Author: Elmore Leonard
Published: 2010 (HarperCollins)
I have a problem with the cooch dancers, y’all. What do they wear in Djibouti?
This book doesn’t tell me. It doesn’t tell me about Djibouti’s beaches, either, or its terrain, or anything beyond vague middle-eastern archetypes about the people and the land that’s supposedly so overabundant of ethnic/cultural atmosphere that threatens to take over the real subject, which is pirates.
So says the brilliant documentary maker’s camera man as I read about him and her watching the rough cuts of her new film on her Mac.
Seriously, that’s how they show off the land and most of the rising action: by describing to each other what they’re seeing on a 17-inch screen while they’re holed up in the underground bits of a small, intentionally nondescript boat.
I know that’s how you actually edit film, but hot damn, people, you had to go out and actually shoot something in, like, real life, too. WHY DIDN’T YOU TAKE US WITH YOU?
The last third or so of the book gets into the real world, finally, but by then the characters all feel like plot points, and nobody’s nearly as interesting as they’re supposed to be, and the author lapses into speech fragments just when every word is starting to count to follow the plot, and the young documentary maker sleeps with her old camera guy for no reason whatsoever before, during, or after, and – spoiler alert – something blows up in the end only slightly off plan, and people are running from the police and al Queda, which – another, perhaps more reassuring spoiler alert – are not the same thing.
And then it tries to wring some drama out of whether the documentary maker should make her piracy film a documentary or a Hollywood movie. Can you switch like that? She HAS won an Oscar, at least in this world, so can she just wave that around at her Macbook and say, “Get me Cameron Diaz for the role of the spunky young documentary maker of justice who falls for her worldly camera guy!” I don’t think that’s ever resolved, and if it is, I’ve already forgotten, because I never cared in the first place.
It had such potential, you guys. I love the idea of following a documentary-lady around in an exotic world, seeing what makes her take notice and what she pieces together about the piracy movement through stolen interviews and gunfights over her footage. Sadly, there is none of that here. Donate.
This is the same guy who wrote Get Shorty and Be Cool, both of which I kind of wanted to read (been shelving copies of them at the Dispensary every time they put me on the crime beat), but those are both about film stuff, too, and no way in hell am I going to chance picking up another book to read about another screen.