I like what I’m hearing so far about Gus Van Sant’s Milk but I’m not sure what I’m seeing yet. That is, what the Christ is DUSTIN LANCE BLACK? Those capital letters only barely represent the man’s magnificence. Our posting system doesn’t have a font elephantine enough to really do the job. If you’ve seen the film’s wonderful trailer you can’t miss the screenwriter’s credit card, which is bigger than Mark Strong’s ego is going to be after he catalogues all the notices he’s getting for Body of Lies and RockNRolla.
That Black would re-team with Van Sant to adapt Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is old news (it first filtered through the trades last summer) but now Fox Searchlight has dumped a small bag of money on the desk the two share at the back of a cafe in the Castro. That makes it officially a go, or at least a certifiable stumble towards a start.
Tom Wolfe’s 1968 book, his first major example of New Journalism, is the story of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters as they take an acid-fueled road trip in the day-glo school bus called Furthur. The New Journalism aspect is important because Wolfe didn’t take part in the Pranksters’ druggy festivities. Unlike Kesey’s friend Hunter Thompson, who chronicled the group in Hell’s Angels, Wolfe was an official voyeur, and the conflict between manic recitation of their adventures and his own more reserved observations make the book what it is. So beyond the question of who Van Sant will cast as Kesey (and on that front I’m reassured by what he’s done in Milk) is the question of how he and Black will adapt the book. Do we get a pure dramatic recreation of events, or will the duo take a stab at Wolfe’s style?