Sunday, May 31, 2015


            Since I have begun to blog again I thought I would include the occasional film review.  My criteria for what makes for a good film is this: Does it work for its genre, regardless of whether that genre is a favorite of mine? Does it clear up unanswered questions at the end?  Do the production values (cinematography, music, casting, etc.) enhance the movie? Does it tell a good story?  In other words, how much money a film pulls in, while it is sometimes the case, is not necessarily a barometer of how good that movie is.  So here goes--
            In the past few years there have been an abundance of films too obviously designed to attract the aging baby boomer audience.  Most of these have been propelled by predictable story plots and clich├ęd dialogue.  5 FLIGHTS UP  targets this same audience, but with greater success possibly due to its engaging stars (MORGAN FREEMAN and DIANE KEATON) and the fact that it was based on a novel: Heroic Measures by Jill Ciment.      
Helmed by British director, Richard Loncraine, 5 FLIGHTS UP tells the story of Alex and Ruth Carver, a Brooklyn couple who have been happily married for forty years.  Having lived in the same 2 bedroom apartment for all of their married lives, they are cajoled by Ruth’s aggressive real estate agent niece, Lily, (CYNTHIA NIXON) to take advantage of a booming real estate market and to put their apartment up for sale.  With the money made on a sale, they could afford to purchase a more modern apartment - one with an elevator - something worth considering now that they are in their “sunset years.”
Though Alex would much prefer remaining in his home, the money is tempting since living in New York City is expensive and they are by no means rich. Ruth is a retired teacher and though he has been a somewhat successful artist, sales of Alex’s work have diminished over the years. In addition to this, their beloved dog, DOROTHY, has to undergo some very expensive surgery.
Though the story is a good one, some of the perspective buyers who invade the Carvers’ home tend to be stereotypes of the “typical” New Yorker:  The abrasive yuppie whose cell phone is glued to his ear, the lesbian couple and their dog, the “lookie-loo” woman who visits all the open houses simply because she’s nosy.  In all fairness, these characters might have been more developed in the novel.  Unfortunately, because of time restraints, it is often necessary to offer up quickie versions of characters who then frequently come across as caricatures. 
The other element that seemed forced was a subplot of a hunt for a suspected bomb -wielding terrorist.  Apparently, the hunt was resulting in gridlock on the Williamsburg Bridge, something that could ostensibly hurt the open house.  It seemed that the true purpose of the subplot was to open up the set.  Most shots were those of interiors of the various apartments; the manhunt being aired on various televisions throughout the film, served to bring in the outside world.  The media’s supposed rush to judgment also made somewhat of a political statement, but this was very subtle.
The strength of this movie is in the depiction of a married couple, devoted to one another, despite having faced challenges throughout the years (they are a bi-racial couple who married at a time when it was illegal to do so in many states and they also had to deal with Ruth’s devastation at learning she was infertile.) 
 The casting of Freeman and Keaton is what makes 5 FLIGHTS UP well worth seeing if for no other reason than for the warmth they emanate and the remarkable chemistry they share.

Out of a possible 5 bags of popcorn, I’d give it 3 ½ bags.

Thanks for reading Rhodes Less Traveled. Feel free to follow me on twitter @VivianWrites

Have a good week, Vivian

Thursday, May 21, 2015


                I’ve always felt that reading a story written by the Irish author, Maeve Binchy, was like sitting in front of a fire on a rainy afternoon, enjoying a home-made bowl of soup.  The comfort she provided in her books was incomparable.
                I had been reading her novels and short stories for years before I actually had the privilege of getting to know the woman herself.  When I was losing my husband, Rick, to cancer nearly ten years ago my world was shattering and I anticipated needing all the comfort I could get.  Something compelled me to write to Maeve.  I explained that though I’d purchased a copy of her latest book, I planned on putting off reading it.  I thought that I’d leave it for a time down the line when I needed even more comfort.
                I never expected a response to my letter but one day I found a postcard from her in my mailbox.  She had written to tell me how sorry she was for what I was going through and that began a correspondence that continued for many years.  When I mentioned to Maeve that I was a writer, she asked me to send her copies of what I’d written.  I sent her a copy of my first novel, Groomed for Murder (GFM is presently available as an e-book but at that time it was not.)
                After Rick passed away Maeve sent me a copy of her play, Deeply Regretted By, which she felt would resonate with me.  It was excellent as was all her work.  When my sister and I visited Ireland in 2006, I thought I’d be able to meet Maeve in person but unfortunately neither of our schedules allowed for that to happen.
                Maeve Binchy was beloved to her readers, a national treasure in Ireland and deservedly so. Her books were translated into 37 languages and she sold upwards of 40 million copies worldwide. Maeve’s earlier novels, like Light a Penny Candle , dealt with small-town Ireland but as Ireland changed and became more sophisticated, her stories reflected that change.  Her characters were all well developed and sometimes flawed but always real.  And the endings to her books were always, always satisfying.
                Two of her books were turned into films: Tara Road and Circle of Friends.  If you’ve never read one of her novels, I highly recommend that you start now.
                Maeve was devoted to Gordon Snell, her husband of many years, and though she suffered from health problems as she got older, by her own account she had a rich, rewarding life. 
                I’m glad to have called her my friend.
                On another note…this is the first blog I’ve posted in a while because I’ve been busy with other writing but I intend to do so more frequently now.  I am in the process of editing (with the incredible assistance of my daughter, Allie) the second draft of a new suspense novel I’ve written and will be blogging to let you know how it is progressing.
                Thank you for following me on RHODES LESS TRAVELED