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« Yes No Maybe So: Joaquin Phoenix is "Joker"| Main| August.It's (Nearly) a Wrap »
Thursday
Aug 29 2019

Merrily We Roll...and Roll...and Roll... Along

by Nathaniel R

Real life theater friends Ben & Beanie,doing a musical theater movie adaptation together.But they won't be done with it for another 20 years

While The Film Experience was in the pro-亚博主页Boyhoodcamp in 2014 we were never among its biggest fans.It was hard to be in that club given the massive stanning for a movie that was winning Best Picture prizes left and right in its year.But today we love it more than we ever have now that it's given the king of longform cinema,Richard Linklater,the funding and confidence to attempt the coolest or most foolish movie musical ever.As you may have heard he's now embarking on an adaptation of Stephen Sondheim's most beloved flopMerrily We Roll Alongto be filmed over the next 20 (gulp!) years...

If you've never seen the Sondheim show the gimmick is that the show moves backwards in time so you start with three jaded and estranged middle-aged people in showbiz (a movie producer,a playwright,and a theater critic) and you move (mostly) backwards until they're young best friend twenty-something dreamers with no idea what's really ahead for them for the show's gorgeous finale.All that being said,Merrily We Roll Alongis to Sondheim shows what,oh,One From the Heartis to Francis Ford Coppola...a highly ambitious but super-duper niche production that doesn't quite work,unless you make a lot of concessions for it,but which is also genuinely loved by more than a few super-fans who will do just that!Get it?

UPDATED WITH CORRECTION VIA BEN PLATT'S TWITTER SINCE MULTIPLE SITES HAD GOTTEN WHO HE WAS PLAYING WRONG: The film will star Ben Platt (of "Dear Evan Hansen"fame though you also know him from thePitch Perfectmovies orRicki and the Flash,if you haven't seen him on Broadway) as Charlie the playwright,Blake Jenner (Everybody Wants Some!!) in the central role of Frank,the songwriter turned movie producer,and Beanie Feldstein as their theater critic friend Mary.That's righti!This makes Richard Linklater'sMerrily We Roll Alongalso an elaborate in-joke with Greta Gerwig &Lady Birdfans since Beanie's character Julie played the role of Mary in the high school musical within that perfect movie.

Lady BIrd's musical theatre kids

The most common instantaneous response to this project online seems to be snarky cynicism,with people claiming its foolish to assume movies will still be around in 2040,let alone the world.It's true that the Planet Earth is being overrun by fascists and may well become unliveable soon due to climate change before this movie wraps production.But frankly,we believe that the apocalypse is the only thing that will truly kill the cinema (which has survived everything that's happened to it to date) so we choose to believe that we'll still be around to seeMerrily We Roll Alongin 2040 (ifwesurvive both old age and climate change) when it premieres in whatever way movies do premiere in that far flung possibly dystopic future.

Stephen Sondheim definitely won't be around to seeMerrily We Roll Along: THE MOVIE!since he's 89 years old at the moment.However,we think this news must still delight him.How cool would it be toknowthat your art will survive you,not just in theory but quite specifically since a twenty-year project based on your art is already in the works (along with the assumption that your shows will be revived as long as musical revivals exist).Not that Sondheim couldn't live to be 109 --the oldest living person right now is 116 years old!-- but it's unlikely,no matter how much we'd like him to be immortal.

The original Broadway cast of Merrily We Roll Along,then and now...

For those of you who are interested inMerrily We Roll Alongwe highly recommend the documentaryBest Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened(2016) which features the cast of the original stage production looking back at the doomed musical (which made it through just 16 performances on Broadway).

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Reader Comments (19)

Boyhood lost all the industry Best Picture prizes (unless you consider the Globe an industry prize) - even the Indie Spirit Award - and most of the minor critics' Best Picture prizes,but the perception lingers to this day that it won everything,because it dominated the major critics' awards.So people labelled it "overrated."

As a huge Linklater fan,it is comforting for me to think of him having his Altman-losing-for-Gosford-Park moment at the Oscars in 2040.亚博主页

August 29,2019 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

This is one fucking stupid idea.

August 29,2019 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

I'm a little surprised at the optimism of this project,but also just the patience of it.Even if they did this over 10 or so years it could still have a comparable effect,but 20?And I'm torn over this approach - sure,experimentation is interesting,but I don't know that the extreme realism approach of actual aging is necessarily nobler or going to generate a reaction that a more standard film couldn't.Cinema is full of illusions,built on them,really.And even "realism"is born from stylistic choices and affectations.So this is an interesting notion,but I don't know that I'll find it any more satisfying than getting to see a finished product sooner.Ask me again in 20 years,I guess.

August 29,2019 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

That sounded more negative than I meant it to.The movie could be wonderful,I just think the same team is capable of making a wonderful movie right now,too.

August 29,2019 | Unregistered CommenterDave S.

I'll be dead by then!My heart won't take more Best Actress heartaches.

August 29,2019 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

This seems like a really terrible project.As you say,the show just doesn't work.Even if you use the same actors and age them over the correct amount of time,it doesn't fix two major issues: 1) the story is problematic and 2) people don't love this musical like most of Sondheim's others.It seems doomed to people getting their hopes up and then discovering the same problems that everyone else has found with the show.

August 29,2019 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

As someone who loved Boyhood and adores the score of Merrily,this news is fascinating.The issue,as always with this show,is how will they solve the storytelling problems in the show.But with editing,and 20 years to play around with it,maybe they can.

August 29,2019 | Unregistered CommenterTom M

I'm highly skeptical of this,but I love it when you write about One From the Heart,and that seems a fair comparison (overall I like that but still think - oh Teri Garr,you deserved better).

August 29,2019 | Unregistered CommenterScottC

Well,now I have a reason to live another 20 years.SO EXCITED FOR THIS!This is the perfect director,cast,and approach to this tragically underappreciated gem from the best musical composer of this or any universe.

August 29,2019 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

It's actually looking like Blake Jenner will be Frank and Ben Platt is Charles from a Hollywood Reporter article.

August 29,2019 | Unregistered Commenterchasm301

ken s.for President 2020.They've got just the right amount of nuance,complexity and evidence-based decision making that the USA needs right now.

August 29,2019 | Unregistered CommenterTravis C

this is really incredible news,and ideal casting.i've seen about six productions of MERRILY,and none of them worked,but i think temporal expectations in film are different than the theater and that a movie version could work.and if anyone can do it,it's linklater...who i don't love as a director,but he made a gorgeous picture with Boyhood,in this same style.boo to the haters...this is an innovative approach to a difficult,interesting project!!!

August 29,2019 | Unregistered CommenterEricB

Okay,but what if they film the movie in the same order as the play?So the young actors will be playing the middle-aged characters while the 20-years-older actors will be playing the young dreamers.Would that be TOO much?Or just crazy enough to work?

ANYWAYS...I'm excited for this.It's at least something to look forward to while the world burns all around us.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

Ben Platt is the very definition of white privilege and nepotism.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterAndy

Linklater himself will be 80 when the project is completed.

I don't want to be negative but Boyhood was a free-wheeling develop the narrative as you go project which would have survived had cast/crew been unable to continue,will a scripted piece be as flexible?

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterBJT

I thought the show din't work until I saw Maria Friedman's production recorded at the West End.It was brilliant.Hope I'm still alive to see this.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterJP

Blake Jenner.That is all.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I think it's a cool idea.People are so cynical!

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterH

Andy -- you say nepotism like it's a bad thing.It's only a bad thing if the person isn't super talented.Without nepotism we dont get Liza Minnelli or Mia Farrow or countless other sensational showbiz types.Ben Platt is very talented so it's fine.

August 30,2019 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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