First up, a trailer to set the context for this most recent film in the series:
Once again, as in the previous film in the series, we get a scene of Indiana Jones teaching. Twenty years later, he’s still wearing the same three-piece suit, polka-dotted bow-tie, and round glasses:
The library scene:
A little over a half-hour into the film, Indiana Jones meets with “Mutt” Williams (Shia LaBeouf), a guy with a chip on his shoulder the size of his motorcycle. Indy jumps onto the back of Mutt’s motorcycle to escape from Russian agents who are after him. To finally shake off the agents, they motor into… what else? The library!
Although this scene lasts just under a minute total, Spielberg makes the most of it.
Everyone is stunned to hear a noise in the library, let alone a motorcycle!
The two nearly run over a male student with a huge stack of books in his arms:
The guy’s books go flying, as does the motorcycle swerving to miss him. Indy, Mutt, and the motorcycle skid under a batch of tables, finally coming to a stop in front of one of Indy’s students. (That is a sentence I never thought I’d write.)
Fun fact: This student in the library is played by Chet Hanks, the son of Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson.
And of course that student, unfazed by loud noises or sliding motorcycles and undeterred in his quest for knowledge (can you tell I think he’s the real hero of this scene?!), has a question for Dr. Jones:
Student in Library: Excuse me, Dr. Jones? I just had a question on Dr. Hargrove’s normative culture model.
Indiana Jones: Forget Hargrove. Read Vere Gordon Childe on diffusionism. He spent most of his life in the field. If you want to be a good archeologist, you got to get out of the library!
BOO. Boo, I say. BOO.
And I am not the only one incensed by this scene and total about-face for Indy’s view of the library and its vital role in research and archeology.
The trivia on the Amazon Prime version of the film also pointed out this contradiction:
Do you like Crystal Skull? I don’t, at all. One of the reasons I feel it must be non-canonical is Indy’s dissing of libraries after his motorbike ride through Yale’s Sterling. The real/reel Indiana Jones would never say ‘If you want to be a good archaeologist, you’ve got to get out of the library’!
I love Colin’s wording here, that (1) this film in the series is non-canonical because of its treatment of libraries, and (2) “dissing of libraries” is totally not in Indy’s character. Agreed on both counts!
I also enjoyed this extra bit of trivia/goofs from Prime, delving into the mention of Vere Gordon Childe in Indiana Jones’s advice to the student:
Hah! So Vere Gordon Childe, an Australian archeologist (1892-1957), did spend almost his entire career in the library! And OF COURSE I double-checked this. While he did oversee excavation of archaeological sites in Scotland and Northern Ireland, Childe is indeed most well-known for being a “great synthesizer” of archeological research, publishing over 240 articles and 26 books in his lifetime. And Childe was HIMSELF librarian of the Royal Anthropological Institute at one time (!), so I don’t think he would have EVER advised a student to “get out of the library.”
So. Indiana Jones not only contradicts himself — and one of the primary messages and themes from the previous film — he GETS IT WRONG.
I think it’s clear that Indiana needs to get back to the library, stat! (Without the motorcycle this time.) 😉
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ends up in the Class V category, as there are no reel librarians identified or distinguishable from all the other people in the library scene.
Continue with conversation:
What are your thoughts about this film in the Indiana Jones series and this library scene? Please leave a comment and share!
Let’s see how the researcher and the reel librarian “meet cute,” shall we?
The filmPossession (2002) won the most recent reader poll, so let’s get to it! The film is based on A.S. Byatt’s 1990 Man Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name, a “brainy romance” which contrasts modern and Victorian times and uses a flashback structure to move between a current investigation and a long-ago affair. Two literary scholars, Maud Bailey (Gwyneth Paltrow, an American playing British) and Roland Michell (Aaron Eckhart, an American playing a character who was British in the book but got turned into an American in the film) track down the heretofore unknown correspondence and relationship between two Victorian poets, Randolph Henry Ash (Jeremy Northam) and Christabel LaMotte (Jennifer Ehle). Director Neil LaBute also helped adapt the screenplay.
The title Possession highlights many of the major themes in the novel: questions of ownership and independence between lovers; the practice of collecting historically significant cultural artefacts; and the possession that biographers feel toward their subjects.
Maud and Roland explore their own budding relationship as they research Ash and LaMotte’s relationship — but it’s really the latter that holds the viewer’s interest. The chemistry, such as it is, between Paltrow and Eckhart really cannot hold a candle to the scorching sparks between Ehle and Northam, as also evidenced in the film trailer below:
I cannot let you burn me up, nor can I resist you. No mere human can stand in a fire and not be consumed.
The reel librarian:
How does the reel librarian fit into all this literary foreplay and mating rituals? I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know if there is a librarian character in the source material. But in the movie adaptation, we actually get our first glance at the reel librarian less than 3 minutes (!) into the film, in a library scene critical to the entire plot.
*POSSIBLE SPOILERS THROUGHOUT*
Roland Michell is a research assistant and scholar of the Victorian poet Randolph Henry Ash, and he catches a London double-decker bus to the London Library to pick up a book for a professor. The reel librarian (played by Hugh Simon) plonks down an old book from Ash’s personal library.
(I love this screenshot of the old book, carefully tied with ribbon, juxtaposed next to a computer keyboard and mouse!)
Although we first see the hands of the reel librarian before we see his face, the camera is not kind to the facial expressions of the reel librarian:
Let’s see how the researcher and the reel librarian “meet cute,” shall we? 😉
Librarian: Bit of an old monster.
Roland: Yeah, but an important monster. It’s Randolph Ash’s.
Librarian: Yes. Who are you with again?
Roland: I’m Roland Michell.
Roland: Professor Blackadder’s research assistant.
Librarian: Isn’t that Dr. Wolfe?
Roland: Was. Fergus got the lectureship position at St. John’s… over me.
Librarian: Of course he did. Oh yes, Dr. Wolfe mentioned you. You’re that American who’s over here.
Roland: Well, I’m sure there are others. I mean, after all, you are our favorite colony.
The librarian has no comeback for that. Score a point for the American! The librarian drops what he’s holding, sighs, then picks up a book to read it.
We learn several things from this short, but contentious exchange, between Roland and the librarian, who is definitely serving as an Information Provider. We learn that the librarian is old-fashioned and conservative, dressed in his sweater vest, tie, and tweeds. The librarian also manages to be both oblivious AND nosy at the same time. The librarian’s nosiness is convenient for purposes of exposition, as we get to learn not only a brief backstory (and credentials) of Roland’s character, but we also learn about his rivalry with another researcher, Dr. Wolfe. Also, this “Britains vs. Americans” theme — unique to the film, as Roland’s character was British in the book — will come up again throughout the film. The librarian is also dismissive of Ash’s book, which helps provide plausibility to Roland’s impending discovery.
The London Library and the letter:
This first scene in the library lasts less than a minute, but we return to the London Library a minute later, with this bird’s-eye view:
We then zoom into Roland’s table, surrounded by books and index cards, as he starts going through Ash’s book, a setting nicely juxtaposed with a brief flashback of Ash inserting the letter into the book 150-odd years ago:
Roland immediately understands the significance of what he is reading. Randolph Henry Ash is known for his love poems, but here he is writing a letter to a woman, a poet, who is NOT HIS WIFE. Roland looks up and around, suddenly acutely aware of other researchers… and the reel librarian’s suspicious gaze.
The music swells as we see Roland mentally wrestle with what to do. Should he put the letter back into the book and inform the London Library of his discovery? But based on what we’ve already heard — he’s gotten passed over for a position, he’s an American who isn’t respected over here in England, nobody attaches any importance to Ash’s old book — we anticipate what he’s about to do instead.
Yep, Roland Michell chooses to pilfer the letter. (That’s fancy talk for “stealing.”) And see how nonchalantly he pulls it off, in the following pair of screenshots.
Step 1: Move the letter over to his personal notebook, which is behind the column, out of sight from the librarian.
Step 2: Sliiiiiiiide over to the other seat behind the column and close the notebook. Done! Now you see him, now you don’t…
Selling the plot:
This pivotal scene ends at 6 minutes and 50 seconds. The combined library scenes last a combined 3 minutes, setting up the premise for the rest of the film.
Roland takes the letter to his flat and reads it, and then visits his landlord, Euan, who also happens to be a lawyer (played by the always hilarious Tom Hollander). Roland buys “7 minutes of attorney-client privilege” to confess what he’s done, and therefore has the opportunity to really sell the plot to the viewer:
Roland: They’re practically love letters.
Euan: Rather racy, actually.
Roland: You see, Ash, supposedly, never even looked at another woman. I mean, not even glanced at one his entire marriage. Can you imagine what would happen if I could prove that Mr. Perfect Husband had this Shakespearean-type dark lady thing going on?
Euan: Yeah, but that would be extraordinary. It would be rewriting history, old chap.
PLOT. SET. MATCH. GO!
Research and the British Museum:
I believe the library scenes, set in the London Library, were actually filmed on location, as evidenced by photos of the library seen on their website. However, the London Library is not included on the filming locations list on the IMDb.com page for Possession. The London Library is described as “one of the world’s largest independent lending libraries, and one of the UK’s leading literary institutions.” Scottish philosopher and essayist Thomas Carlyle helped initiate the founding of the London Library, formed in 1841, in reaction to the restrictive policies of the British Museum Library.
Knowing this rivalry between the London Library and the British Museum Library makes it even funnier when we realize that Roland works as a research assistant at the British Museum! We next see him entering the museum by the staff entrance, and then we are treated to a behind-the-scenes look at an office and private research library for Professor Blackadder:
Roland does attempt to tell Blackadder of his discovery, but Blackadder cuts him off with, “No need, the novice blunders on the discovery. The scholar investigates.”
As Blackadder rushes off, he instructs Roland to answer the “wretched requests” that came in from the public, including — and I am not kidding here — a question about how many jars of gooseberry jam Ash’s wife made in 1850.
Roland responds, “This is not a job for a grown-up!“
But this job IS important, as Roland gets inspired for how to do more research for his own discovery in the midst of researching Ash’s wife’s diaries and personal correspondence. He begins getting clues (keywords!) from Ash’s letter and looking up his wife’s diaries to uncover the next step in the research trail.
Bonus: The viewer gets treated to the old-school index files for this private research collection, as well as all the file boxes. Nothing looks computerized!
The research trail then leads him to Dr. Maud Bailey (Paltrow), who works at the University of Lincoln in Lincolnshire and is an expert scholar on Christabel LaMotte. We also find out that Maud is related to LaMotte. Maud is immediately dismissive of Roland’s theories (“It does seem rather pointless“) but humors him by allowing him to look over letters of LaMotte’s lover, Blanche Glover (played by Lena Headey), from that time period.
We also get to see Maud’s office, which is light and airy and filled with neatly stacked books and illustrations tacked up over the desk.
Roland then stays overnight at Maud’s place, and at 21 minutes into the film, decides to take a chance at revealing his secret to Maud (to impress her?):
Roland: Maud, can I show you something? [digs into his bag and hands her the letters]
Maud: Are these…
Roland: Those are the originals.
Maud: How did you get them?
Roland: I took them.
Maud: Took them?
Roland: I sort of stole them.
Maud: Where from?
Roland: The London Library.
Maud: How could you do that?
Roland: It was on impulse.
Here is Maud’s priceless reaction to the letters — and to Roland’s cavalier attitude to stealing:
This scene, which ends at 22 minutes, then completes the plot set-up, that Maud and Roland will team up to research the relationship between Ash and LaMotte, a journey that takes them several different places, including all over England and over to France.
Ethics? What ethics?!
Along the way, Roland’s unorthodox — er, unethical — practices totally corrupt Maud’s own standards as a scholar, all the way up to the end of the film. I won’t spoil all their adventures, but here’s just a smattering of quotes throughout the rest of the film that involve research, research methods, and increasingly deteriorating standards of professional behavior:
Maud, upon discovering a cache of letters between LaMotte and Ash:
Can we please do it properly. Let me run downstairs and get with some notecards and some pencils?
Maud’s reaction to the necessities of researching Ash’s wife’s diaries, an interesting way to rephrase that old saying, “The devil is in the details”:
God is in the boring housewife’s stuff. We should check it.
Maud’s reaction to Roland wanting to keep tracking down LaMotte and Ash’s movements, instead of going back to work at the British Museum:
I thought you were mad when you came to Lincoln with your stolen letter. Now I feel exactly the same.
Roland’s reaction to having to go back to work, while Maud leaves to doublecheck her archives:
Good. I guess I’ll just… I don’t know… go look up shit on the microfiche.
Spoiler: He totally doesn’t. We see him hanging out amongst the bookshelves instead, while his co-worker pushes a cart down the aisle, working.
Totally corrupted by this point, Maud’s smiley reaction to Roland taking the fax a rival researcher sent:
Perhaps “shameless” would have been a better title for the film? 😉
“London Library” via Wikipedia is licensed under a CC BY SA 3.0 license.
Possession. Dir. Neil LaBute. Perf. Gwyneth Paltrow, Aaron Eckhart, Jeremy Northam, Jennifer Ehle. Warner Bros., 2002.
“You fell asleep in an old library, which is terrifying under the best of circumstances.”
Continuing analysis of scary movies during this month of October… next up is 2002’s Abandon, starring Katie Holmes as a brainy and beautiful college student… named Katie. (Big stretch.) The film was written and directed by Stephen Gaghan, who was fresh off an Oscar win for writing the screenplay for 2000’s Traffic. This film was his first time to direct, and the story was “suggested” by the novel Adam’s Fall by Sean Desmond. Gaghan admitted in the director’s commentary that he just couldn’t get the script right, that he was rewriting until the first day of filming — and honestly, you can tell while watching the film. But it is an interesting film to watch, and it includes several scenes in the library!
College senior Katie (Holmes) is dealing with exams, finishing her thesis, doing job interviews, when a cop, Wade Handler (Benjamin Bratt), starts investigating the disappearance of her ex-boyfriend, Embry (Charlie Hunnam). Then Katie starts seeing Embry again around campus—is she hallucinating, or is he stalking her? A few scenes highlight the socially awkward “Mousy Julie,” a student library assistant played by Melanie Lynskey, who provides insights into how Katie attracts male attention.
Roger Ebert’s review of the film gave it 2.5 stars out of 4, saying it was ultimately unsatisfying, mainly because it had to be a thriller. He called Lynskey’s character “snotty know-it-all.”
Here’s a trailer for the film. Interesting to note that Mousy Julie makes the trailer, as does the library. Its rows of bookcases (and lack of sight lines) makes for dramatic scary moments!
Library scene #1:
Six minutes into the film, we get a closeup of Katie working on her thesis in a study carrel, and then the camera pans over rows of bookcases in the college library, where we glimpse the cop. He has gotten microfilm to look up articles about the college student, Embry, who has disappeared. Old school research alert! One of the newspaper photos includes a shot of Larkin with his girlfriend, Katie, which leads the cop straight to Katie.
I also rewatched the film with the director’s commentary. Stephen Gaghan is refreshingly candid on the commentary track! Here’s what he had to say during this bit of the scene:
This is one of my favorite sequences in the whole movie. I just love it… you come back to Katie, and she’s just going about the business of being a student. You’re not really getting hit over the head with anything in particular, just feels sorta real to me. He’s doing his thing, he’s in a very cold blue institutional light, isolated. She’s in a very cold blue institutional light, and completely isolated. She’s down in the basement of the library, and I think it’s the first beginnings of these, hopefully, it feels sort of sinister without calling attention to itself.
The next scene returns to Katie at her library cubicle, tired and rubbing her head. And we get our first glimpse of “Mousy Julie,” who is dressed in a lumpy sweater. Here’s their first conversation, and you can tell Julie is socially awkward:
Mousy Julie: Hi, Katie Burke. There is a message for you. Your thesis advisor, Professor Jergensen’s office, they said I should find you. So I did. Here’s the message. […] It says for you to come to Jergensen’s house. That’s scary. How’s your thesis coming anyway?
Katie: It’s almost done. How’s yours?
Mousy Julie [with a smirk]: Turned it in.
The director’s commentary during this part of the scene reveals that they had to build this part of the library set!
Here’s that library again that we were talking about before. That cold light versus the warm light. This is a set that we then link up with a location. The production designer did an incredible job. He built this thing that looks incredible, and I don’t you really feel the seams. […]
Melanie Lynskey, tremendous as “Mousy Julie.” This was a very interesting problem that we had. We had to build this section of the set… we had to build the library carrel set to match something in Montreal, and it was a big problem, I remember. I really wanted to shoot all or most of this movie on location. […] In this particular case, when we were looking at that library set, we didn’t have enough books to build the real maze that we wanted, so we ended up kind of doing it in pieces between different locations.
Library scene #2:
Eighteen minutes into the film, Katie is back in the library working on her thesis. Detective Handler comes up behind her, addresses her as “Ms. Burke?” This is in contrast with Julie, who says, “Katie? Katie Burke?” Handler keeps asking Katie about Embry and the possibility of him killing himself.
Next, Katie’s friends (played by Zooey Deschanel and Gabrielle Union) come up behind her and scream, “We need to be quiet… in the Library!“
We also get confirmation from her friends that Katie is often in the library: “10:30 on a Friday night. I wonder where Katie is?“
Her friends then drag her to a party — again, a study in contrast to the previous library set!
Library scene #3:
Almost 40 minutes into the film, Katie’s back in the library! (Remember that previous director’s commentary that he purposely reiterated these scenes? He wasn’t kidding!) We see a bird’s-eye view of her cubicle, which is filled with books, post-it notes, wadded-up paper, and multiple cups of coffee. Her private study space reflects her increasingly frazzled inner state of mind.
As Katie takes out her laptop and looks through library books, she hears squeaking behind her. We then see Mousy Julie pushing a squeaky library cart — librarian prop alert! — and wearing another dumpy sweater cardigan. Julie waves at Katie, who turns around and suppresses a laugh.
Director’s commentary during this scene:
Trying to make her [Katie] feel more isolated. Also trying to messy up the cubicle to reflect her state of mind, like she’s not caring.
Call numbers + scary thrills:
Katie feels drowsy and puts her head on her arms — but then wakes up suddenly with a whisper, “Katie.” She checks her watch and then notices a call number scratched into the top of her desk: 851.1 .D192i
Katie then walks down the rows of bookshelves looking for the call number.
Side note: It’s interesting to note that this is a Dewey Decimal call number, which is an odd choice for a college/university library. Usually, college and university libraries have larger collections and therefore use the Library of Congress (LC) classification system.
So y’all know I had to look up this call number, right? RIGHT. Turns out it’s the call number for Dante’s Inferno (Embry’s last student production was “Trip Hop Inferno” — spooky!). Then I had to look up where this scene was filmed, and it was in a library at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. That then led me to look up the book in the McGill University’s library catalog — and they use the LC classification system, NOT the Dewey Decimal system! So CLEARLY this whole call number sequence in the movie was created just for the film. Odd.
Back to the film… Katie then tracks down the call number, which is when she sees a pair of eyes staring at her over the tops of books on the shelf. Classic scary movie library scene! She runs away and finds herself in the library’s basement.
Director’s commentary during this call number scene:
Here, now we’re on location. You could see how well Gideon matched them. This was in a student library, library in McGill. But it was small. It’s a very small space, and I always wanted this to feel like a labyrinth, you know, like someone could really be lost, and I wanted to take advantage of all the things a labyrinth could give you, mystery, sense of being lost, and we just didn’t have it. We never got it in the locations, and I think it was a mistake although I think Gideon did a great job.
This scene works well because of the hand-held movement, I think. I think once we went into that, we graduated to another level in this scene emotionally. It’s probably the best scare in the film.
I joked several times that we were making a new sub-genre of film called the “thrill-free” thriller, until I learned the catchphrase “mystery.”
Therapy and scary libraries:
Katie then relates this incident to her therapist, played by Tony Goldwyn, who flat-out states that old libraries are “terrifying under the best of circumstances.” Gotta admit, I was IMMEDIATELY biased against this character. 😦
Dr. David Schaffer: And he was locked inside the library with you? … But you hadn’t seen him in two years?
Katie. I know how this sounds.
Dr. Schaffer: Katie. You fell asleep in an old library, which is terrifying under the best of circumstances. You’re facing your graduation, the completion of your thesis, job interviews, life-changing transitions. You need to make allowances for the emotions that this will bring up.
Library scene #4:
Almost an hour into the film, we see Katie back in her library cubicle, frantically typing away at her thesis. And Mousy Julie again interrupts her to make space for another socially awkward conversation.
Julie: Katie. Hi Katie Burke. Do you know anything about somebody being in the tunnel? Because the door was open and it’s not supposed to be open and it’s to remain closed at all times unless you’re maintenance and you haven’t been around to ask about it and I’m supposed to ask.
Katie: No, I don’t. I’m busy. Goes back to typing.
Julie: That’s not very nice. Should I tell you what I know? I was going to, but now maybe I’ve changed my mind.
Katie: What are you talking about?
Julie: Harrison Hobart is missing. That’s two, isn’t it?
[Note: Harrison is a friend of Katie’s who had a crush on her.]
Director commentary during this scene:
And Mousy shows up. And heaps more shit on her. … There’s a fatigue from being inside in these dank locations, and there’s a cumulative effect. … [W]e just keep coming back down to these same spaces that are just bleak. I hope it has a tonal effect, cumulatively.
Library scene #5:
Although this next scene in the library follows close on the heels of the previous library scene, at a little over an hour into the film, it serves a very different purpose and has a different look and feel, switching from cold blue tones to warm tones. This next scene is tucked into a little office in the library and features a conversation between Mousy Julie and Detective Wade Handler and the disappearances of Harrison and Embry and their connection to Katie. Mousy Julie ultimately comes off as very observant and also very jealous of Katie.
Julie: I’m sure he was in love with her. Harrison is a good guy. He mooned around, but he was sweet. He got his name on scientific papers when he was about 12. So, what did he know about anything?
Wade: Do you think it was odd that he still liked a girl who hadn’t shown him any real interest in over two years?
Julie: I thought it was the opposite of odd. Guys are drawn to her like bugs around a bug lamp.
[At this point, Julie switches a window on her computer, which was originally set to an article about grief, but she quickly clicks over to an article about electronic journals available on campus.]
Julie: For four years, I’ve had the privilege of watching it.
Wade: That bother you, Julie?
Julie: Think you see the horns of jealousy? You got my angle? You might want to ask yourself why you’re so interested in her. They think it’s a coltish vulnerability, but it’s just self-obsession. The pea brain says, “She needs saving,” and the pea brain says, “I can save her,” and then she doesn’t notice them. So, they go crazy. It’s about the missing dad… and validation. She just needs a friend.
Here’s the director’s commentary for this last scene featuring Mousy Julie:
This we used an abandoned elevator foyer to make this little room. I think it looks right. It’s like Mousy Julie’s mousy cubby hole.
Just a quick note that while watching the film, I noticed that there quite a few private library collections featured in the film, too, including rows of books in her thesis advisor’s office, the counselor’s office, and detective’s home, plus there are book collections in both Katie’s and Embry’s dorm rooms. Writer/director Stephen Gaghan definitely filled his film with different kinds of libraries and book collections!
Deleted scene in the library:
The bulk of the film was shot at a library at McGill University, in Montréal, Québec, Canada. In a behind-the-scenes feature on the DVD, writer/director Stephen Gaghan admitted that he wanted the multiple library scenes to be “ominous and oppressive” — and Montreal provided that!
The DVD’s special features included deleted scenes, which included a scene in the library. We see a bored woman (played by Joan McBride) at a large desk in the middle of the library floor, and Benjamin Bratt looking through a sheet on a clipboard on the counter.
Library assistant: Can I help you?
Wade: Yeah, I’m, um, looking for a student. She’s not at her carrel and I can’t find her in here.
Library assistant: If she’s not in the book, she’s not in the library.
Director’s commentary during this deleted scene:
I just love this woman and how she delivers this line.
The architecture of the library is quite stunning.
Melanie Lynskey in the recurring supporting role of Mousy Julie primarily fulfills the character type of the Information Provider. She is there to be a contrast to the central role of Katie, and to relay information and suspicions to the audience. That last scene with Julie, the conversation she has with the detective, reveals a more personal side to Julie, in which she displays jealousy of Katie — and perhaps her own wistfulness of not attracting male attention herself? In this way, she subtly plays off the role of Spinster Librarian, albeit a more modern, younger version of the stereotypical character type.
The library assistant from the deleted scene is clearly serving a role as Information Provider. The credits also list Robert Burns in the role of Archivist, but I honestly cannot recall seeing or noticing this role. I’m assuming it was a blink-and-you-miss-it cameo kind of role. (I obviously blinked and missed him, both times I rewatched the film.) Regardless, this role serves as another Information Provider.
Abandon. Dir. Stephen Gaghan. Perf. Katie Holmes, Benjamin Bratt, Charlie Hunnam, Zooey Deschanel. Buena Vista, 2002.
Ebert, Roger. “Abandon.” RogerEbert.com. Accessed 17 October 2017.
Movie magic revealed… is ignorance bliss then after all?
I recently watched the 2014 movie The Rewrite, the third film collaboration between director Marc Lawrence and actor Hugh Grant. (The other two films were 2002’s Two Weeks Notice and 2007’s Music and Lyrics, two films I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve rewatched several times.) I enjoyed The Rewrite, a film about a washed-up screenwriter, Keith Michaels (Grant), who starts teaching a screenwriting class at Binghamton University to make ends meet. Interestingly, J.K. Simmons, who plays the English department chair, was featured heavily in most of the ads, as he was coming off an Oscar nomination, and subsequent win, for Whiplash. I also loved ALL of the scenes with J.K. Simmons, and Allison Janney is also a hoot as a Jane Austen scholar and professor.
So what does this film have to do with librarians or libraries?
A few minutes into the film, after Keith Michaels arrives at Binghamton University, he walks out of a campus building. I immediately spotted the “Library” sign just to the side of the door, as seen in the screenshot below. My interest was piqued!
I had to hold that interest, however, as there wasn’t another scene set in the library until the credits!
In a bonus scene during the film credits, we spot Grant in the library stacks, and as he takes down a book, he spots a student from his screenwriting class down the row in a private study room.
He goes down the row and peeks in…
… and finds out that the student — who was known in class for being really dark and cynical and obsessed with death — is watching the film Dirty Dancing. She is also crying at the ending! The student warns him that if he tells anyone… you get the picture. 😉
I also appreciated that when she turns around, we also get a glimpse of the interior of the study rooms. Pretty spacious and organized for a private study room!
Even though there was no librarian in this short scene, I was glad to have watched through the credits to have at least seen one scene set in the library. However, The Rewrite does end up in the Class V category, which includes films with no identifiable librarians, although they might mention librarians or have scenes set in libraries.
I read trivia that this film was director Lawrence’s “love letter to Binghamton,” where he graduated college from. I also happen to personally know a librarian colleague who works at the Binghamton University Libraries, so I was excited to contact her and get the “inside scoop.”
My librarian colleague revealed that there were hardly any scenes filmed in Binghamton — basically the scenes in which Keith Michaels leaves the airport and drives through town. The director basically recreated Binghamton University at a different campus, and recreated well-known Binghamton locations and landmarks, as well. She didn’t even know the movie was being made until she saw a picture of Hugh Grant on the local Facebook site!
As she summed up her disappointment:
“I think the reason why it bothered me so much about the Binghamton scenes (or lack of) is because this movie is an homage to Binghamton and the university. And yet, what we saw on the screen was a false representation.”
Hugh Grant also voiced a similar disappointment: “It’s sad we couldn’t have filmed more of it here.” That was a quote from a Q&A session with the film’s director and star after they premiered the film on the Binghamton campus, as revealed in a campus magazine article. Lawrence and Grant addressed the Binghamton absence right up front during the Q&A, with the director stating, “We had no money,” and that it would have been more expensive to shoot in Binghamton rather than shooting the film around New York City.
The film does do a good job of promoting Binghamton University, but it’s a bummer that we didn’t see more of the actual campus itself — or its library! A lot of the campus scenes were filmed using Long Island University’s C.W. Post campus as a makeshift Binghamton campus.
Movie magic revealed… is ignorance bliss then after all? 😉
The Rewrite. Dir. Marc Lawrence. Perf. Hugh Grant, Marisa Tomei, J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney. Castle Rock Entertainment, 2014.
First thought upon rewatching Baby Boom? SO EIGHTIES! From the opening title card (seen below) to the music to the massive shoulder pads to the opening narration, complete with bon mots like “sociologists say the new working woman is a phenomenon of our time” and “a woman like this has it all!“. The movie was made in 1987, after all, and stars Diane Keaton as J.C. Wiatt, a successful businesswoman who, through reasons of PLOT, becomes the custodian for a one-year-old.
I think this kind of movie probably had to be made at that time period, and it was well-received by critics and audiences, even inspiring a TV show of the same name from 1988-1989. Diane Keaton is the main reason this movie works.
At 1 hour, 14 minutes into the film, J.C. has moved to Vermont and has the idea of manufacturing her homemade baby food. And where does she head first? To the library, of course! Smart woman. 😉
Specifically, she heads to the Bennington College Library.
The next shot highlights J.C. back to her fast-talking self, listing all the info she needs from the young librarian at the desk. She wants materials on starting a small business and marketing trends, including info on Baby Boomers, demographics, and new consumerism.
The reel librarian — possibly a student library assistant? — doesn’t get any lines; rather, she just nods and starts making notes. She is wearing glasses and an awesomely ’80s sweater vest. There is also a large tape dispenser and a book cart beside her: examples of classic “librarian props.” 😉
The librarian obviously got her what she needed because in the next shot, we see J.C. with a pile of materials and taking notes. As she describes it, “I’m doing a little bit of research.”
And lo and behold, the cute local vet (played by Sam Shepard) walks down the library stairs. Turns out he teaches a class at the college, and I appreciate the attention to detail that he’s coming from the “Medical Science” section of the library!
He and J.C. then proceed to “meet cute” in the library. J.C. tries to hide behind a magazine, and then later drops all her library materials. Smoooooooooth.
And later in the film, when J.C. and the vet (finally) get together, she references that scene in the library! 🙂
The library scene is extremely short, lasting only two minutes seconds in total. The reel librarian is onscreen for only a few seconds of that scene, and she doesn’t even earn a screen credit. This short cameo role lands Baby Boom in the Class IV category, in which the librarian(s) plays a cameo role and is seen only briefly with little or no dialogue. The reel librarian definitely fulfills the Information Provider role, providing information to Keaton’s character as well as helping establish the library setting.
And the library itself is quite lovely. The stained glass windows are gorgeous, and the dark wood paneling and bookshelves give the library a traditional feel. And there is a Bennington College in real life, and they have two libraries: the main Crossett Library (which looks super modern, as seen here), and the Jennings Music Library.
Y’all knew I would look that up, right? 😉
Baby Boom. Dir. Charles Shyer. Perf. Diane Keaton, Sam Shepard, Sam Wanamaker. United Artists, 1987.