Monday, July 06, 2015

"Fireflies in the Garden": men of letters have dynastic family squabbles, even in Texas

Fireflies in the Garden” (2008, directed and written by Dennis Lee) is a multi-generational family drama, set up with a lot of flashbacks, about a couple of scribes and writers, showing that they can have tempestuous families like “real people”.
The central character is romance novel author Michael Taylor (Ryan Reynolds). It’s interesting enough to concoct a male “Nora Roberts) and there are lines about what makes novels sell and keeps authors above the dreaded midlist. The younger Michael is well played by Cayden Boyd.  Then the other pole in the story is Michaels dominating father, English professor Charles (Willem Dafoe) and his mother Lisa (Julia Roberts) who delayed her own college graduation until after raising her kids.
The pivotal event in the story is an auto accident (which happens in an instant) when Charles is driving to the graduation party, and Lisa dies.  The accident happens when Lisa’s nephew Christopher (Chase Ellison) carelessly runs out in front, causing the car to swerve.
When Michael returns to the “Drogheda” (I think of “The Thorn Birds”), this time set in Bastrop, Texas, finding himself displaced by other family, the modern day fireflies are set up.
Part of the backstory involves Michael’s humiliation as a teen for falsely claiming to have written a Robert Frost poem, “Fireflies in the Garden”, also the title of Michael’s own memoir.  (Did it really sell?) It also involves recreation exploding fish on ponds with firecrackers.
The story is pretty intricate, but the presentation of the backstory incidents sometimes seems a bit arbitrary. The original film ran 120 minutes, but the Sony DVD runs just 89 minutes. 
The official Facebook is here. The original release (Kultur Production company) was on Senator Films (a big all star cast for a small film) and then it was picked up by Universal Focus.  Every company that handles the film wants to change it. Another classic movie that comes to mind is Tom Schulman's "Dead Poets Society" (1989). 
The mixing and concatenation of generations in a dramatic film reminds me of my “Mobius Strip” idea from my own DADT screenplay.  If you’re an old man who lost out on relationships, cross to the other side of the strip, turn young for a day and experience a relationship with a young adult a couple generations later, but just for a day.  Maybe not a real challenge. 


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