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the Complete Review
the complete review - memoir

My Movie Business

John Irving

general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase My Movie Business

Title: My Movie Business
Author: John Irving
Genre: Memoir
Written: 1999
Length: 170 pages
Availability: My Movie Business - US
My Movie Business - UK
My Movie Business - Canada
My Movie Business - India
Mon cinéma - France
My Movie Business - Deutschland
Il mio cinema - Italia
Mis líos con el cine - España
  • A Memoir
  • With 59 black and white photographs from the film and the filming

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Our Assessment:

B+ : breezy account of movie-making from a novelist's point of view

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Entertainment Weekly B 22/10/1999 Benjamin Svetkey
The NY Times Book Rev. A 14/11/1999 William Boyd
The Spectator . 13/11/1999 Frederic Raphael
TLS . 26/11/1999 Adam Mars-Jones

  From the Reviews:
  • "In other words, My Movie Business is all business, practically an insert-part-A-into-part-B technical primer for turning novels into movies. A charming, sublimely written technical primer -- Irving is a pitch-perfect stylist who could turn a VCR instruction manual into an irresistible page-turner -- but a primer just the same." - Benjamin Svetkey, Entertainment Weekly

  • "(S)hort, amiable (.....) His tone throughout My Movie Business is measured and genial -- no mean achievement." - William Boyd, The New York Times Book Review

  • "This rather creepy little book, billed as "a memoir", is actually a vanity project in a number of ways. In publishing terms, it's no more than an upmarket tie-in, its appearance timed to boost (or be boosted by) the release of a belated film adaptation of John Irving's 1985 novel The Cider House Rules (.....) A non-commercial reason for writing My Movie Business is harder to detect.(...) His purely literary remarks are folksy or banal, or both" - Adam Mars-Jones, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       My Movie Business is mainly about John Irving seeing the film version of his novel, The Cider House Rules, finally getting made (going through four potential directors and taking over a dozen years), but it is also a more general memoir of his life in film, i.e. the other movie experiences he's had. (Entirely missing -- despite the fact that it falls nicely within the timeframe, presumably having been filmed right before if not at the same time as The Cider House Rules -- is, unfortunately, all discussion of the film version of A Prayer for Owen Meany, a film Irving apparently disliked so much that he wouldn't even permit them to use the title character's name, leading to him and it being re-named and released as Simon Birch.)
       Irving begins this memoir with some family history, specifically about his grandfather, a professor of obstetrics, and shows the influence the man had on him, both as a writer and otherwise. The doctor's legacy -- at least as measured by what he's best remembered by -- turns out to be a "scandalous poem" that generations of students (and their children) have carried on with them; unfortunately, Irving reproduces only two of its seventeen stanzas. But the man and his work clearly also influenced Irving's novel, The Cider House Rules, dealing as it does with obstetrics and, specifically, abortion, and Irving nicely describes that influence.
       Abortion is central to both the novel and the movie, and Irving -- unreservedly pro-choice --, made his case in them, and makes his case again here, offering a non-fictional perspective, as well as explaining how he wanted to present the issue in the film and book.
       There are brief discussions of the other films made (and not) from Irving's other novels (with the exception of the ignored A Prayer for Owen Meany-adaptation), and here and in the more extensive discussion of the making of The Cider House Rules Irving offers an interesting perspective on the novelist seeing his work transformed into film. The variety of approaches -- other films were written by other screenwriters, while Irving himself wrote The Cider House Rules script, and different directors have very different ways of using the material -- make for interesting contrasts.
       The chronicle of the making of the film of The Cider House Rules is particularly interesting. The novel is approached in a variety of ways, as one director after another works on it, and Irving describes more closely the choices that must be made (and the reasons for them), and the characters and episodes that grow or shrink or disappear as the book is turned into a film. (Irving's fat books have to be whittled down in order to fit on the screen.)
       There's some Hollywood commentary -- though Irving tries to stay above that --, and more general observations, and it all makes for a nice, breezy account, quite carefully crafted and certainly entertaining and enjoyable. There's a lot more to be said, but it's a good and nearly satisfying overview, and certainly a worthwhile companion-piece to both the novel and the movie.

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My Movie Business: Reviews: The Cider House Rules - the film: John Irving: Other books by John Irving under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       John Winslow Irving, American author, born 1942. Born in Exeter, New Hampshire he graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy. Author of numerous very successful novels, he first achieved widespread recognition with The World according to Garp.

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