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The ever reliable Rob Lowe plays Rob Harlan, a happily married man who, after losing his job writes a book which becomes a best seller – turning Rob into a literary phenomenon.  However, as his fame spreads and his success grows, he starts to take his family for granted, and loses sight of what is important in his life.

This film was made for cable television, and is not one of Rob Lowe’s better known films, but it is definitely worth catching if you get chance.  Lowe is of course perfect in the lead role, and although Rob (Harlan)’s behaviour became frustrating, Lowe just about kept the audience on his side (or this viewer at least), in that I wanted him to open his eyes and see what he was in danger of losing.  Paget Brewster was great as his wife Allyson, who watches in dismay as her loving husband grows further away from here, and Frances Conroy is also very good as Rob’s agent and friend Camille.  Christopher Lloyd takes a small but pivotal role as a mysterious man who pops up several times and always unexpectedly, to warn Rob of what he is putting at risk by his behaviour.

The only thing that annoyed me about this film was the ending.  It’s an adaptation of a book – which I haven’t read, but which apparently the film remains pretty faithful to – and therefore, any disappointment at the ending is not really the fault of the film-makers.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers, and if I told the ending, it would be a BIG spoiler, but suffice to say that it was not what I was expecting, and I don’t mean that in a good way.  I mean it in a a kind of “what the heck were they going for there?” kind of way.  But for a film of an hour and  a half, at least an hour and a quarter of it is very enjoyable, and on that basis, I would recommend it.

Year of release: 2003

Director: Peter Levin

Producers: Stephanie Germain, Sunta Izzicupo, Frances Croke Page, Kimberley C. Anderson, Malcolm Petal, Judy Cairo

Writers: Richard Paul Evans (novel), Joyce Eliason

Main cast: Rob Lowe, Paget Brewster, Frances Conroy, Christopher Lloyd, Jude Ciccolella

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This movie chronicles the last months in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s life, as detailed in the book by Sheila Graham – Hollywood reporter and one time girlfriend of Fitzgerald. The author of such incredible novels as The Great Gatsby (which, if you haven’t read, I highly recommend) and Tender Is The Night, is now writing pulp fiction movies for a movie studio – accepting what work he can in order to pay for the care of his wife Zelda who is in an asylum, and the schooling for his daughter.  He meets Sheila Graham, and there is an instant attraction between them.  They fall deeply in love, but Fitzgerald’s alcoholism threatens to destroy their unhappiness.

First let me preface my thoughts on the movie by saying that I am aware that this account of real life events has been highly fictionalised and romanticised.  I decided to view it almost as a fictional film about fictional characters, which helped my enjoyment of it.  This is not a very popular film (Peck himself was not overly happy with it), and there were parts it which didn’t so well, but overall I did enjoy watching it.

I thought Peck played his part well, and really showed the difference between the witty, erudite and thoughtful sober Fitzgerald, and the drunken, overbearing and rude Fitzgerald (again, this may be misrepresenting the real man, so I am talking as if the character was entirely fictional).  Like many drunks, Fitzgerald could be funny and entertaining, but he couldn’t handle the alcohol, and it made him unpredictable to be around.  In fact, the scenes of a drunken Fitzgerald were some of Peck’s best scenes in this film.

Gregory Peck looks gorgeous – absolutely so – in this film.  One of the best looking Hollywood actors ever (to me anyway), here he is handsome and charismatic.  Deborah Kerr however, while looking lovely, didn’t seem quite so convincing in her role.  I thought she was terrific in An Affair To Remember, but here she seems overly theatrical in the part, and it was hard to really warm to her character.

The score is somewhat overblown, although there is some lovely music in it, but the movie does look beautiful.  If you’ve not seen this lesser appreciated movie, I think it’s worth giving it a go.  Much of the criticism levelled at it is entirely justified, but if you can take that on board, there’s still a lot of reasons to see this film.

Year of release: 1959

Director: Henry King

Writers: Sheila Graham (book), Gerold Frank (book), Sy Bartlett

Main cast: Gregory Peck, Deborah Kerr, Eddie Albert

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It’s 1946, and author Juliet Ashton is looking for a suitable subject for her next book.  Out of the blue she receives a letter from a man named Dawsey Adams from Guernsey, who has acquired a book which used to belong to Juliet (and which had her address in it).  He writes to her and a friendship quickly develops.  Dawsey is a member of the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, a reading group formed during the German occupation in Guernsey in the war.  As the correspondence continues, Juliet also starts swapping letters with other members of the literary society, who tell her about their way of life in Guernsey, the way that the islanders suffered during the occupation.  They all seem eager to talk about their friend Elizabeth McKenna, a remarkable woman whose current whereabouts are unknown after she was arrested by the German Officers.

This is a truly delightful read-in-one -sitting book.  It is told entirely through the letters and telegrams of Juliet and the reading group members, and each character has their own distinct voice.  Life under the German occupation was described in vivid details and the author(s) did not shirk away from the showing the dread and intimidation that became part of daily life.

However, this book is also very uplifting and humorous – making me laugh out loud on a number of occasions.  The characters are all very loveable and some of them are very quirky or eccentric.  I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with them, and felt as though I knew them all.

I would certainly recommend this story – to use a cliche, it is very heartwarming and a wonderful comforting read.  One to treasure and reread in the future.

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