Friday, October 9, 2009

Friday Fantasies: In the Electric Mist

In case you missed one of my very first posts, it bears repeating that I’m a huge James Lee Burke fan. As I explained in that previous post, the irony is that I, a New Orleans native, had never even heard of Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series until my mother-in-law, who lives in Michigan and Florida (far from Burke’s bailiwick), told me about it. Well, so what if I was a clueless Louisianian! At least I know about him now.

While I haven’t read all of his Robicheaux mysteries, I’ve perused (or listened to) many of them, and I’m in the process of reading them (or rereading them, as the case may be) from the beginning of the series. This summer, I read The Neon Rain (1987) and Heaven’s Prisoners (1988), and as soon as I’ve turned in the book proposal on which I’ve been working, I’ll plunge into Black Cherry Blues (1989). Dan and I also plan to while away the driving time between Michigan and New Orleans with a few of the audiobook versions of Burke’s Robicheaux mysteries. The great thing about them, incidentally, is that they’re narrated by Will Patton, one of my all-time favorite actors and, as a husky-voiced native Southerner, a terrific choice to speak as the flawed but noble-hearted Robicheaux.

So, in keeping with the family’s obsession with all things Burke, my hubby, my in-laws, and I watched In the Electric Mist, the latest cinematic adaptation of a Robicheaux novel, last night over a dinner of pepperoni pizza and root beer floats (a cuisine choice that has less to do with the Cajun themes of the story and more to do with a desire to be naughty). Based on the novel In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead (1993) and starring Tommy Lee Jones as the inimitable Dave Robicheaux, the film is indeed entertaining. After all, it was filmed exclusively in southern Louisiana, so the setting and atmosphere are evocative and true, and the supporting roles are believably portrayed by the likes of John Goodman, Mary Steenburgen, Peter Sarsgaard, Kelly Macdonald, Ned Beatty, James Gammon, Pruitt Taylor Vince, and Buddy Guy. The accents are right, the scenes make me hungry and homesick, but still, something is missing.

Afterward, we all agreed that no one – not even Oscar-winning Tommy Lee Jones – has successfully portrayed the complicated Robicheaux. Alec Baldwin, who starred in Heaven’s Prisoners in 1996, seemed far too young at the time, while Jones is far too old and run-down – not so much in appearance but in attitude. Jones is tough at times, violent when necessary, and compassionate when it counts, but for most of the movie, he seems close to retirement – which is disconcerting, given that there are at least eleven more novels after this one.

Should Hollywood ever consider another Burke project, the four of us are all in agreement on who should play Dave Robicheaux – why, Will Patton, of course! His audiobook versions are incredible in every way, and as his on-screen roles illustrate, he has the perfect mix of tenacity, humor, loyalty, and energy. So, what do you say? Think Hollywood’s listening?

13 comments:

Daniel Martone said...

The only thing I think Will would need to do is dye his hair and add the "Streak"... then he would be perfect.

Also, another problem with the two Robicheaux movies made to date is that neither of them had Clete in them... he really tempers Dave's dark moods... hard not to smile at the character (or cheer when he kicks the sh*t out of a bad guy).

Bane of Anubis said...

Funny... when I saw your first pic... my immediate though was: that cat looks like TLJ (never heard of Robicheaux or the movie) and then lo and behold :)

Also, I, too, throw in my hat for Mr. Patton.

Laura Martone said...

Danny - Yes, I have to agree with you there. A "streak" would totally sell it. And, yeah, where the heck is Clete? Maybe Patton could play both characters - that would be hilarious!

Bane - Wow, he DOES look like Tommy. Weird. I never noticed that before. Yeah, Patton is awesome... even in not-so-great movies like THE PUNISHER, he's pretty darn good - and truly amazing in movies like THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES.

Susan R. Mills said...

I love Tommy Lee Jones. I'm disappointed to hear that he didn't fit the roll. I'll probably still watch it, though. Thanks for sharing.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Love JLB!

Laura Martone said...

Oh, don't get me wrong, Susan. It's still worth seeing - it's just that, being such a lover of the Dave Robicheaux books, I didn't think he was the best choice for the role. But he's certainly not terrible - and the rest of the cast is terrific!

Yeah, Angie, I'm with you - I love me some JLB! He sure does capture southern Louisiana...

Steph Damore said...

Not having read JLB's works, I thought In the Electric Mist was a good movie - definitely not typical Hollywood, which is always refreshing.

Hmmm...looks like I have to make a trip to the library so I can check out some of JLB's books.

Laura Martone said...

Hi, Steph. Oh, no, don't misunderstand... As I wrote above, I thought the movie was okay - I just think the casting choice could have been better. If you read Burke's books, you might see it differently, too. Regardless, you should definitely read one of the Robicheaux novels. He's an amazing writer - and he paints Louisiana so well.

Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

I'm not familiar with this author. Thanks for sharing, I'll have to check one out.

Martha W said...

Good Post, Laura! As soon as I get time, maybe I'll check out the movie - I'm always up for a good TLJ flick.

But Will Patton? Oh yeah. Even roughed up that man is good looking! Yeah, I'd follow him anywhere and to any movie... love his voice.

Steph Damore said...

Yeah Laura, I didn't misunderstand (like a good blogger, I read all the comments before commenting). I was just thinking that the movie had good thematic presentation regardless if it was book-like or not.

I'll have to check out the books though and I'm sure I'll see the movie differently because the movie is NEVER as good as the book. Never!

Laura Martone said...

You're welcome, Roni! I love spreading the word about ol' JLB.

Hi, Martha. Yes, do check it out when you get a chance... you should always make time for the movies! And, yes, Will Patton is one fine-looking gentleman. Even my hubby thinks so! :-)

My dear Steph, you're such a good little blogger! You're right about the movie - I probably would've enjoyed it a little more had I not been familiar with the Robicheaux character ahead of time. P.S. I wouldn't say the movie is NEVER better than the book. IMO, the oft-mentioned WONDER BOYS is a case in point.

Reese Bagwell said...

I agree wholeheartedly and have been lobbying for Patton to play Robicheaux. He IS Dave Robicheaux! Although Baldwin did an acceptable job, there is no way anyone could play him like Will Patton. His renditions of Robicheaux on audio tape are nothing short of masterful. After hearing him on all of Burke's Robicheauz novels on tape and/or cd, I could never accept the believability of anyone else playing Lt. Dave Robicheaux. By the way, Burke is the best Southern author since Faulkner. His imagery in describing LA and all of the grit and beauty of it's people, flora, fauna and it's undrbelly is fabulous. Thanks for the post and keep lobbying for a cinematic Patton portrayal of Robicheaux!! It would be fantastic, indeed!