Monday, June 9, 2008

Golden Gate

Author(s): James Somerton
Location: Canada

"Golden Gate"

Directed by: Mike Nichols
Written by: Alan Ball
Score by: Gustavo Santaolalla
Produced by: Celia D. Costas

Main Cast

Charlize Theron as Danielle Steel
Hugh Jackman as John Traina
Peter Sarsgaard as William Toth
Daniel Radcliffe as Nicholas Traina
Emily Blunt as Vickie Bane

Tagline: "Romance was her work... Heartbreak was her life"

Synopsis: A young journalist named Danielle Steel has been writing fluff pieces for The San Francisco Chronicle for two years now and she's growing tired of it. Finally she given a real piece of journalism to work on. She is to interview a series of convicts being held at a maximum security prison. Here, after three days of interviews, she meets William Toth; "A bank robber with a heart of gold", she describes him to her editor. After the article is published, Danielle becomes a semi celebrity in San Francisco. Even being given a book offer from a small publisher. She gladly takes the offer but what none of these society people know is that Danielle is still visiting William Toth in prison. And falling in love with him. Soon they have a prison yard wedding that leads to Danielle becoming pregnant.

During her pregnancy Danielle keeps her marriage to William very hush hush. He will be in prison for another five years before he's up for parol, so why not use this to her advantage? She tells everyone she knows that the father ran out on her when she became pregnant so now she's left to raise the child on her own. In her time away from the high class scene, she sits alone in her apartment writing her book. A story encapsulating Danielle's own fears of being rejected from her new life because of the man she married. After finishing the book she goes to see William and tells him that the marriage cant ever work but that she will still let him see his son. William is shaken but Danielle has never felt better. Within weeks she has the marriage annulled, and gives birth to a healthy baby boy. Before his first birthday she becomes a bestselling author.

Danielle spends the next several years writing at a feverish pace. She is hailed by many as the best romance novelist in the world, but professional critics eat her work alive. This hurts but she keeps it private. She is a loving mother to her son, Nicholas, and a thriving voice at the posh clubs and parties of San Francisco. Its at one of these parties that she meets John Traina, a millionaire shipping tycoon. He falls for her immediately. She's taken by his good looks and his fortune. With a little work, she could probably love him. He's even taken by her young son; probably the deciding factor. Her marriage to Traina, unlike her last marriage, is a big, lavish event. Now, just one problem. In order for Traina to adopt Nicholas, as both he and Danielle wish, William Toth will have to relinquish his parental rights. After he refuses, Danielle takes the matter to court. Her reasoning? William Toth is a convicted felon and should have no part in Nicholas's life. The motion is granted and Nicholas Toth becomes Nicholas Traina. From this time forth, no one even speaks of William Toth. Not even his own son.

Years pass by in a blur of parties, children, and best selling novels. Danielle and John buy a massive estate just outside San Francisco that is more a castle than a house. Danielle's fortune now rivals her husband's and, together, they are the richest couple in San Francisco, but always careful to keep their private affairs private. But her public image is about to be shattered do to a tell-all biography, entitled "The Lives of Danielle Steel", being published without her permission. The writer, Vickie Bane, has been digging into Danielle's private life for a long time. In it she tells the story of William Toth and how Nicholas is really his son. Details about her, less than perfect, childhood are also sprayed across these pages. Danielle fights the publishers as hard as she can, even taking the matter to court but, for the first time in a long time, she fails to come out on to. All of her adoring fans will now know her true story.

All of this turmoil has lead to Danielle being distracted from a growing problem; Nicholas. Now in his late teens, he has begun falling out of reality. Bipolar Disorder and Depression have been plaguing him since his early teens, and drugs like Zoloft, Prozac, and Paxil haven't been able to help. Cocaine has been helping though. He's been keeping it hidden from his parents well enough but his mother's discovery of the habit leads to rehab and even more therapists. But he's lost now. His father can see it and so can his siblings, but his mother refuses to. She can't lose again. Especially not this fight. Of any fight, not this one. But she does lose. Nicholas Traina ends his own life at the age of nineteen.

Not long after the funeral, John Traina tells Danielle that he's leaving her. Her fortune has grown well beyond his and he can't handle being with a woman more powerful and influential than himself. The children join him, at least until Danielle is mentally fit to care for them. Nicholas's death has shaken her to her absolute core. Now she sits alone in her palatial estate, writing. Always writing. Weaving tales of romance, riches, and perfect lives. The life she used to live.

What the Press would say:

Romance and Love. These are the things I expected when going into "Golden Gate". Instead I was surprised to see a movie more driven by ambition than any heartfelt notions. This is the story of Danielle Steel, a woman who yearns to succeed and will do whatever it takes to do so. She is a woman born of the 1960's that eventually joins the societal elite that she once rebelled against. Here, Charlize Theron gives the performance of her career. Loud and opinionated, Danielle is able to force her way into any situation. This ability leads her to meeting a man that will change her life forever. He isn't the first, and won't be the last, though. Danielle has an ex-husband we hear of only in passing. It was this man that convinced her to leave New York and come to San Francisco. Danielle is spontaneous in the early parts of the film, rarely giving a second thought to anything she does. Her love affair with a prison inmate leads to a marriage that barely exists, and a secret she fights to keep hidden. But later on in the film she becomes more calculating; leaving one man for another just because the new beau can help her social standing. Here we get to see her grow richer and richer with the release of every new book, attending gala parties and even meeting the president. Theron's performance throughout the film is near perfection, but about near the end of the film we see her reach heights that very few before her have been able to attain. Its here when she loses her son, first to drugs and finally to death itself. This woman who we have seen crush people in order to go further, is suddenly humbled. Her eyes are empty now as the most important person in her life leaves her forever. Theron's greatest moment in this film is at the funeral, where she completely ignores the socialites that she so yearned to be like. Now, she won't even listen to their words. She simply stands over her son's body. She does not weep but her eyes hold a thousand tears. Her son, Nicholas, is played Daniel Radcliffe in a steep departure from his most famous role. Here is a dark teenager, delving into drugs and hiding himself more and more from his family. At first its shocking to see Harry Potter snorting a line of coke off his bathroom sink, but Radcliffe becomes Nicholas Traina so quickly that you forget his past roles. He is only on screen for a little over a half hour but, in that short amount of time, he draws you in so completely that it seems like he's always been there. No matter how many other men enter her life, Nicholas is Danielle's only true love. Her other men in the film are played by Hugh Jackman as a compassionate millionaire, and Peter Sarsgaard as the convicted felon she falls for early in the film. Jackman does a fantastic job as Steel's second husband in the film and he's quite charming throughout, with the exception of his final scene, but Sarsgaard's performance is magnificent. His William Toth is both frightening and sympathetic. You feel sorry for him when his own son is ripped away from him forever but, at the same time, you feel uneasy. Sarsgaard creates an air of paranoia around his character that leads the audience to believe that he may, or may not, return to crime when he leaves prison. Emily Blunt gives a very to-the-point performance as Vickie Bane, a sleuthing journalist whose unauthorized biography of Steel creates havoc near the end of the film. She's slightly venomous but always likable, keeping in mind that she simply wants the public to know the truth. Mike Nichols' directs "Golden Gate" with a quiet flare. Early on the film is full of life and vibrant ambition as Danielle works toward her goals of wealth and fame. But near the end of the film, after she has achieved her goals and lost her son, the film becomes dark and quiet. The massive rooms of Danielle's estate, that we had seen earlier packed with people at her many parties, now stand empty. She walks quietly throughout her grand palace, all alone. A force to be reckoned with throughout the entire film, she is now just a tiny speck within her own world. She walks through the home she had made and looks at the memories with a distant gaze. Nichols tells the epic story of this woman with perfect precision. This is a long film but we're never bored. He takes us from the gritty streets of San Francisco in the 1970's, to the grand hallways of Danielle's palatial estate, and never hits a single bump along the way. We are treated to beautiful wardrobes and sets that ring back to the golden age of Hollywood. An infinitely strong female character that fights and fights to get what she wants; a modern day Scarlett O'Hara. "Golden Gate" is a love story about one person. A person too strong to love anyone but herself and her child. In the final moments of the film, after all the parties, and the people, and the riches, and the heartbreak; we see Danielle doing what she wanted to do in the very first scene of the film, where she fought with her news paper editor. She wanted to write. And here we see her doing just that. Not letting all the heartbreak stop her from being a storyteller. A storyteller whose own life could eclipse any of her own works. "Golden Gate" is her life.

Possible Nominations

Best Picture
Best Director - Mike Nichols
Best Actress - Charlize Theron
Best Supporting Actor - Peter Sarsgaard, Daniel Radcliffe
Best Supporting Actress - Emily Blunt
Best Original Screenplay - Alan Ball
Best Costume Design
Best Original Score - Gustavo Santaolalla
Best Cinematography

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