You may know I’m rarely critical of most others’ writing efforts. That’s largely because I readily appreciate how difficult it is to pen fiction. Moreover, I never offer book reviews here because I believe they are best left to any author’s truly interested readership or to reviewers/ bloggers who review books regularly.
And I’ve got my own books to write, and being “pulled” away from your own work is any author’s biggest problem. Yet keeping an eye generally on “big success” does supply us with evidence for what must be considered the basis for that “success.” However, naturally – as with Fifty Shades of Grey – we may also not always like what we see.
Where am I headed with this? I watched another episode of The Affair. If you like the program, and choose to read on, please understand I’m looking at it only from my (one) writer’s perspective. 😉
The recent episode I saw – the second – grated on me from the very opening. It began with a “5 minute-long” montage of the first episode, including rehashes of sex scenes we’ve already seen rehashed at least half a dozen times before. That was then followed by an overproduced title sequence with waves, and beach, and other images I can’t now recall, and longing music.
Wearying, I suppose, but one can live with all that.
Previously, I’ve referred to its exaggerated “cable” sex. I was sensing it was being employed to some extent as “time filler.” Far worse, though, is when film editing and actual dialogue appears to be manipulated for that same purpose.
There is a difference between “building up” a plot, setting and characters vs. drawn out camera shots and verbal “padding.” Those latter are just time wasting and a sneaky means of cheating the viewer while implying something profound is going on. So far, this series is, uh, “full” of it.
It takes ages for anything to “happen.” Every shot is a few seconds too long. Every thought is pondered at length. Every chat drags on and on.
I wanted to yell: C’mon people, let’s move it along!
“Would you like a cappuccino?”
Dear God, no. The answer will take up the next two minutes of screen time.
As someone who writes lots that’s “romantic,” I’m detecting a thin story being s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d into as many episodes as possible. I have actually found myself recalling the “endless” Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End. Remember when “Captain Jack Sparrow” is dancing around on a beach by himself for what feels like fifteen minutes?
But this series is also award-winning and critically-acclaimed in the States, and I’m trying to bear that in mind as I write this.
Do you ever feel this way? I hate it when I find myself underwhelmed by something entertainment-wise that others rave about liking. I begin to wonder – even fear – if it’s me who’s out of step with “the world.”
* * *
The tale appears to be a flashback. Apparently, someone got run down by a car and killed? So we keep getting dragged unexpectedly from the story into what looks like a police interrogation room. And then – snap – we’re just as quickly dropped back into the story again….
….“Noah” is jogging near the harbor, earphones in, listening to his tunes, and in his voiceover shares with us how he’s having terrible trouble writing his new book.
What I’ve discovered as a novelist? Unless you’re dictating it into your phone, pal, you certainly won’t compose a single page while jogging.
You also won’t get anything done if you’re meandering “aimlessly” around a harbor-side town of 200 people while supposedly hoping *not* to encounter “Alison,” *the waitress*….
….but then, gosh darn it, eh, whaddya know, there she is.
“What a surprise seeing you here.”
Look, jog your sorry, middle-aged a-s back to your plush vacation house, sit down in front of your PC and write, you moron.
(Incidentally, his name is “Noah?” I think not. Perhaps every other U.S. boy born in 2014-15 is named that, but not in his age group when he was born.)
Wait, now she’s riding a bicycle in warm sunshine.
Next, he’s taking a shower and thinking, uh, “vigorously” about her.
She’s preparing for another shift at the diner, momentarily pondering her sad life. (Not without reason. A few years ago she and her husband lost their young son; and that is indeed poignant story-wise.) Obviously quite the gentleman [note: sarcasm], her boss is simultaneously making lewd comments to her.
Back to him. He’s leaning on his writing desk, one hand against his cheek, tapping her name repeatedly onto his PC screen with only the forefinger of the other hand like some love sick 16 year old scribbling on a desk in study hall.
Hurriedly he deletes it as he notices his wife stepping up behind him! (Quick! Don’t let her see!)
He then tells his (thoroughly unfortunate, being married with three kids to him) wife that he’s bored (although I’ll admit I don’t recall him moaning “soooooooo”), and can’t write anything just now.
Next, she‘s standing on a dock or somewhere gazing out at the water. (There’s a lot of gazing and knowing looks at both people and distant, gorgeous scenery over this hour.)
I think it was “Alison’s” (the waitress) husband’s sister – I repeat, her husband’s sister – who has an idea: a threesome that includes (dopey) “Noah.” (Just like any sister-in-law would suggest, right? Of course. This is “cable.”)
“Oh, he’s married,” she (“Alison”) replies. (As if that’s the main issue with that suggestion?)
At one point, she shares an internal, intense, Shakespearean-like anguished soliloquy about “the tides.” (And we viewers are treated to more shots of water and sand and beach grass blowing in the wind.)
Hang on: he’s standing at the fresh produce stand. She’s also there, buying a tomato. What a coincidence!
Abruptly, they’re back on the beach and it’s dusk. A close up of his eyes, then hers, then his again, then hers, then his, then…. [and I was losing the will to live by now] …. And (finally) they kiss. (But inexplicably they don’t then have 20 minutes of sex on screen? Why not? Isn’t this “cable”?)
Suddenly we’re transported away yet again, and he’s being questioned again by the detective. Then, separately, she’s being questioned. Yet again.
* * *
The person struck by the car sounds increasingly like the most fortunate one in this story.
Then there are also his kids. They are caricatures of spoiled, brownstone Manhattan-reared, self-absorbed, anti-social horrors. I keep waiting for one of the darlings to demand to borrow Grandpa’s private jet.
Someone also please seize that tiresome father-in-law and push him off a dock. He’s (of course!) also a novelist. But a huge difference between Grandpa and his waitress-obsessed son-in-law new in the writing biz is Grandpa…. is an established and rich novelist and lives in a seaside mansion!
He’s a wildly successful author? Fine. Although he strikes me far more as some dodgy 1960s car dealer who has had a few too many at the regional office’s annual awards dinner.
The only thing that has resonated for me thus far (as a novelist) was when “Alison” told “Noah” that he needed to have some “experiences” [wink, wink] in order to supply material for that next novel.
Just one problem with her brainstorm there, chief: if those “experiences” include, umm, that, you should’ve had those experiences, urr, pre-marriage. Or you soon won’t have a marriage. And damn rightly so.
Oh, Mad Men, where have you gone? We miss you so much already. Will we ever encounter your like again? 🙂
P.S. All of that said, I will stay with this program. If it improves on what I’ve seen above, I will duly note that in an update. That’s only reasonable and fair.
UPDATE: June 5: “Part 2”: What Did Montauk Do To Deserve This?