Greg Mottola Might Be the Perfect Writer to Make Insufferable Characters of ‘The Marriage Plot…

By  · Published on May 16th, 2012

Greg Mottola Might Be the Perfect Writer to Make Insufferable Characters of ‘The Marriage Plot’ Palatable

This is actually sort of brilliant. Variety reports that Sony and Scott Rudin Productions are in “early talks” with filmmaker Greg Mottola to pen their adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’s “The Marriage Plot.” As of now, word is that Mottola would both write and produce, though he’d be a surprisingly great pick to direct the film. Why, you may ask? Why would the dude who directed Superbad be a good bet to craft a big screen adaptation of a Pulitzer Prize-winning author’s latest work?

It’s simple. Mottola knows how to make audiences care about assholes. And, good God almighty, are the characters in “The Marriage Plot” assholes.

I’ll lay it out here – I am a huge fan of Eugenides’s work. “The Virgin Suicides” is a masterful slice of deep, dark Americana and feminine longing. “Middlesex,” though it did win the Pulitzer Prize, is still not nearly as lauded as it should be – it’s truly “a great American novel.” In those books, Eugenides crafted memorable, multi-faceted characters that engage readers and stick with them long after the books are finished. It pains me to say that the characters of Eugenides’ latest, a book I anticipated for years, are not like those characters that populate “Suicides” or “Middlesex.

The book centers on three characters, routinely switching between their perspectives as narrators, though it all unquestionably swirls around recent college grad Madeleine Hanna. Madeleine makes the Lisbon sisters look like wise old sages, wizened voices of reason and maturity – but that’s not to say that Madeleine doesn’t feel real. She does. But you would never want to be her friend. English major Madeleine has old-school interests, and while her peers are reading modern authors, she’s stuck in an obsession with classics by Austen and Eliot, particularly interested in “the marriage plot” that was so popular when they were writing.

Madeleine develops strong and unexpected feelings for the sexy (and dangerous?) Leonard Bankhead, a loner, a loser, a loose cannon who has a lot to hide. Meanwhile, Christian scholar Mitchell Grammaticus, one of Madeleine’s first friends at college, is fixated on her, his feelings going far past just a common crush. The three intersect and interact throughout the novel, and though the trio all play at grown-up things and grown-up feelings, they are stunningly immature. They’re hard to read. They’re hard to take. And Mottola could make them lovable.

He’s done it in Superbad and Adventureland and Paul, and he could do it now. Moreover, despite my distaste for Eugenides’s characters, he’s built something inherently cinematic into his book and in the way the three view themselves and each other. Each chapter told by a different character reveals unexpected bits about all of them, and these insights unfold gracefully throughout the entire book. It could be a joy to watch in a film, and it could even change my mind about how much I dislike Madeleine, Leonard, and Marcus.