I’ve read some great books lately (Oogy, The Help, Bossypants, The Year of Living Biblically) but the one I just finished was worthy of a lengthy blog post. This was the first book I’ve read in ages- maybe ever- where I could visualize it as a movie. A really GOOD movie. I desperately want this book to be a movie so I can become even more immersed in it. More on that later.
Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles, is at it’s core a novel about New York City in the late 1930’s. It shows the juxtaposition of the glamour and the struggles of New York in the shadow of the depression. The main character, Katey Kontent, finds her world changed forever when one person, Tinker Grey, arrives in it unexpectedly. The trajectory of her life is forever changed, and her world evolves. The only constants are her sharp wit, strong will, and the city that defines them all.
I loved two things most deeply about Mr. Towles’ novel. First, the imagery. I could smell the gin, hear the jazz, feel the cold of the city. It all felt so real, even nostalgic. And second were the characters. Each character was so well-developed that you felt like you knew them. Katey is self-assured, poised, and the perfect amount of knowing with a touch of naivety. Her friend Eve is, to me, a caricature of women in the 30’s who are trying to still live in the pre-depression era at any cost. Tinker remains a delightful mystery to me, as he does to most that he meets. I can picture the characters vividly; they were lovingly built and crafted as if the author had known them from Adam.
My only criticism was the formatting of dialogue. He starts them with — instead of enclosing them in quotation marks. A little hard for a grammar-lovers, but I got used to it after a chapter or two.
The book echoes questions about the choices we make, and how our lives shape in the blink of an eye, based on both chance and choice. If you’ve read the book, page 323’s passage on this subject was brilliant. I think if when this becomes a movie, it needs to be read verbatim as a narrative at the end. So wonderfully written.
I thought a lot about who would play the main characters in the Rules of Civility movie. Here are my votes!
My votes for the relatable, self-assured, and slightly-exotic Katey? First choice would be Scarlett Johansson. I think her voice would be perfect, and she could pull off the sweet but sassy dialog with a smile. Second choice would be Jennifer Lawrence. I think she could pull off the mature confidence as well. I also like Emily VanCamp (I loved her on Everwood way back when) but her voice doesn’t sound quite right for Katey.
Without a doubt I see White Collar‘s Matt Bomer as Tinker. He’s got the right sizzle- that draw that Tinker has- with a touch of vulnerability. And he could easily fit in in the 1930’s. I would have loved to have seen my second choice, Heath Ledger, in this role, but alas, that’s not possible due to his untimely death. I think that Josh Hartnett could play to Tinker’s vulnerabilities, but lacks his smouldering qualities.
No question- this parts needs to be played by a blonde Rachel McAdams. Period. The dimples and sweet face… but with that special Eve mind that others try to understand but fall short. The only person who could come close would be Busy Phillipps. I imagine her voice more than Rachel’s. But Busy isn’t as light or effervescent as I imagine Eve to be.
Anne is just as smouldering as Tinker, but in a different way. She’s mature, confident, and I imagine her to have knowing eyes. Elizabeth Hurley could pull it off beautifully. I also think the more-current Christina Hendricks could do well in this role, but she might be too young/sexy/obvious. Anne Grandyn is not obvious.
This was the hardest character for me to “cast.” I knew a real-life Dicky from Boston once, and I imagined him in this role. Especially the blonde-ness. But most important would be the Dicky smile. The smile that could get him anything while remaining genuine. I could see this done by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. His smile is infectious. James Marsden too, but he’s maybe a little too much “pretty” and less “preppy” than I imagine Dicky to be.
Wallace Wolcott and Hank Grey…
No question on either of these two gentlemen. Nerd up Jake Gyllenhaal a bit and add a slight speech impediment, you get a great option for lovable Wallace Wolcott. And Jack Black has the acting chops to play complex and angry artist Hank Grey with ease.
I hope my character assignments might have inspired a few of you to pick up this awesome book! If you are into America pre-1940, or if you enjoyed The Great Gatsby, you’d love this book. And if you’re in Orlando, I’ll even let you borrow it!
If you’ve read Rules of Civility, what did you think? Who would be in your dream cast?