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ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated
2019

5 Must-See Movies for Writers

There are times when it's not easy to be a writer. Whether you're struggling with exhaustion, time constraints, audience expectation, or simply being uninspired, anyone who has written for any length of time understands the challenges writers often have to overcome to get a story written. And there is no better way to overcome these challenges than to watch movies about other writers who have faced similar obstacles.

Here's a list of 5 must-see movies about writers that will move you, challenge you, and inspire you to be better at your craft. They are biopics about famous writers whose relationships, struggles, and art remain as fascinating on screen as they were in real life.

Sylvia

Mental illness is a tough subject for any movie to take on and this biopic of poet and novelist Sylvia Plath is no different. If you're an adoring fan of Sylvia Plath and her work, you might find that this movie falls short of showing the true depths of her character (played by Gwyneth Paltrow), although admittedly, Paltrow takes on a difficult role to perform. A review on Hollywood.com states:

In the eponymous role Gwyneth Paltrow (who startlingly resembles Plath) demonstrates a profound empathy with and understanding of the writer who if you're to believe this movie didn't fully understand herself. Essaying a real-life brilliant proto-feminist poet who happens also to be near catatonically depressed is no easy feat but Paltrow takes a deep breath and dives right in delivering an Oscar-caliber performance that may be her best to date.

Hollywood.com

The movie begins with Plath's fateful encounter with British Poet Laureate Edward (Ted) Hughes (played by Daniel Craig) in 1955, after she was granted a Fulbright Scholarship to study in England at Cambridge. By this point, Plath had already attempted suicide once. The couple have a whirlwind, passionate romance and marry, as Sylvia is offered a teaching post back in America. As Ted becomes increasingly famous (both among literary circles and among admiring women), Sylvia tries to avoid being in his shadow with her own writing, which is increasingly focused on topics of death and dying. She is also obsessed with his relationships with other women and her suspicion of infidelity, which turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In an attempt to renew their commitment and restore their marriage, the couple returns to England to start a family. However, Sylvia's increasing depression lead her to take her life with her children in the next room.

Rating: R (for sexuality/nudity and language)
Genre: Drama
Directed By: Christine Jeffs
Written By: John Brownlow

Kill Your Darlings

In 1944, a young poet by the name of Allen Ginsberg (played by Daniel Radcliffe) is attending Columbia University and meets Lucien Carr (played by Dane DeHann), William Burroughs (played by Ben Foster), and Jack Kerouac (played by Jack Huston). Ginsberg finds a kindred spirit in Carr, who is, like Ginsberg, young, gay, and passionate about poetry. He also begins his famed collaboration with Burroughs and Kerouac. Their friendship, intellectual collaboration, and resulting literary accomplishments would become the foundation of the Beat Generation, a movement in the 1950s rejecting conventional society while favoring Zen Buddhism, modern jazz, free sexuality, and recreational drug use.

Kill Your Darlings explores the depths of these friendships while also recounting the murder investigation involving Kerouac, Burroughs, and Carr, who were investigated as potential suspects. Part coming-of-age tale, part crime story, the movie is full of witty repartee and commentary on literature. Reviewer Jonathan Robbins writes:

Kill Your Darlings treats the future Beats not as mythical figures but as hedonistic young misfits with a passion for literature. Krokidas, who co-wrote the screenplay with Austin Bunn, does not sentimentalize the period, but vivifies it, making Ginsberg's struggles and personal discoveries feel immediate.

Jonathan Robbins

Rating: R (for sexual content, language, drug use and brief violence)
Genre: Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Romance
Directed By: John Krokidas
Written By: John Krokidas, Austin Bunn

Midnight in Paris

This romantic comedy written and directed by Woody Allen is set in Paris and full of enough literary history and charm to impress even the most critical connoisseurs of literature. The movie follows Gil Pender (played by Owen Wilson), a Hollywood screenwriter, who travels to Paris with his fiancée (played by Rachel McAdams) and her snobby, wealthy parents. While there, Gil romanticizes Paris and is inspired by its history and beauty, while his fiancée would rather mingle with her pedantic friend, who seems intent on making Gil feel ignorant and silly.

As Gil wanders the streets of Paris alone, a fantastical event takes him to 1920s Paris and its famous "Lost Generation" of writers and critics. There, he meets such literary greats as Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald (along with his wife, Zelda), and Gertrude Stein, while listening to Cole Porter sing live and meeting artists Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso. He also meets the dazzling and lovely Adriana, who is Picasso's lover and muse. They discuss life, literature, and the concept of modernism, along with being content in the time and place in which you live.

Whether you are a fan of Wood Allen's work or not, this is a gorgeous movie full of fun, true-to-history characterization of the literary greats. A review for Reel Talk Online states:

Allen does what few writer/directors can do--write a ensembles piece with one central character that doesn't cheat any character's story. You feel like you know and can appreciate each character as their stories' aren't skimpily written. Midnight in Paris is a very unselfish and lovely approach to inspiration, love, and the written word. A must watch.

Reel Talk Online

In 2012, Midnight in Paris won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and the Golden Globe Award for Best Screenplay. It was also nominated for three other Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Art Direction.

Rating: PG-13 (for some sexual references and smoking)
Genre: Comedy, Romance
Directed By: Woody Allen
Written By: Woody Allen

The End of the Tour

The End of the Tour is about writers David Foster Wallace (played by Jason Segel) and David Lipsky (played by Jesse Eisenberg), who wrote a memoir based on his interviews and travels with Wallace. The film is based on Lipsky's best-selling memoir, Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself.

As the film opens, Wallace has just committed suicide and Lipsky recounts the events that took place 12 years earlier, when he interviewed the famous writer. He listens back through his interviews and the movie flashes back to those times when Wallace, who has been deemed by the Los Angeles Times as one of the most influential and innovative writers of the last 20 years, had recently published his internationally bestselling novel, Infinite Jest, and is on a book tour for it. Lipsky, a young writer with Rolling Stone magazine at the time, convinces Wallace to let him come with him on the tour and interview along the way.

The two establish an amicable connection, although Wallace stays guarded throughout much of the discussion. As their interview progresses, Wallace discusses a variety of topics, such as alcoholism, fame, and self-identity, but won't go into detail about these things and gets upset when Lipsky brings up topics such as Wallace's rumored time under suicide watch and his heroin abuse. Both Segel and Eisenberg offer heartfelt performances and the screenplay is written by Pulitzer-Prize winner Donald Margulies. Reviewer Nick Evan-Cook writes:

With a pair of perfectly calibrated performances from Segel and Eisenberg, End of the Tour both entertains and inspires introspection as it combines a cerebral thoughtfulness with rich character chemistry and genuine, human, warmth.

The Margulies-penned script is simply brilliant, with the razor-sharp dialogue providing many quietly powerful little character moments—it's a joy to watch the intellectually gifted pair trade both wisdom and insult in their game (and sometimes war) of minds. Furthermore, the poetically bleak landscapes are scored to perfection with Elfman's beautiful and sparse post-classical score, and an inspired Brian Eno musical cue closes things with poignancy.

Featuring some of the best dialogue scenes you'll see this year, The End of the Tour is a fascinating and utterly absorbing sparring of minds.

Nick Evan-Cook

Rating: R (for language including some sexual references)
Genre: Drama
Directed By: James Ponsoldt
Written By: Donald Margulies

The Motorcycle Diaries

Although most known for his revolutionary politics, Ernesto (Che) Guevara (played by Gael Garcia Bernal) was also a prolific writer of essays and articles. He was also known as a diarist, particularly from his 1952 road trip on a motorcycle that he took with his friend Alberto Granado (played by Rodrigo de la Serna). Their journey would take them through Latin America and into a deepening social consciousness that would later greatly influence Guevara's political and social theories. Reviewer Andrew L. Urban writes:

Walter Salles, who won me over with Central Station (1998) as a filmmaker of both sensitivity and power, earthiness and lyricism as required, has imagined this seminal journey by two young men as a road movie where the ultimate resolution takes place off screen, after the film ends, revealed on title cards. You would think this is rather feeble, but Salles does such a fine job of showing us the journey which changes the men, especially Guevara, that it seems not only satisfying but the only way to do it.

Superbly shot and surrounded by veracity in every frame, the central characters move through the amazing and varied landscape first with abandon, then with awareness. The subtlety of Salles is that we are never coerced into forming pre-emptive political assumptions, and the development of Guevara's politicisation is beautifully judged by both the director and by the talented young Mexican actor, Gael Garcia Bernal.

Indeed, one could argue that this is subtlety to a fault, keeping to a minimum the exposure of injustice and oppression that eventually would make Guevara such an active force for change in the region.

Andrew L. Urban

Rating: R (for language)
Genre: Drama
Directed By: Walter Salles
Written By: Jose Rivera

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