Friday, 10 December 2010

The Passionistas

Last week Chuck D went off on one while describing his disgust for the music industry and this week, fellow blogger, Wendi B Writes talked about the demise of the industry and frankly how boring it is. However, it is not just the music business that seems to be dying a slow and painful death the film industry is not looking any better either. There is a famous saying that there are only ten original scripts in Hollywood which are recycled year in year out  and add that to practically every book and vintage TV series being turned into a movie then this all adds up to a creatively dire film scene. Despite all this nothing gets my goat than an actor, writer or singer (or all three)  who decides to embark on a passion project. A passion project is a book or TV show that an actor or writer falls in love with, snaps up the rights quickly and then appoints themselves as producer or director. This means that they have a say on the casting and the script and pretty much everything else. It is beautiful to see a person fulfilling their potential and getting out of their comfort zone but when is too much too much? The danger with passion projects is that they too often turn into an act of vanity and cause the person in charge to lose all sense of reason.
Take Terry McMillan, the film adaptation of Waiting to Exhale was superb but sadly her second adaptation, How Stella Got Her Groove Back was not. Why? Well simply because Forest Whitaker directed the film and exercised his critical eye to edit out all the crap but with How Stella Got Her Groove Back, Terry McMillan was a bit more involved and let's say her passion led her astray and what we ended up with was a self indulgent movie that overstayed it's time. My most memorable passion moment was having to endure Drew Barrymore in Charlies Angels. Now I like Drew and I admire her for the way she has rebuilt her career since her drinking and drug days. But seriously do you really think she would have got that role in Charlie"s Angels if she did not own the rights to the film which she produced under Flower Films  - her production company? The same air of delusions of grandeur applies to Queen Latifah. in Just Wright (read a review of the film). She plays Leslie Wright who is the best friend of Morgan played by Paula Patton, a sexy basketball groupie who has her eye on NBA star Scott McKnight played by Common. When Scott is injured Morgan runs out on him and Leslie and Scott get closer. Then Morgan comes back leaving Scott to choose between the two ladies. Guess who wins? Yep, Leslie does which led to a lot of laughter in the cinema because in real life we all know that would have never happened. But hey when you are the joint owner of the production company behind the film then your character can end up with any guy you damm well please.
Passion projects don"t just have to be carried out by actors, those behind the screen can be just as lethal. Brad Pitt was so in love with the memoirs of Elizabeth Gilbert that he decided that he had to turn the blockbuster Eat, Pray, Love into a film (read the review here). No surprise there as a lot of successful books have been made into films (some more better than others) but to me Pitt got too ahead of himself by persuading Julia Roberts to play the lead role. I have not got round to reading Eat, Pray, Love but a lot of people have told me how great the book is and what an impact it made on their lives. This film really had the potential to be a really insightful and moving piece of work but what we ended up with was a glorified, pretentious chick flick trying to be all deep. The main problem with the film was the lead character - a film like that needed an actress who could throw herself into the role and let it take over her. To me Julia Roberts was all wrong because the movie became all about her and not the message that was being conveyed. However there are times when passion projects can be very successful hence Charlize Theron with the mega hit film, Monster which she co-produced and earned herself a Golden Globe and Oscar in the process. Sometimes passion projects do work but you need to keep your head in tact. The next passion project that I have my eye on is Getting Rid of Matthew by Jennifer Aniston. The book was written by Jane Fallon and is about a PR lady who in embroiled in a love affair with a married man. Jennifer bought the rights of the book two years ago and is producing it with her Kristin Hahn with whom she has set up a production company with. Watch this space.

The picture at the top is of Drew Barrymore at her offices of her production company, Flower Films.

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