THE NEW DAUGHTER
So, after much pleading with the film company to sneak a DVD copy to me, I at last sat down recently to watch the film of THE NEW DAUGHTER. As it's the first film that's ever been made of any of my work, and I'm a bit wary of the whole process anyway, for reasons that are dealt with on the new FILM & MEDIA section of the website, I suppose I felt a certain sense of trepidation. In addition, the film had been a little unlucky since its original distributors had run into trouble, and then it was eventually released in a limited run on the same weekend as AVATAR, of which some of you may have heard. (Blue chaps. Spaceships. You know the form.) Now it's due out in the US on DVD next month, and I don't know when, or if, it will have a cinema run on this side of the pond.
All of which is, in a way, beside the point. Problems with distribution companies and 3D behemoths have nothing to do with the film itself. In the end, I enjoyed it. I'd read the script while visiting the set, so I knew what to expect, to a degree, although the final cut differed from the script that I'd read in a couple of significant ways. But the acting is top-rate, particularly from Kevin Costner. He's been a star for so long that it's easy to take what he does for granted, but again and again in THE NEW DAUGHTER he made a small gesture, or changed his expression slightly, and the subtlety of it, and the effect he achieved with it, brought a smile to my face. Ivana Baquero, too, as the titular daughter, is eerily good, and young Gattlin Griffith as her brother is very affecting. I recall how good Costner was on the set with both of the younger actors, and the director, Luis Berdejo, tossing a baseball with Gattlin during a break in filming. Something of that ease is reflected in the performances of the principals, or it may just be the memory of my own experiences that are affecting my view, but I don't think so. The film also has an interesting look and feel to it. Although an American production, Berdejo is Spanish, as is the composer of its score, Javier Navarette, while its cinematographer, Checco Varese, is Peruvian. As a result, the movie at times resembles a kind of arthouse European ghost story, tending to shy away from rapid editing until close to the end.
All told then, in a world in which Gerard Butler movies get wide releases (I mean, P.S. I LOVE YOU and THE UGLY TRUTH, not to mention THE BOUNTY HUNTER and LAW-ABIDING CITIZEN? Come on. Butler can act, but his choice of movies seems to have been made by sticking a pin in a pile of the smelliest scripts available, and then keeping one eye firmly fixed on the cheque while trying not to inhale too deeply . . .) THE NEW DAUGHTER probably deserved a little better than to come and go with barely a glance. It's not even as if I have a hugely vested interest: I've been paid, and I don't know how many extra copies I'm likely to sell of the short story collection from which its source material came as a consequence of the movie's release. If the movie was terrible, I'd probably keep quiet about it, and hope for better luck next time, but it isn't terrible. It's a nicely-made little chiller, and the screenwriter, John Travis, did a good job of taking a very short story and expanding it into a film, even sneaking little bits in from some of my other books. (Hey, did he pay for those? Dammit, my Hollywood cocaine habit won't support itself . . .)
And it's not my story. It couldn't be. My story was about 14 pages long, and set in England. It involved fairies, and the myth of the changeling. But once the location became an American one, that really didn't work, so the creatures became something different. Inevitably, since I wrote the story one way, and the film chooses to tell it in another way, there are moments when I might have done something different with the plot, but that's the difference between my mind and the minds of John Travis, and Luis Berdejo, and all of those who had input into the way in which the film was made. It's a collaborative process, and I'm not a collaborative guy. But when the film ended, I was happy with what they'd done with my little story, and grateful to them all for doing it.
Because that's the other thing that I'll take away from the whole experience: the memory of how enjoyable it was, for me at least, and the kindness of everyone on that South Carolina set; and watching Costner and Baquero work; and having Luis show John Travis and I around the set, even though he must have had a hundred other more important things to do; and meeting crew members who had worked on CHINATOWN and RED DRAGON; and the grips sending me a t-shirt because they liked my books; and the fact that John is now a friend; and the good-humoured seriousness with which all involved approached what they were doing. They all set out to make the best film possible, just as, each time I sit down to write, I try to write the best book possible. Sometimes it doesn't come off, and sometimes my best at the time won't be good enough, but the intention is there, and that's all that anyone can ask, in the end.
THIS WEEK JOHN READ (very slowly)
The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
and listened to
LOVE & WHISPERS endlessly in an effort to get the track listing right