Thursday, February 12, 2015

Case Study No. 1838: Carrie Beal and Viktor

The Dive From Clausen's Pier Movie.. Part 3
this the movie The Dive From Clausen's Pier with Michelle Trachtenberg
Tags: the dive from clausen's pier movie michelle trachtenberg part 3
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"The Dive From Clausen's Pier" (2005)

Adapted from a novel by Ann Packer, this made-for-cable romantic drama stars Michelle Trachtenberg as 23 year old Carrie Beal, a Madison (Wisconsin) native engaged to her high school sweetheart Mike Mayor (Will Estes). Already having serious second thoughts about her relationship with Mike, Carrie is further conflicted when he is permanently paralyzed in a diving accident. Unable to cope with the fact that Mike now needs her more than ever, Carrie abruptly heads out of town, leaving her job at the library (and her engagement ring) behind her. Inaugurating a whole new life in New York City, Carrie becomes a successful fashion designer, and also has a lengthy affair with an older man named Kilroy (Sean Maher). But when things begin to go sour for her, will Carrie be able to return to Madison--and beyond that, will Mike and the other loved ones she deserted be willing to forgive and forget?

The Dive from Claussen's Pier was first telecast by the Lifetime network on July 25, 2005.



While this is not quite the cringe-worthy train wreck I had been fearing (based on comments here and the promos on Lifetime), it is certainly a shallow, trivial and disappointing adaptation of a genuinely interesting (if imperfect) first novel by O. Henry award winner Ann Packer.

For some reason, the scriptwriters choose to change the perfectly simple names of the main characters (Bell, Mayer) to Beal and Mayor. Not a big change, but there is no reason for it, which is an indication of the sloppiness and flabbiness of the film script. Granted, any film adaption HAS to be compressed -- a novel usually runs 300-400 pages or more, and a movie can only be about 2 hours at best, so something is going to have to go....side-plots deleted, characters eliminated or combined and so on. But why change a simple name like Bell?

In a drearily weak cast composed of TV series and soap opera newbies, only Will Estes as Mike "Mayor" gives a reasonably good performance and even that is compromised by his apparently inability (or ignorance on the part of the director) to portray a quadriplegic. I thought they had changed the character's affliction to paraplegia, based on the trailer, since Mike is shown moving his head very freely and using his arms and hands. However, if you overlook that, this is by far the most sympathetic performance...and sadly, that throws off the whole plot. In the novel, Mike is bitter and angry, and actually it's pretty understandable why Carrie neither wants to marry him, stay with him or be his nurse.

Michelle Trachtenberg is far too young to be playing a character in her mid-twenties (She is still a teenager) and I guess this was her agents idea to have her play a grown up, sexy part with love scenes. If so, he jumped the gun. Michelle still looks 15, which is great for her since she can go back to playing teen roles on TV. But to see her with an adult man, doing love scenes, is kinda squicky -- she looks like underage jail-bait. Plus someone somewhere (her mom?) decided she could not actually be nude, not even under a sheet, so all the love scenes are ridiculously played with Michelle fully dressed in t-shirts or other undies. Ridiculous! Michelle is still quite far from being able to tackle this kind of adult role, she looks like she's sleepwalking or on Quaalude through most of the film.

Sean Maher has the difficult and perhaps thankless role of the enigmatic NYC boyfriend, Kilroy. The filmmakers obviously didn't read the book carefully --- Kilroy is an adult man of FORTY, he is not a contemporary of Carrie's. Most of his amusing and witty dialog is sacrificed here, towards no purpose, plus his "career" of being a office temp (at 40!) is entirely left out. What he is left with is an ultra glamorous NYC apartment, suitable for love scenes, which is entirely at odds with the book, where he has virtually no furniture or possessions and is living a life of nearly monastic sparseness. (I also don't recall, or think, that the character was meant to be Jewish, a red herring that is tossed out for no apparent reason.)

The rest of the cast, which in the book included some well–rounded and important secondary characters, is totally short-shifted so that their parts are either barely there or incoherent. (Another example: Carrie returns to Madison in part to be with her lonely single mom –– not just Mike -- and this is entirely left out of the story.)

The worst part is that the film implies (but does not clearly state) that Carrie has gone back to Madison to be with Mike again, perhaps in a romantic way. The novel is absolutely clear that any romance between them is entirely over (on both their parts) and they will only continue on as long time friends. I guess the concept of being friends with an ex is too advanced and complex for a Lifetime TV movie!

In general, this is a disservice to the book. On it's own as a film, it's like a teen drama, cut from the same stuff as Dawson's Creek or other teen dramas...but filled with confusing characters who disappear without cluing us in to who they are, dialog that goes nowhere and a general sense that big parts were chopped out and discarded. I would guess that a viewer who had not read the book would sit to the end and just think "huh? what the heck?"

I wish I could say that this a rarity for Lifetime, but in fact they are almost in the business of butchering decent novels. What a waste!



VIKTOR: Carrie!
CARRIE: Victor.
VIKTOR: It's good I see you, I want you to meet my friend!
[he leads her to a pool table]
VIKTOR: Kilroy, say hello to my friend, Carrie Beal. We work together at the university library.
KILROY: We, uh ... We already met, but a pleasure.
VIKTOR: Stay! Play pool with us! I will get beer!
CARRIE: Oh, no no no no. That's okay. I'm fine, I really have to go.
[Viktor leaves to get Kilroy a beer]
KILROY: So, you're a librarian?
CARRIE: Well, actually, we're called "media specialists" now.
KILROY: Oh. Sorry.
CARRIE: What about you? Wadda you do?
KILROY: I play pool.
CARRIE: Right.
KILROY: What, you don't like pool?
CARRIE: Uh no, I just meant ... what do you do for a job?
KILROY: Work is beside the point. You'll know that when you're older.
CARRIE: I'm not as young as I look ... Note the grown-up witty banter.

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