Top critical review
NOT ENOUGH METHOD TO THIS MADNESS
April 21, 2019
Definitely not one of my favs by this author. METHOD is a complex story about the effect of an intense method actor’s self-destructive, acting process as it crumbles his rock-solid marriage. The overly-detailed back-and-forth shifts between “then and now” (the couple’s evolution to marriage vs. the marital damage done by his latest role) was unappealing. And too much padding that effectively dragged the story down – i.e., such as throwing in characters from Drive without explaining them to readers who haven’t read that book; and spending 7% of the book on a single scene where the couple wears special FX makeup on a date.
And there were so many themes -- actor insecurities, the illusion and fear of fame, suicide, friendship, guilt, and all the tender vulnerabilities that hold a marriage by a thread so easily broken. Such intense complexity made the story simultaneously more and less than it appears on surface. What bugged me was that there’s a huge twist that explains Lucas’s behavior and it manifests in his method approach to acting, but that is just the expression of the problem and not the reason. All along we’re led down one path only to be surprised by another, and the rushed reveal shortchanges the giant buildup. I felt a little hijacked and misled in a manipulative way. When all was said and done, it reminded me very much of the marriage crises in CD Reiss’s The Edge series. Even though the reasons for the husband’s behavior were different, the effect on the relationship was very similar.
It had a dull start with no story movement until a third of the way in because the characters spent more time in their heads and inner monologues. So much tell, rather than show. As this tragic tale plodded along, it showed the toll taken in the making of a Hollywood movie star, and was heavily instructional on filmmaking at the expense of storytelling. It went too deeply into explaining everything (although I loved the pre-chapter quotes by famous actors), and especially about method acting and every grueling step of Lucas becoming an actor. Just tell us that a method actor fully immerses into becoming a character and stays in character throughout the film shoot. There. Done. Now just get on with dramatizing the thing and we’ll see it play out for ourselves.
Lucas and Mila. They were such opposites, though we mostly learn this rather than experience it, and much of it comes at the end, making me think I hardly knew them at all, especially her. Their nicknames “Dame” and “Hollywood”, were okay, but the explanation for hers came out of the blue, late in the story. They had potential. Although I felt his soul mate love for Mila, I didn’t get the same depth from her. She was more distanced. Less vulnerable. Less penetrable feelings. It felt like she was holding back, despite all their couple focus on trust, faith, and promises broken. He was the one who held on fiercely, except when in character.
Lucas isn’t at all what I expected. Worst of all, I loathed his behavior while in character -- whether from method acting or the secret that he’s hiding. He was fleshed out as an extreme caricature of a method actor. It was so OTT in a cruel, Jekyll & Hyde way that it was hard to believe that he turned off all the “acting” the minute filming wrapped, which also meant he was fully aware of his cruelty to everyone while in character. Despite the couple’s rules during this process, I couldn’t imagine Mila being happy in such a marriage where her husband was basically absent as another personae and he has no healthy sense of self outside of playing a character. The dramatization of Lucas’ method acting is an agonizing step-by-step process to read.
And, there’s that elephant in the room named Blake – the troubled, former child star actor who is Lucas’s best friend and has a profound impact on him and the entire story, yet he was intentionally left elusive and vague. The story builds painfully to a big reveal that, for all the subterfuge, I frankly saw coming because of an early, pivotal scene that ends abruptly and deeply foreshadows something awful.
I wasn’t sure whether the author just wrote this book to flex all her research knowledge about method acting and filmmaking or that she had a real message at the end, which came off more like throwaway treatment of serious issues. It was actually draining to read, and I was never fully invested or believed in the couple’s mutual love and commitment because there was something missing in them for me with all the other focus. As an aside, the author is still grammatically challenged– interchanging parts of speech incorrectly; making up verb conjugations like “bidden” for “bided”, and wrong words – “spendthrift” does not mean cheapskate, but the exact opposite. Dictionary, much? Plus, weird attempts at creative phrasing -- “you don’t want to have any skeletal stories with her as your narrator” -- I don’t even know what that means. On the upside, I love The Real, Someone Else’s Ocean, Room 212, Knot, and Loving the White Liar. Any of these books are recommended over this one.