Elinor Lipman

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Books Into Movies

Then She Found Me, based on my first novel by the same name, and starring Helen Hunt, Bette Midler, Colin Firth, and Matthew Broderick, opened April 25, 2008, in New York and Los Angeles, then wider (and wider again.) Variety called the film "a smart, subtle and seriously funny dramedy bound to find favor with sophisticated auds....Pic often is extremely funny, but the comedy always remains rooted in sharply and warmly observed reality. (A nice touch: Most of the characters are Jewish, and their traditions clearly mean much to them.)"

(It was released on DVD in September 2008.)

Watch a trailer for the movie at Helen Hunt's Web site, and see the beautiful movie-tie-in jacket for Then She Found Me, which appeared April 1. I report immodestly that this edition squeaked onto the New York Times trade paperback best-seller lists in June, not high enough to appear in the print edition but how nice that they count down as far as the 30s.

Among many favorite wonderful reviews, if I were to pick one to quote in its entirety, it has to be David Denby's in The New Yorker:

"Then She Found Me," the first film to be directed by Helen Hunt, is about a thirty-nine-year-old grade-school teacher, April (Hunt), who has the unsettling adventure of becoming a mother and a daughter at the same time. April has been brought up by adoptive parents, but she has felt the absence of her own mother and father as if they were a pair of missing limbs. And she's terrified of losing out on motherhood herself. When her husband, Ben (Matthew Broderick), a mousy teacher at the same school, tries to tell her that he wants to leave her, April ignores him and pulls him into bed. The next day, the father of one of her students, Frank (Colin Firth), comes on to her like a summer tempest. The British Firth has a cloud of dark hair, a strong voice, and a baleful stare. His temperament, in its rages and its ardor, owes something to the nineteenth century—he is best known here, perhaps, as a great Mr. Darcy in the 1995 BBC miniseries version of "Pride and Prejudice." In this movie, he's a kind of domesticated Heathcliff, issuing imperious commands and then collapsing into apologies or morose rants. April, now pregnant with the child of her departing husband, falls in love with this unsteady warrior, a divorced man with two children of his own.

"With the screenwriters Alice Arlen and Victor Levin, Hunt adapted the story from a 1990 novel by Elinor Lipman, and has turned the material into a fine, tense, unpredictable comedy of mixed-up emotions and sudden illuminations. Hunt, in her work as an actress, has a talent for lucidity, but lucid is exactly what April is not. She can't quite make out what she wants, apart from a baby, and Frank, wounded and defensive after a failed marriage, is irresolute and changeable, too. "Then She Found Me" is about people acting on their immediate emotions and screwing themselves up. As if April's situation weren't muddled enough, her birth mother, Bernice, appears, in the form of Bette Midler, who barges into the movie like Shelley Winters on roller skates. A daytime-TV talk-show host, Bernice is a force of nature—she's initially so rude and needy that it takes a while to realize that she's an intelligent woman—and April wants to hide from her. What makes this small movie work is the filmmakers' curiosity about the many-sidedness of need—the way genuine benevolence, say, can be cloaked in blunt intrusiveness, or the way insults can be a reckless demand for love. We get the feeling that these people are far from completed as personalities, and that the movie's end, when it comes, is more like a pause. With any luck, Helen Hunt will continue to put complicated people on the screen.

Huffington Post asked me to blog about the adaptation, and I said yes. I direct people to this essay when they write me to express dismay that the movie is quite different from the book. Read the full article.

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On Turpentine Lane, a novel