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All in One Day: Five Thousand Hits and Maggie Gyllenhaal

The RedRoom counter today showed that more than five thousand people accessed my website since its posting six months ago.  An ever increasing number of you are tuning in to the audio of the opening pages of my two novels, The Sureness of Horses and White Man's Blues.   Thank  you!  Now, if some of you would just leave a comment or send an email.   I'd love to know your reactions--every comment helps.  I know you're out there, say something!

The meter turned to five thousand the same day Maggie Gyllenhaal (‘Jill-in-hall’) became my favorite movie actress under 50 (over fifty is still Helen Mirren).  I saw Secretary, Gyllenhaal’s first starring role.  The 2002 movie, based on a strong short story by Mary Gaitskill http://www.nerve.com/fiction/gaitskill/secretary/ , reminded me how much easier it is to build up a short story into a film than reduce a novel.

I came to the movie through Maggie’s nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Crazyheart.  There, Jeff Bridges is cast as an older-man-who-attracts-a-dynamite-younger-woman, a Hollywood tradition that Robert Redford has pretty much run into the ground.  Bridges plays a diamond-in-the-rough Country singer, leaving it up to Maggie Gyllenhall to convince audiences she’d fall for him, whose drinking and smoking made him seem an even less likely a lover for her than his grandfatherly age.  In an astounding acting job, Maggie Gyllenhall pulled it off—she seemed like an intelligent woman head-over-heels until he abandoned her boy in a shopping mall.

So I watched Secretary, which shared none of Crazyheart’s shortcomings.  This is an overlooked movie whose reputation will grow with time.  There’s ‘cutting’ and sadomasochism, but Maggie Gyllenhall works so flawlessly that these acts don’t seem gratuitous, but to grow directly out of her character.  The male lead, James Spader, who brings her out of herself, is very good as well.  The story adaptation, by Director Steven Shainberg and Screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson, was close to flawless.  In the ending of the script, the secretary marries her lawyer-sadomasochist-boss, which is quite different than the short story, where she's considering turning him into the authorities.  But, because of the wonderful acting and script, the Hollywood-ending marriage seemed believable.  A good day.