Posted on Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 by Brendon Connelly
One of my favourite screenwriters at work today is Peter Hedges. He’s a master of light-touch characterisation and sweetly woven plotline, and in the two films he’s directed as well as scripted, he’s shown that his eye for acutely telling detail and clear storytelling can be manifest visually as well as on the page.
His first novel, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, was adapted into a feature film, with Hedges himself behind the typewriter and Lasse Halstrom behind the camera, though as yet his second novel, An Ocean in Iowa, has not made it to the silver screen. Today we learn that Hedges himself is going to script and direct a movie adaptation of his third and latest novel, The Heights.
The novel is about a couple living in Brooklyn Heights who become involved with a very affluent new neighbour and find their lives up-ended. It has earned comparisons to both Tom Perotta and Jonathan Tropper. There’s some slightly more spoilery details after the break, as well as a video of Hedges discussing his original novel, and a tiny scrap of evidence that points towards maybe-possibly casting.
So, here’s the official – and very wordy – synopsis from Hedges’ own site:
Tim Welch is a popular history teacher at the Montague Academy, an exclusive private school in Brooklyn Heights, New York: “I was an odd-looking, gawky kid but I like to think my rocky start forced me to develop empathy, kindness, and a tendency to be enthusiastic. All of this, I’m now convinced, helped in my quest to be worthy of Kate Oliver.” Kate is not ordinary, but she aspires to be. She stays home with their two young sons in a modest apartment, trying desperately to become the parent she never had. Tim and Kate are happily getting by until one day their neat and tidy world is turned upside-down by Anna Brody, the new neighbor who moves into the most expensive brownstone in Brooklyn.
Anna is not only beautiful and wealthy; she’s also mysterious. And for reasons Kate doesn’t quite understand, even as all the Range Rover-driving moms jockey for access into Anna’s circle, Anna sets her sights on Kate and Tim and brings them into her world. It’s fun, dizzyingly fun, in fact, to pretend for a while that they belong in her life of privilege and excess. Then a secret invitation comes in a plain white envelope from an unlikely messenger, and the games Tim and Kate have been playing become a lot more complicated.
Sounds absolutely fantastic to me. Hedges’ screenplays are like gifts to actors – see Sigourney Weaver in A Map of the World, the ensemble of Pieces of April, and Steve Carell in Dan in Real Life. I’m keen to see who he gives roles in The Heights. On his official site, there are three audio excerpts from the novel in which Hadges has given the role of Kim to Amy Ryan. A sign of things to come? Sounds perfect to me.
Here’s a clip of Hedges discussing the novel, and much of what he says should apply equally to the film adaptation.