The Girl in the Book Review-a multiple story in film

“The Girl in the Book”, released December 11, 2015, was written and directed by Marya Cohn, in her directorial debut,and stars Emily Van Camp in a many-layered and engaging performance as Alice, a woman who iwas seduced as a young teenager by a writer, Milan, played with stunning subtlety by Michael Nyqvist. Ana Mulvoy-Ten, who looks for all the world like a young Van Camp, plays the faltering yet  brutally earnest young Alice, and David Call stars as Emmett, the hapless adult Alice’s once and future love. The action, set in the publishing world of Manhattan,  involves the almost seamless weaving together of the initial story and it’s consequences for Alice ’s psyche via the infinitely clever mode of bringing Milan back into Alice’s life. He has not only appropriated her personal innocence, he crafted it into a book, which became a best-seller, turning the fictionalized Alice into a latter day female Holden Caulfield. He also stole her ideas, remarks, and snippets of her writing. As the film begins, the almost-thirty Alice is leading a stalled life as a junior publishing assistant, and her boss sets her the task of publicizing the re-release. Cohn does an excellent job of presenting the complicated tale with flashbacks skillfully woven into current action.

Michael Nyqvist and Ana Mulroy-Ten

The viewing audience witnesses the transition of the uncompromisingly  open and honest  if understandably youthfully shy blonde girl into the constricted, conflicted and self- destructive  light-brunette woman; the natural results of trauma  and exploitation emerge clearly. We see how Milan is introduced to young Alice, the daughter of both his former and future agents, who have an awful marriage- understandable: as she discovers talent, he steals it away. They both ignore or condone this middle-aged man’s entree’ into their home and their clearly nubile young daughter’s life, in the guise of being her writing mentor. We are privy to the very uncomfortable seduction of the girl by this man. We also see how the relationship, if one can call it that, ends, or more accurately, is denied by Milan and lapses.

 

 Unfortunately, what else languishes is Alice’s ability to write, and also, it seems, her ability to manage to have coherent or honorable relationships with anybody.   Cohn does not try to present a tale of post traumatic stress disorder resulting solely from importunate sex; the causes of Alice's problems are more complex.We, the audience, become privy to the ongoing ways Alice's in which Alice's parents, especially her father in his serial unfaithfulness continue to present Alice with role models for selfishness and narcissism. And Alice absorbs these lessons well. We watch her bar-hopping, hooking up meaninglessly, and dragging herself late to work, her panties in her handbag. She can’t write, can’t get her boss’ attention at work, can’t enjoy her own birthday party, can’t control her own impetus to puncture her own balloon. Alice is at an impasse, beautifully portrayed.

Emily Van Camp

Yet, the film stalls just when it should provide us with either a real awakening or a real human rapprochement. Inevitably, Alice betrays both  her best friend, Sadie, played to perfection by Ali Ahn, as well as her new boyfriend, Emmett, who is a fully-realized man with a committed political conscience, a “normal “background , and who "doesn't do crazy". Their dual repudiation offers her  an opportunity to make good and transcend her past . Unfortunately, at this point Cohn succumbs to the lure of fairy-tale endings, and the action fades to Hollywood as Alice creates an adolescent love blog to secure Emmett and then rushes to confront Milan in order to tie up the strands of her dilemmas and failures by the end of the film.

 

However, this movie is saved from mediocrity by the excellennce of most of the script, the brilliant and deft hand of it’s director, the ceaselessly exciting musical score of Will Bates,  and the actors ' inspired work. It’s well worth watching.

Emily Van Camp

 

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 All images courtesy of Freestyle Releasing

 

 

 

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