Sam Mendes' Away We Go (54 screens) makes for a great trailer, consisting of all the very funny, snarky stuff written by Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida. The actual movie has some very funny moments as well, and some terrific individual scenes, but it doesn't add up to a reasonable whole, mainly because the ever-shifting tones never quite mesh. Nevertheless, it seems to be performing well in its arthouse capacity, surviving more on a well-executed stream of hype rather than on the quality of the movie itself. From the ads, you'd think it has already won an Oscar (and, because of this kind of subconscious suggestion, it still might). Either way, what this means is that a literary giant like Eggers didn't have to go slumming. His reputation is intact.

In the old days, great novelists would sometimes write for the movies, but it was sneered at and looked down upon. Movies were for hacks and has-beens, or for desperate sellouts who were willing to work for cash rather than for the reward of a richer soul. William Faulkner was perhaps the most famous example of this, scribbling screenplays for drinking money. Fortunately, nowadays, Mr. Faulkner's literary reputation not only remains totally intact, but also some of his screenplays, including To Have and Have Not (1944) and The Big Sleep (1946), are celebrated for their high quality. Similarly, Billy Wilder once hired the great crime novelist Raymond Chandler to adapt a book by another great crime novelist, James M. Cain, into Double Indemnity (1944). I can only imagine the indignity Chandler must have felt at the time, but today no one cares.
categories Columns, Cinematical