Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor are so good in this movie it’s almost uncanny. As the alcoholic writer Charles Bukowski, Dillon hits the perfect note in his role, a degree right between resigned and apathetic. Taylor shines in bedraggled glory as his long-suffering girlfriend. They’re broken, they’re hopeless, yet they’re still throwing the middle finger to polite society. And in post-war Los Angeles—a repressive 1950s environment that could stifle anyone’s creative chutzpah—we see just how much of society is really begging for that middle finger.
I had no idea Truman Capote and Harper Lee were best friends when they were kids until I saw this movie. And she even helped him with the investigation and research that went into In Cold Blood. Even if you’re not a true crime fan, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s brilliant performance as the vain and flamboyant writer Truman Capote is deliciously fun to watch. Observing Capote coldly stalk his subjects gave me the shivers, and reminded me of the lengths we writers will go to for a really good story.
Young lovers in love, making out in the rain, a disapproving father, and then the destiny that came between them. If you’re a fan of romance, this one is for you. However, instead of the wedding and happily-ever-after we all expect, the fruit Goethe’s passion bore was his first masterpiece, The Sorrows of Young Werther. This movie also contains one of the best scenes for hopeful writers everywhere—Goethe is deluged by a mob of people at the end who just can’t get enough copies of his bestselling book.
William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge were hippies before hippies even existed. I always pictured these two poets as gray-haired, stuffy old men but this movie corrected me fast. They were actually into free love, communal living, and crazy far-out drug trips. Much of the movie is Coleridge getting wacky on laudanum, having intense visions, and then writing his epic poem, Kubla Khan. Needless to say, it’s pretty awesome.
Technically this film is sort of a biopic of the English painter, Dora Carrington. But most of it involves her tortured-yet-touching relationship with the writer Lytton Strachey, who was part of Virginia Woolf’s Bloomsbury Group. Strachey was gay…mostly…but had deep feelings for the gender-flipping Carrington. They try sleeping together, they try living together, they try sharing a man. There’s lots of drama with other people. It’s complicated, okay? But it’s an amazing movie. And if you’re not bawling your eyes out at the end, you’re probably dead inside.
Whether you want to learn more about any of these writers, or you’re just looking for a convenient break in between marathon NaNoWriMo sessions, any one of these movies is a sure bet. And if you liked this post, you might also want to check out:
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