Sometimes, we have to laugh at the luxurious way publishing is portrayed on the big screen. Taking limos to important meetings, colorful penthouse offices full of stylish young people, book-launch parties with flowing booze, never-ending canapés and a celebrity guest list. More often, working in publishing involves reading something on the bus to work, finding somewhere cosy during lunch to continue reading, then reading at the bar after work while waiting for your friends to arrive. (It’s a lot of reading — did we make that clear?) We’re not saying a little glitz and glamour never happens — we’ve been known to consume an entire plate of canapés or two — but we can confirm that publishing is significantly less lavish than the minds of Hollywood would like you to believe.
That doesn’t mean, however, we don’t enjoy films with a hint of our bookish world in them. Whether the drama just happens to be unfolding in a publishing house or the business is fully embroiled in the plot, here are a few films we love that have dabbled in the world of publishing:
Drawing heavily on Meryl Streep’s portrayal in The Devil Wears Prada, Sandra Bullock offers us the Anna Wintour of publishing in The Proposal. She’s demanding, unforgiving, an absolute nightmare of a boss, and, inexplicably, Canadian. In an effort to secure US citizenship, she forces one of her assistants to marry her. He agrees, but only if she promotes him to editor and publishes a manuscript he believes in. Isn’t that how all books get published? The story is wildly out-of-touch, but that doesn’t mean we don’t enjoy the unexpected chemistry between Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, and, of course, the outlandishness of Betty White’s Gammy.
Bridget Jones’s Diary
One of our favourite scenes from Bridget Jones’s Diary takes place at one of those aforementioned launch parties bursting with booze, canapés, and celebrities. The reason for the event, a book called Kafka’s Motorbike: The Greatest Book of Our Time, sounds like the most unpleasant reason for a party, and serves as a solid reminder that any publisher claiming to have found the greatest book of our time, has, most likely, not. As Bridget blunders through her introduction, insulting Salman Rushdie in the process, she presents a satire of the publishing world, which we welcome greatly. The rest of the film, thankfully, doesn’t focus much on books, but the comedic nod to publishing makes us giggle and reminds just how great our place of work is sans harassment and pretentious book topics.
You’ve Got Mail
We’ve talked about this one before, and I genuinely don’t remember the last time we made it through the day without a YGM reference in the office, but we just can’t help ourselves! Any film centered around a bookshop is our dream, so when the story of two rivaling bookshops intertwined with a love story was first presented to us, we obviously pounced. You’ve Got Mail, however, addresses the all-too-real fear of independent bookshops being stomped out by big corporations. While we’re pleased that true love blossomed, we’re not totally on board with The Shop Around the Corner having to take the hit. So if anyone is interested in making a sequel where Kathleen Kelly singlehandedly takes down Fox Books to resurrect her precious bookshop, we’re willing to donate to the cause. And, this probably goes without saying, the wicked sharp lines of nightmare editor Patricia Eden played by Parker Posey would be making an appearance.
Because doesn’t publishing just scream ‘feature me in your film about an over-sized Christmas elf!’? When Buddy the Elf ventures to the faraway land of New York City to save his father from the Naughty List, he lands himself in middle of a children’s publishing house. While the story of an elf working in children’s publishing has spin-off potential of its own, Elf doesn’t linger too long in its literary settings. It does, however, provide the iconic ‘Buddy the Elf, what’s your favourite colour?’ line, which we’re considering adapting for our own phone call greetings. Agora Books, what’s your favourite book that’s made you cry on a fully packed Overground train?
About Time just barely taps into our bookish world, but it’s still worth mentioning as we tend to be (not so) secret super fans. In it, Rachel McAdams’s Mary works as a ‘reader’ for a publisher. We’re not entirely sure if this is an actual job (isn’t everyone who works in publishing a reader?), and we’re certainly not convinced that it would pay her enough to afford her own shabby chic London apartment, but at least About Time maintains the whimsical image of what everyone thinks it’s like to work in publishing.
As always, thank you for reading, and be sure to tweet us @AgoraBooksLDN with your recommendations of films set in book publishing!