Sunday, April 3, 2011

Red Carpet Movie Premiere!

Saturday was the much anticipated (for me, anyway) Syracuse premiere of Pope Joan.

First, a bit about the book. Written by Donna Woolfolk Cross, it gives a fictional account of the life of Johanna von Ingelheim, the woman who allegedly rose through the Catholic clergy until she was crowned Pope. The history surrounding Joan is hazy at best, much of the facts relying more on omissions than outright statements; but given the number of women over the centuries who have successfully lived as men, it is entirely likely that there was at one time a female Pope.

I digress. I read the book first in 9th grade English and loved it. I read it again a few more times and was trilled when I learned that not only is Sally a good friend of Cross, they were considering doing a fundraiser together centered around the movie.

For those who do not know, Sally is my mother's partner and also the director of the Matilda Joslyn Gage Foundation in Fayetteville, NY. The foundation always needs sponsors, and what better fundraiser than a mock red carpet movie premiere?

Sally got me a ticket for Christmas, so I had three whole months too look forward to a weekend out of Maine and a chance to dress to the nines. This premiere thing was serious - my ticket included a special talk before the film by Cross herself, as well as a complementary feather boa. Mom's and Sally's included a limo ride. I decided to go all out and have an entirely new look - I'd been wanting to cut my hair short for a while, so I finally took the plunge and got my first pixie since age 4. I rather like it, even though I realized belatedly that it makes me look even more like my mother than I already did.

Sally, my mom and I all got ready at the same time, and let me tell you, three women trying to use one bathroom simultaneously is quite a feat. A lovely woman at the Macy's at Carousel Mall did my makeup, so at least I didn't have to worry about that.

I fully recommend you use this service if you ever need semi-professional make up done. The people are friendly, they instruct you how to do it yourself, and often give you samples. Also, it's free.

The red carpet events themselves were a lot of fun - there were fake paparazzo and security guards (John and John John, who seemed to have based there performance on Joe Pesci), lots of alcohol and nibbles, and an hour long talk by Cross about the 13 year ordeal of turning a novel into a movie. She was lucky, as far as authors go, to have a major hand in writing the script. Most sell the rights to their book and that is the last they have to do with it. The crowd was predominantly female and politically liberal, so I had a lot of people to talk to.

Now, as for the move itself:

For the most part, it was pretty good. Adapted the story pretty well, I'm sure due at least in part to the author helping to write the script. The casting for Joan, both the teenage and adult stages, was fantastic - both actresses were great. John Goodman was an odd choice, and I for one could not get over the fact that it was John Goodman playing the Pope, and enjoy the acting. David Wenham was good as the love interest, and is sweet enough that we are able to overlook the fact that he is putting the moves on a girl the age of his daughters. The cinematography was phenomenal - sweeping landscapes and intense closeups. The climax does not shy away from tragedy, and we look on as one in the crowd of worshipers.

On the other hand, the film relied far too heavily on voice over, of which I am almost never an advocate. It can be done well, but not in this case. Long scenes are narrated in a way that makes me wonder why we weren't shown a scene of equal length that could do this exposition in a much more interesting manner. To quote the Newhouse mantra, "Show; don't Tell." This goes for the rest of the script. A lot of the dialogue was very good, but some, as with some of the situations characters are thrown into, was so heavy handed it had me rolling my eyes.

As usual, I prefer the book to the movie, but it wasn't bad. Certainly worth a watch, if for no other reason than to get you interested in Joan's life. If fiction, it is a good story - if fact, it is a remarkable accomplishment that should not have been buried in history the way it has been.

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