The creative process is a subject that gets so little decent attention in cinema that -- when it does, and when it's done right -- attention must be paid. Regarding art and the artist, the recent Seraphine is probably as good an approximation as we'll see in my lifetime. Last month at the FSLC's festival of new Italian films, Lecture 21 tackled creativity via a brilliant teacher's class on Beethoven and his Ninth Symphony and has since taken its
place among the best films I've seen this year. But what about writers and writing? A couple of years back we got a nice romantic comedy-cum-fantasy in Stranger than Fiction, but its probing of the creative process was minimal. When characters come off the page and into "real" screen life, the result is more likely to wind up in the horror vault, with a fictional character taking over the brain and/or body of its progenitor in claptrap crap like Secret Window (which was perhaps the low point of a certain Mr. Depp's career).
It would be nice to report that the relatively new film LOVELY BY SURPRISE (made in 2007 and shown at a few festivals and individual theaters since) does for the writing process what Seraphine and Lecture 21 do for art, music and teaching. For some viewers, it may accomplish the job. While it fell short for me, I admire it's attempt and enjoyed it and its very game performers, off and on. Writer/director Kirt Gunn plops us into the life of his protagonist Marian (Carrie Preston, below, left) who is having trouble completing her novel and so turns to her ex-writing professor Jackson (Austin Pendleton below, right) for help. We also meet a distraught widower and father (Reg Rogers) and his equally distraught young daughter (Lena Lamer), both shown two photos below; several of the odd characters in Marian's novel (one of whom, played by Michael Chernus, is shown above and at bottom, with his "brother"); Jackson's estranged wife (Kate Burton); and the boss and co-workers of a used car lot -- among others.