I haven’t read Michael Hornburg’s Downers Grove, but I can’t think of a writer better suited to adapting the author’s much-reviled novel than Bret Easton Ellis. Generally regarded as one of his generation’s most influential writers, Ellis certainly endured his share of critical slings and arrows before earning a grudging acceptance in the 1990s with Glamorama. Back in 1985, Mary Jo Salter of The New York Times dismissed his audacious, half-brilliant/half-garbage Less Than Zero thusly: “The novelist is only 21 years old and has precociously fashioned, despite an obvious stylistic indebtedness to writers from Hemingway to Joan Didion, a tone so distant that he almost seems to write by remote control.”
Sifting through the mostly caustic assessments of Hornburg’s novel at Amazon, it sounds like Hornburg is tapping into something equally off-putting with Downers Grove. The Hollywood Reporter tersely describes the narrative as concerning “a paranoid high school senior for whom graduating has become a matter of life or death”. Sounds like a Heathers homage, right? Well, what that logline leaves out are certain salient details like the name of the protagonist (Crystal Methedrine Swanson) and the particulars of her life or death struggle (she’s being stalked by a jock whom she beat up mid-rape). Oh, and her school is plagued by an annual tragedy which randomly claims the life of some unlucky member of the senior class.
Don’t take my word for it: go read the reviews and tell me this isn’t fertile ground for a nihilistic, pop cultural-obsessed writer like Ellis. I run more cold than hot with Ellis’s writing, but if there’s a worthwhile film to be made from this material, he’s probably the guy to find it. Personally, I’d love to see the wonderful Roger Avary get his adaptation of Glamorama going. Maybe one of these days.
Mangrove Entertainment is producing Downers Grove. Jason Dubin and Oren Segal will produce.