban.  This sort of thing started to happen back in 2018 with, recall, Sargon of Akkad.  This all has to do with a far Leftist idea of “solidarity” influencing corporate bottom lines.  I don’t know.

(Posted: Saturday, July 16, 2022 at 2:30 PM by John W. Boushka)