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The Writer

In his slow-moving, miserable "Deconstructing Harry" movie, Woody Allen demonstrates the writing success who is a failed person.


Woody Allen's movies all repetitively make the point that Woody Allen is a successful writer both in the roles and in real life. Indeed, he has made many movies, and people do keep going to see them. However, all his roles also show a failure in relationships - in managing to have an ordinary, 'real' life. And everyone who can read a newspaper or watch the news on TV must surely know by now that this applies to Woody Allen's life both on, and off the silver screen.

The sensitive writer as real-life emotional cripple is a common entertainment theme these days. Woody Allen would probably get the prize for this, becasue of his 'ability' to live it as well as writing and playing the corresponding roles.

But he is not alone in playing such roles.

In "As good As It Gets", Jack Nicholson plays the quintessential grouchy author - "How can someone as grouchy as you write with such insight, such understanding, about women?" he is asked, replying, "I just visualise a man, then leave out rational thought, responsibility, ... ", but by the end of the film the heroine has worked him round.

Kelsey Grammer, who years ago came to the attention of viewers as the psychiatrist, 'Dr. Crane' (the hounded husband in Cheers), played a similar grouchy author role in a childrens' movie about childrens' books, in a movie made a few years ago. I forget the title, but doubtless you can find it under the actor's name in Cinerama of some other film encyclopaedia. Though the author character wrote childrens' books (about a private detective cow) he couldn't abide the little brats, but by the end of the film the little orphan brat has worked him round.

When a theme reappears that way in mainstream "movies" both for thinking adults and for children, we can assume that it mirrors either real life, or what the viewers would love, hate, envy, fear or have nightmares about.

I know an author. Every day, I saw him opposite me, and shave, clean his teeth, casually brush his hair and have it tidied up by his wife, then turn and walk off out of sight. He probably went into his study and tapped away, alone, at words all day. I don't envy him. I'd think it a lonely sort of life. I've heard, though, that his writing shows great sensitivity and insight. Women love it. and some, through the writing, love him too. His wife was the exception. She loved him in the flesh, but could hardly stand his writing. Go figure.

He got scratchy with her, too. Though they may have been in some part of their house that I could not see, I could hear them well enough, if I left my bedroom and bathroom doors open. They often argued. He seemed dreadfully thin skinned, and often flared up, briefy, with bitter voice, over the smallest things - usually those that put him in a poor light. He must have been dreadfully insecure. But after a few harsh words he calmed down immediately, accepted the blame for the little storm, and their comfortable life proceeded as if nothing had happened.

Perhaps people who are secure and well adjusted don't feel the drive to write - if we find any, we can ask them. Perhaps, if you are to write well, you need such sensitivity that you are more readily hurt than the rest of us, and become more grouchy as a defense, or as protective colouration. Perhaps writers beome so immersed in the fictional world that the real world is less substantial for them and they become impatient at the time they have to spend here with the rest of us mere mortals.

Who knows the answer? Probably the three writers of these films think they know. That was clear from the way Nicholson and Grammer brought their films to a close.

And the Allen movie, you ask, how does that finish? Well, I confess, I don't know. Long before the end I was fast asleep. And before you ask, I don't know at all about the ending for my friend in the duplex, either - we're nowhere near the last reel yet.

We'll just have to wait and see how that one plays out.

Copyright 2000-2003 Peter Leon Collins
v2, 28/07/2003