Lyn Gregory and Susanna Sonnenberg, author of She Matters, discuss the importance of female friendships.Susanna Sonnenberg has written two memoirs--the first about the fraught relationship with her mother. Her latest book tackles the nuances and complexities of women’s friendship with an honest, raw look at the ones she's enjoyed, survived and endured since childhood. The stories of these friendships paint portraits full of passion, inspiration, love and betrayal and are a testament to the importance of female friendships in shaping the lives of women. Susanna was born in London but grew up in New York and now lives in Montana with her husband and two sons. Savannah Magazine: This is your second memoir. What about this genre inspires your writing? Susanna Sonnenberg: In my first book, Her Last Death, about my pathological mother, I needed rigorous honesty as a counterpoint to all the lying I was raised with. The form demands honesty and authenticity. It’s what makes for good writing for me. SM: You focused on your relationships with women, not men, in this book. What made you decide to restrict yourself to female relationships? Susanna: When we tell the story of our lives, we discuss jobs, college boyfriends and other elements as the events in our lives, but our female friendships aren’t billed as prominent markers in telling our stories. I was interested in what was not getting said, the underlying bones of our lives, those dramatic relationships that don’t get talked about. SM: Some of the friendships you recount in your memoir are short lived and others extend over long periods of time. Are these “bursts” of friendship as important in shaping our lives as the long term ones? Susanna: I do. I write memoir listening to the nagging, little voices, memories that never leave you. If you are still thinking about that person years later, something happened. There’s a reason they come back to you. I was trying to look as the ways every experience makes us who we are; in the development of self, I wanted to use friendship as the lens. SM: Some of the most painful and honest sections of your book, recount fractured friendships such as Nina and Claire. These must have been hard to write about so openly. Susanna: It did help me understand these relationships at a deeper level and the process brought me a lot of compassion for the women involved and also for myself. There is a myth that all women’s friendships are happy and supportive but they are always more complex and challenging than that simple description. SM: Did you lose any friendships over the publication of your book? Susanna: Either I cleared it with a friend before I included specific information or I changed some details to obscure the identity of the relationship. SM: As a result of analyzing your friendships, can you share with us what are the most important characteristics of enduring relationships? Susanna: Forgiveness and the ability to repair damage done. We all mess up; we all disappoint. Most often it happens in ways that have nothing to do with the friendship but one’s own history. We have to be brave enough, strong enough to find ways through. And sometimes, in spite of great love, it just isn’t possible to make it work. SM: Have you ever been to the South before? What do you imagine Savannah to be like? Susann: I’ve spent time in Virginia and New Orleans but not Georgia, even though one of the important friendships in the book is with a woman from Georgia. I picture it as very proper and beautiful. It does take three planes to get there though!
John Krasinski's Peter is charming and witty, but his one-liners can’t save him from the devastatingly difficult realities of marriage, commitment and family life. Allison Brooks offers advice.Peter (John Krasinski) heads a seemingly nuclear Silver Lake family in this predictable boy-meets-girl, boy-likes-girl, things-don’t-work-out film—although there is a bit of a twist from the age-old story. When Martine (Olivia Thirlby), a 23-year-old film student working on her thesis, moves to California to finish the sound direction for her project, Peter agrees to help her as a favor to his wife, Julie (Rosemarie DeWitt). Slowly—and I mean slowly—director Russo-Young reveals that nobody’s perfect in this film: Peter can’t fight his attraction to Martine, Julie invites her ex-husband (Dylan McDermott) over for family dinner, and Martine can’t seem to ever say no to sex. The most refreshing part of the film comes unexpectedly: a side story focusing on Kolt (India Ennenga), Julie’s daughter from her first marriage. Kolt so effortlessly portrays how it feels to be a teenage girl in love with a man she can’t have. Poetically delusional, she tells her friends she and David (Rhys Wakefield), Peter’s assistant, have a complicated relationship due to their age difference. When she sees David making out with Martine in his car, we feel her heart break. While Russo-Young fails to grip her audience with a strong plot and general character formation, she does capture the complications of sexuality quite well. Apart from Peter and Martine, she explores Julie’s relationship with one of her patients (Justin Kirk) who describes his fantasies about her in detail, and Kolt’s much older Italian tutor (Emanuele Secci) suggests uncomfortable sexual undertones throughout the story. With no solid conclusion, the film doesn't earn the audience's devotion. Nobody Walks has less staying power than the characters intwined in the film's relationships. As I left Trustees Theater, I heard a group of 20-somethings discussing the film: “I understood the point but none of the characters were likable enough for me to care about them.”
Nobody WalksStarring: John Krasinski, Olivia Thirlby, Rosemarie DeWitt Director: Ry Russo-Young
Jonathan Able parties with the VIPs for night four of the Savannah Film Festival.Is it just me, or does the film festival keep getting bigger and bigger? For Wednesday’s 7 p.m. showing of Hyde Park on Hudson, all seats were filled in the spacious Trustees Theater. Audiences had flocked to the theater well in advance, some arriving as early as 4:30 p.m. to secure slots in both the pass-holder and ticketed lines. Thanks to the film’s modest run time of about 1.5 hours, the Hyde Park audience still had a small sliver of time to catch the evening’s second screening, Dracula, for a Halloween fright at the Lucas Theatre. Film industry luminaries and big-ticket donors made their way to City Market for their nightly reception—hosted this time by the upscale Southern eatery, Belford’s. The welcoming space, with warm wooden floors and ample dining rooms, was filled to capacity with moviegoers eager for a good time. Whether it was the excuse to frolic on Halloween or just a much-needed hump-day fix, the crowd had the size and energy of Opening Night. Belford’s attendees passed around trays of savory quiches, miniature roast-beef-and-gouda sandwiches and bacon-wrapped scallops, all of which were devoured by hungry guests within minutes of being served. VIP vixen Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) was dressed in a crimson pirate costume in honor of the haunted holiday, and Ty Pennington (Extreme Makeover: Home Edition) appeared as a ninja turtle (or was it a Geico gecko?) to join in the evening’s festivities.
Hyde Park on the HudsonStarring: Bill Murray and Laura Linney Director: Roger Michell
Dustin Hoffman makes his directorial debut with an octogenarian comedy, starring A-list actors he may have partied with back in the 1960s. Nicole Jantze is still humming a few tunes.
Photo courtesy of SCADAt the age of 75, award-winning actor Dustin Hoffman directs his first feature, Quartet, which stars Maggie Smith, Michael Gambon (yes, that’s Professor McGonnell and Dumbledore), Pauline Collins and Tom Courtenay. The film is slated for a December 28 release nationwide—just in time for Oscar contention. But, at its heart, it's a light comedy, perfectly suited for post-holiday binge viewing. The film opens as Beecham House residents are preparing as meticulously as the Royal Opera House for their annual gala concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday. There is a bit more riding on this year’s concert with the threat of the Beecham House running out of funds. Cedric (Gambon) carries the burden as the director of the gala as Wilf (Connolly), Cissy (Collins) and Reggie (Courtenay) unravel over the arrival of the eventual fourth member of the quartet, star soloist Jean (Smith), whose affair with another musician on her wedding night split up their long friendship and ended her nine-hour marriage to Reggie. The plot is predictable, but Hoffman’s steady hand and the interactions of the characters, based upon a play by Ronald Harwood, strike a harmonious note. And then, there’s the music: Verdi (1813-1901) worked closely with his librettists (lyric writers) to marry plot and performance to verse and music. And that is what Hoffman has so smartly done with Quartet. In a retirement home where the residents are still very much living—quite fully and humorously, might I add—Verdi is the only old guy you will see.
Sal Paradise overcomes writer’s block with his cross-country road trips and sensual encounters in this visually appealing chain of thought. Allison Brooks tags along.
Photo courtesy of SCADMuch like Jack Kerouac’s acclaimed Beat Generation novel, director Walter Salles’ On The Road is a cast of characters rather than a story. When iconic Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) befriends the struggling young writer Sal Paradise (Sam Riley) in New York, circa 1947, Sal immediately feels a pull towards Dean’s rebellious, restless nature. The two seek cross-country adventure with Dean’s new bride, 16-year-old Marylou (Kristen Stewart). The three dabble in drugs, sex, jazz and theft at stops all along the winding road. Sal, Dean and Marylou encounter a handful of colorful, yet unrealized, characters on their road trips, each one shaping their journey, including scene-stealing Jane (Amy Adams), uptight Galatea (Elizabeth Moss), jazz musician Walter (Terrence Howard) and aging junkie Bull (Viggo Mortensen)—whose character deserves to be fleshed out more fully. When the camera focuses on Carlo (Tom Sturridge) and Camille (Kirsten Dunst), we are able to explore these characters’ inner struggles and begin to care for them, at least a little, even in the absence of any overarching narrative structure. Despite the stream-of-consciousness flow of the story, the film itself is a visual pleasure, if at times gratuitous. Salles captures the beauty of America in the late 1940s, taking us from New York City to Denver to New Orleans to Mexico City and back again. As the credits rolled and Trustees Theater emptied, I overheard some not so flattering comments. One gentleman, who is clearly in the film business, declared that the film would have been great if it were only 40 minutes long and had the impact of the last scene carried throughout, which finally delivered some emotional payoff. Another guest mimicked his brains being blown out. The talented cast did their best with the material they were given, but Salles ultimately fails to capture the zeitgeist that Kerouac did in his novel, relying instead on montages of sex and drugs and meanderings to give heft to his characters' awakenings. The real star of On the Road is a midcentury American landscape that no longer exists.
On The RoadStarring: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart Director: Walter Salles
Photo courtesy of SCADBy Amy Paige Condon Gray skies courtesy of Hurricane Sandy churning just off the coast didn't dampen the spirits of VIPs— including actor James Gandolfini—guests and stargazers as they mingled outside of SCAD's Trustees Theater for an elegant and low-key Broughton Street party ahead of the opening of the 15th annual Savannah Film Festival. In fact, the cool breezes brought welcome relief from late-season humidity and seemed to elevate the anticipation hanging in the air for the feature presentation, Silver Linings Playbook,which recently won the coveted People's Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival. [nggallery id=172] The unexpectedly offbeat Bradley Cooper-Jennifer Lawrence rom-com played to a packed house that erupted into applause as the credits rolled. That happy vibe spilled over into the evening reception at the SCAD Museum of Art, where hugs and air kisses were exchanged in the serpentine lines to the swank, lighted bars (and, where we spotted actor Alex McArthur, Madonna's rugged boyfriend in the Papa, Don't Preach video and one of this year's jurors) as the live band played vintage blues and soul standards.
Photography by Beau KesterWhile sipping a full compliment of libations, guests gnoshed on delectable, bite-sized quinoa caviar, tomato pie, bacon-wrapped shrimp, flank steak crostini, apricot with ham, cheese and chives, and silkened chocolate confections—all passed by young servers who lived up to the Hostess City moniker, many of whom were SCAD students. [nggallery id=173] Though a few jewel-toned dresses punctuated the darkness, the uniform of choice was the LBD, perhaps an homage to the celebrated André Leon Talley-curated exhibit gracing the museum's east wing. One unidentified partygoer snapped photos of women's shoes with his iPhone, which we can agree were sleek, strappy, spiky and as sparkly as a night filled with stars.
Excitement levels soar for Robert Zemeckis’s latest moral drama. Jonathan Able prepares for takeoff.
Photo courtesy of SCAD.Sex, drugs and…a plane crash. Those elements comprise director Robert Zemeckis’s and writer John Gatins’s latest, Flight. Billed as a mystery-drama, I found the film less of an actual who-dunnit than a morality play—a divine battle between good and evil. Whip Whitaker, portrayed exquisitely by Denzel Washington (Safe House), pilots a failing commercial aircraft to an emergency landing and somehow miraculously saves the majority of the passengers on board. What the general public doesn’t know, however, is what lies beneath: Whitaker grapples with a serious addiction to a number of vices, including, but not limited to, alcohol, cocaine and an extracurricular workplace relationship involving one of his flight attendants. What’s more, he has just come off a multi-day bender prior to the doomed flight. The aftermath places Whitaker in the middle of an investigation led by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to determine exactly how the SouthJet airplane went down. Was the crash caused by outdated mechanics aboard the aging aircraft? Did Whitaker’s compromised wherewithal jeopardize the passengers on board? In such a phenomenal landing, akin to Captain Sullenberger's miracle touchdown on the Hudson River, is it possible that divine intervention played a role? This last question poised held my interest throughout the film. Religious implications received more than just a tip of the hat in Flight. Case in point, Whitaker lands the plummeting aircraft in a field directly adjacent a church. Much of the film’s dialogue centers on the divine. In a hospital scene directly following the aircraft, Whitaker’s co-pilot preaches that the flight’s incident was "preordained” as his wife semi-silently echoes, “Praise Jesus,” almost as if she were preparing to speak in tongues. Is Whip Whitaker, then, a quasi-savior figure with an all-too-human drinking habit? That depends on your interpretation. What’s not up for interpretation is the stellar cast: Kelly Riley as Nicole, Whitaker’s also-addicted love interest; Don Cheadle as his Chicago-based lawyer; and, the scene-stealing John Goodman (who manages to steal a few more scenes in this season's Oscar bait, Argo.) Few films, anymore, stay with you after you’ve thrown your popcorn away. But, if you're looking for something more substantial than brain candy, well then, come aboard, because Flight is ready for departure.