Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lucky Change, Mrs. Pollifax--Spy

This week I read Lucky Change by Susan Law Corpany. I met Susan about 4 years ago at a mutual friend's wedding, and she is one of the funniest people ever, so I wasn't surprised when I read Lucky Change and found hilarious things on every page. (Much like her earlier series, Unfinished Business, which I read when I first met her.) The story centers on a wacky, not-too-bright Mormon woman who semi-accidentally purchases a single lottery ticket--and wins $230 million. She and her children have always been the congregation's charity case, and she is thankful that now she has a chance to give back some of the good that has been done for her over the years. The pitfalls of sudden wealth are all around her. Avoiding them (for herself and her two grown children), including gold-digging suitors who come out of the woodwork, is the challenge. The dialogue and situations are so real, I felt like I knew every single person in the whole cast of the book by the 50th page, and was totally invested in them all by the end of the book, which was very uplifting, by the way. Such a worthwhile read, in spite of being light and frothy. Delightful! I can see why it was on the short list for the Whitney Awards last year.

The movie I watched this week was Mrs. Pollifax, Spy, starring Rosalind Russell and Darren McGavin. It's based on the Mrs. Pollifax books by Dorothy Gilman, of which I read the first installment and loved. The story comes to life on the screen, and I liked Russell's interpretation of the role. Very capable, and yet vulnerable. The plot is that a retired widow decides to offer herself up as a volunteer to the CIA, as she is someone no one would expect or notice--and because she is "expendible." They ultimately agree and send her on a courier mission to Mexico City. Things go awry and she ends up in an Albanian prison, with no hope of release. Some might assume the pacing would be slow, by today's standards (this was a film from the early 1960s), and maybe it was--but there was so much suspense that in a lot of places I found myself holding my breath. The portrayals of the Albanian soldiers were particularly well done. I had so much sympathy for them all. The movie does suffer in a small way, by comparison to the book, in that the book makes the Mrs. Pollifax character slightly more noble than the simple "bored widow" -- in the book's first three pages, Mrs. Pollifax is standing atop the roof of her apartment building ready to leap when she decides she's being wasteful, and if she's completely expendible, she should at least donate her life to some greater good, which motivates her to contact the CIA. This pathos-inspiring moment is left out of the movie, and it suffered a bit for the exclusion. However, still a fun watch while folding Mount Laundrius this week. 3 1/2 stars/5.

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