Comments (0)

Butler's Script Sale of the Week...

As the strikes loom ominously over the film industry, producers seem to be stockpiling the scripts. At SU we logged twenty scripts this week alone. Some seem like great ideas. FUTURE TENSE sounds really cool. Ditto RUNT OF THE LITTER and THE PIERCING. Some sound not so good. Like the Patrick Bateman-less AMERICAN PSYCHO II. What the hell are they thinking?

My pick this week, because I believe in second chances, especially when such talented people are involved, is THE FOURTH HAND.

THE FOURTH HAND marks the second collaboration between novelist John Irving and director Lasse Hallstrom. They wrote the screenplay for and directed, respectively, the Oscar winning THE CIDER HOUSE RULES (1999), which was based on Irving's novel of the same name.

Irving won the best adapted screenplay for THE CIDER HOUSE RULES. An award that, I think, was undeserved when three other nominees in the category were better screenplays (ELECTION, THE INSIDER, and THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY. I'll give Irving the nod over Frank Darabont's bloated THE GREEN MILE, however).

Now don't get me wrong. I think Irving is one of the most brilliant novelists ever. A Prayer For Owen Meany was the most amazing book I've ever read. But there has always been difficulty translating his work to the screen (THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE, 1984; THE WORLD ACCORDING TO GARP, 1982; and the Owen Meany bastardization SIMON BIRCH, 1998). Irving's novels are so layered and multi-dimensional that the screen adaptations invariably feel as if something is missing. It's a problem Irving himself couldn't solve with THE CIDER HOUSE RULES.

Hallstrom, too, is an enormous talent with credits like MY LIFE AS A DOG (1986), WHAT'S EATING GILBERT GRAPE (1993), and CHOCOLAT (2000). We'll forgive him for ABBA: THE MOVIE (1977). Yet there was just something wrong with the CIDER HOUSE RULES. I left the theater feeling strangely unfulfilled as if there was so much more to these characters and this story than the film had been able to tell us.

But like I said, I believe in second chances. Maybe Irving and Hallstrom, who have undoubtedly been re-teamed thanks to the Oscar fever surrounding THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, can make magic this time with Irving's soon to be published THE FOURTH HAND.

The storyline to THE FOURTH HAND is classic Irving. A TV reporter loses his hand to a lion during a live report. A renowned hand surgeon sees the chance to perform the nation's first hand transplant as soon as a donor is found. In the meantime he falls in love with his housekeeper. And in Wisconsin a young childless mother offers her husband's hand if the reporter will help her conceive. The only problem being that her husband is still alive.

Sounds to me just like the stuff that gets lost in the translation from paper to celluloid. But I reserve the right to hold out hope. The press release for THE FOURTH HAND says it "offers a penetrating look at the power of second chances and the will to change."

Let's hope so.

-- Edward Butler

More recent articles in Archive


Only logged-in members can comment. You can log in or join today for free!