Fourteen Films That Drive Us Literarily

Finding Forrester (2000)

A wise old man guides an ill-fated boy with a natural knack for writing. If this isn’t the Karate Kid of literature, I don’t know what is. Forrester is allegedly inspired by J. D. Salinger because of the private life the character led.

The Words (2012)

Frustrated with his manila folder full of rejection letters, a writer allows the lost work of another man to make him a legendary writer. Inspired by Hemingway’s suitcase full of manuscripts misplaced at the Gare de Lyon train station in Paris, this film embodies the genuine struggles of being a modern-day writer.

Adaptation (2002)

The slack Nicholas Cage receives is beyond us. He portrayed a depressed divorcee in the Weatherman, an effortful husband in the Family Man, and a deep, poetic rambler in Leaving Las Vegas. Two of the three were less about literature but were great plots nonetheless. He played his own twin in this film written after Susan Orlean’s the Orchid Thief. An anxious screenwriter, his slovenly brother, writer’s block– what more do we need here?

The Secret Window (2004)

When the writing process meets insanity, the work is sure to be great. Mort Rainey over-exceeds what he’s willing to lose in order to gain his next big story. The psychological thriller accompanied by Rainey’s too-casual humor is based on Stephen King’s Secret Window, Secret Garden.

Howl (2010)

This fast-paced, spoken word-ridden, cigarette-curling, nonstop account on Allen Ginsberg’s life is one for the books. Grimy, congested 1950’s New York City doesn’t hurt our eyes either. Frankly, we’re impressed James Franco pulled it off.

Running With Scissors (2006)

Augusten Burroughs is an actual guy who wrote this memoir, outshining his struggling writer, mentally ill mother Margaret Robison. If our memory serves us correct, there’s a scene in which Augusten’s mother receives yet another rejection letter. Oh, the trials of literature troubling our souls!

The Hours (2002)

The Hours chronicles one unrecognizable Nicole Kidman channeling Virginia Woolf, an internalized Julianne Moore as 1950’s housewife Laura Brown, and Meryl Streep as Clarissa Vaughan offering a helping hand to her AIDS survivor, poet friend, who we later learn is the son of Laura Brown. The film was pretty lengthy but we got the gist of it– the distressing heartbreak of women goes beyond the burden of keeping up a household and Mrs Dalloway is an exceptional read. And Philip Glass on the soundtrack made the film worth watching.

Young Adult (2011)

Young Adult might be difficult to follow because the climax is so quick and random. Pretty much– a ghost writer for teeny-bopper novels returns to her hometown to reclaim her high school man. Unfortunately, the guy is married, a new father, and in no way dropping hints that he missed what they had. Still, instead of trying to meet her deadline, she devotes all of her time to making a fool of herself and then she goes back home. As Flavorwire put it, the story represents the whole writing process. Perhaps Mavis Gary is at work and using her experience to meet her deadline. She does finish her story troubled-artist-isolation style in a nearby hotel (no disrespect to her parents). Her story ends with her main character graduating high school and looking forward to the future.

Girl Most Likely (2012)

Like Young Adult, Imogene is a once-successful writer who just can’t get it together. The film is quirky and the characters are true. We just sorta felt that Imogene was a little before her beau’s time. Oh, well.. when you write your own movie you can choose the tallest, darkest man to fall in love with you.

Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

This movie is an accurate depiction of the writing process for mainstream audiences. Unfortunately, unless writing is your life (or depends on another’s life), they won’t actually get it. Something to take from this film– narrating your own life as you commute to work, walk to the shitter, even lie in bed at night can improve your writing.

A Single Man (2009)

Quiet, gray, cerebral, and sad, A Single Man tracks the day of an English professor planning to commit suicide while mourning the loss of his partner. He meets a young student, they converse, they make love, the professor becomes content, and then the professor dies suddenly of natural causes. This isn’t artsy Los Angeles in the sixties the way Harvey Milk enjoyed it but it’s artsy Los Angeles nonetheless. As a matter of fact, the scenery looks more like the Hamptons than California.

Midnight in Paris (2011)

Bloated with fictitious quotes we writers can still take with us in our literary expeditions, Woody Allen delivers an easily brilliant script as he has always done. If you like simple-science-fiction-meets-literature, you like Gil Pender overlapping the eras of renowned, venerable authors to discover that he hates his eras and his pseudo-intellectual friends.

Paper Man (2009)

This isn’t that animated black-and-white that pops up in your Google search results. This is Ryan Reynolds in tights and a writer tortured by his failed enthusiasm and the hundreds of unsold, printed books that surround and remind him. Let us all pray we never have to sit on a one to two thousand dollar couch fashioned out of our failed pile of books. As a writer, your couch should cost at least three hundred dollars.

The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Another film about an educator who is grieving the loss of what makes him a passionate man. As a married man’s writing suffers on account of his day job, his separation from his wife bleeds onto their two sons– the eldest slowly turns into his arrogant father, the youngest just becomes angry. To add injury to insult, the wife’s work is published to the New Yorker and Bernard Berkman officially becomes a dying artist. Everything turns out okay, though, because this is an arthouse dramedy.

Six Films On Our Should’ve Watched List
(We’ll get back to you.)

  • Adult World (2013)
  • On the Road ..? (2012)
  • The Door in the Floor (2004)
  • Swimming Pool (2003)
  • Wonder Boys (2000)
  • Deathtrap (1982)
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