Mr. Jealousy
Pynchon References in Film

The Miracle Mile (1984)

The Miracle Mile

Another one of those Impending Apocalypse flicks popular in the 1980s, Miracle Mile stars two future E.R. alumni -- Anthony Edwards and Mare Winningham -- as a man and woman caught in the suspensful countdown to a nuclear holocaust.
The film's Pynchon reference is unusual in that it calls for a nonexistent text to occupy some screen time: a Cliff Notes guide to Gravity's Rainbow. The scene occurs in an all-night diner, when the character of Landa, a murkily defined military insider played by Denise Crosby, pulls the yellow booklet from her briefcase and reads it eagerly over a copy of the Wall Street Journal. Why not a copy of the real thing? After all, the faux Cliff Notes had to be especially made by writer/director Steve De Jarnatt. But then again, Miracle Mile itself wouldn't be harmed by a guidebook -- it might serve to fill in some of the plot gaps, like just exactly why were were facing World War Three in the first place! (RL) [IMDB/Amazon.com]

Mr. Jealousy (1997)

Mr. Jealousy

A comedy-romance written and directed by Noah Baumbach, Mr. Jealousy is a Manhattan-based indie starring Eric Stoltz as a jealous man whose girlfriend, Annabelle Sciorra, was once the lover of a hot-shot writer played by Chris Eigeman. Faking his way into the writer's group therapy meeting, Stoltz intends to learn more about their former relationship, and naturally gets more than he bargained for.
Although the film is a bit talky and misses the mark on several occasions, some good moments may be found in the cat-and-mouse game played by Stoltz and his realization that he's essentially a high-brow stalker. Unfortunately, much of the film plays at being a thirtysomething equivalent of Neil Simon, which comes off much less charming than perhaps intended.
Jay McInerney is thanked in the credits, and citations are handed out to Phillip Roth, Flaubert, and Beckett's favorite brand of cigarette. The Pynchon reference is slight -- Gravity's Rainbow is one of the books prominently seen on Stoltz's table; and although the scene shows Stoltz desperately reading to keep his mind off his consuming jealousy (his girlfriend is not answering her phone), we may at least presume that Mr. Jealousy's literary credentials are intact. This becomes especially important towards the end -- after all, surely a fan of Gravity's Rainbow has enough talent for success at the Iowa University Writer's Workshop? (RL) [IMDB/Amazon.com]

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Matt Damon plays rebellious intellectual slacker Will Hunting in this movie, a Gus Van Sant film which is a lot more fun than its serious airs would lead you to believe. At one point, we see a copy of Gravity's Rainbow displayed in Will's apartment, which is obviously used to establish his cred as, well, a rebellious intellectual slacker. Either that, or it's on loan from Eric Stoltz. (ABR, with thanks to David Wiegleb) [IMDB/Amazon.com]

Storytelling (2001)

Another depressing tale of bourgeois horror from Todd Solondz, the director of Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness, Storytelling contains two shorts called "Fiction" and "Nonfiction." The former is about racism and sexual politics on a college campus, the latter is a self-mocking tale about a sneering filmmaker documenting a year in the life of a suburban family. Although Derrida is namedropped in the second piece, the Pynchon reference occurs in the first few moments of "Fiction," which revolves around a conceited literary professor and his writing class. After a sex scene between an earnest undergrad writer with multiple sclerosis and his increasingly more kindly girlfriend, guess what book we catch a glimpse of on his bureau? You guessed it, that pesky copy of Gravity's Rainbow! I wonder if poor Eric will ever get it back? (ABR) [Official Site/IMDB/Amazon.com]

Go To:

Main Page -- Back to the "Pynchon in Film" main page.

Pynchon Shorts -- News segments about Pynchon or short films inspired by his writing, including CNN's "Where's Thomas Pynchon" and Kevin Soul's Descent.

Buckaroo Banzai (1984) -- This sci-fi cult classic has numerous Pynchonian connections.

Thomas Pynchon -- A Journey into the Mind of [P.] (2001) -- A German documentary about Pynchon, his life, and his following.

Pynchon References on TV -- Allusions to Pynchon and his works on television, from "The John Larroquette Show" to "The Simpsons."


--Richard Lane
& Allen B. Ruch

28 May 2003

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