A troubled, misguided woman gets caught up with unruly sorts and squanders all her potential. Is that the plot of Martha Marcy May Marlene, or the story of Janis Joplin?
You might think it’s weird for Sean Durkin to follow-up his acclaimed and incisive indie with a biopic of the iconic ’60s rock singer — but, yeah, the connections are there. Deadline reports that he’s zeroing in on Joplin, which focuses on the singer-songwriter’s last days and, of course, tragic heroin overdose. Nina Arianda — film-wise, best known for Midnight in Paris, but who also just won a Tony for Venus in Fur — will make the film her first onscreen starring role.
When talking to Deadline, producer Peter Newman said that very performance convinced everyone she was the right choice; it, apparently, displayed “the duality of vulnerability with overheated sexuality” he feels exemplified the singer-songwriter. It’s a pretty surprising move when you learn that, over the project’s 12-year lifespan, more prolific names like Pink and Zooey Deschanel (oh, thank Christ that didn’t happen) were once tied to Joplin. But if the producer — and, you know, the Tony voting body — are correct, I’ve got an inkling they played this one wisely.
While Joplin will snapshot her last six months — basically, the second half of 1970 — her earlier days will be presented in flashback form. In shaping that story, the team will use her personal letters, appearances on Dick Cavett, and, primarily, David Dalton‘s Piece of My Heart, a book wherein the author followed Joplin around for (connection!) her last six months. In my view, though, it’s just as important that around 21 of her own songs will be used in Joplin, and that Arianda is also expected to belt out the tunes herself. For the sake of authenticity, folks.
Durkin will surely get a much larger audience for this next effort — if that alone gets more people to see Martha, good enough — and I think it would be fascinating to see him take that same effective, slow-burn style and apply it to this story. It wouldn’t be a run-of-the-mill musical biopic filled with cross-faded shots juxtaposing the musician and climbing music charts, but the harrowing story of someone who screwed up an incredible life. Again: We know he can do that.
Newman and his Interal Productions will collaborate with Durkin‘s Borderline Films, Seven Hill Productions, and Uncommon Productions, all of whom are preparing to start shooting at the beginning of 2013.
Is this a smart choice for Durkin? What did you think of MMMM?