THE REWRITE MAN by Bryan Forbes

THE REWRITE MAN

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KIRKUS REVIEW

From the film-director, screenwriter (The L-Shaped Room, Seance on a Wet Afternoon), and occasional novelist (The Distant Laughter, Stranger): a smoothly written tale of romantic tangles during film-production in the South of France--modestly amusing when it leans toward satire, mostly creaky when it strains (complete with heavy foreshadowing) for star-crossed-lover tragedy. Forbes' narrator-hero is ""rewrite man"" Harvey Burgess: middle-aged, divorced, US-based but very British, semi-successful at best. . . and all too eager to hop on a plane when director Edward James calls from France, desperate for a quick rewrite of a ludicrous costume-picture script called The Bastille Connection, already in production. Harvey, installed at a lovely inn, gets down to work, only to find that the slimy American producer (a favorite Forbes stereotype) promptly junks most of his script improvements. So his attention soon shifts from writing to romance--casually bedding one of the film's ingenues (matter-of-fact Michelle) while falling crazy-in-love with young neophyte actress Laura, a local who's half-French, half-English. Laura, it's true, has several other admirers: director Edward is obsessed with her to the point of drunken exhibitionism: she has at least one hometown lover. Nonetheless, Harvey declares his passion. Laura responds with ""that lethal combination of youth and sensuality,"" happy to return Harvey's love--but far from willing, it soon appears, to give up her various other liaisons. Thus, Harvey spends much of his time here writhing with jealousy, trying to accept the affair on Laura's terms. (""Why should she be faithful to me? I had no real claim on her except a love she did not, or could not, fully return."") And when the film's pathetic PR-man commits suicide, Harvey winds up escorting the body home to America--a tinny plot contrivance that separates him from Laura. . . forever, as it turns out, in a maudlin final twist. Forbes is at his best--despite a few cartoony excesses--in the ironic sketches of third-rate moviemaking here, replete with vain actors, petty feuds, and tiresome foulups. The central love-affair, however, is an uninvolving clichÉ--limply reminiscent of all those 1960s films about generation-gap romance between an older man and a young, uninhibited girl. (""Her generation. . . Love is something they pass around like a joint."") And Harvey himself isn't likable or layered enough to sustain interest through the soap-operatic ups and downs--which never achieve the bittersweet glow of similar material in Truffaut's Day for Night. Glossy, atmospheric, but empty entertainment, then--becoming less and less convincing as Forbes' hero becomes more and more seriously entangled.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1984
ISBN: 0755108213
Publisher: Simon & Schuster