Get a 'Room' with Emma Donoghue and Brie Larson
BY DONNA FREYDKIN
Elizabeth Smart. Michelle Knight. Gina DeJesus. Michelle Berry.
Women kidnapped by men, held captive, and eventually released, whether through pluck and luck, dogged detective work, or some combination thereof, make news the world over.
We can't wrap our heads around their lives. What happens when someone is locked in a basement or a shack or a bunker, a place without light or air, trapped and raped and victimized, and then suddenly -- freed? It's a question explored by Irish author Emma Donoghue in her 2010 novel "Room," which became a literary phenomenon and was nominated for the Orange and Man Booker prizes.
Not that she's complaining, but recognition came at a cost. "Publicity got way more demanding when that happened. My life was pretty quiet. I have to say, success was a bit startling," she says. "My book tours got a lot more demanding."
Donoghue was loosely inspired by the horrific and headline-making Fritzl case, in which Elisabeth Fritzl was held captive by her father, Joseph, for 24 in a hidden basement area of the family abode in Austria. Elisabeth gave birth to seven children, all the product of incest.
"All I took from it was the notion of growing up in a locked room. There are so few of these cases," she says.
And she penned her first-ever script for "Room," the film adaptation of her book. It's been delivering solid numbers in very limited release and goes wider each week through Nov. 13.
In the film, we first meet Jack (Jacob Tremblay), who's just turned five. His ma (Brie Larson) is his sun, moon and stars, his playmate, his dentist, his nutritionist, his trainer, and to some extent, his jailer. She plots their escape from Old Nick, the man who grabbed her when she was 17, and against every odd, they're freed. But then -- what? Rainbows and hugs and kisses give way to desperation, depression and maladjustment.
The film has dazzled critics, has a 94 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is a contender come Oscar time. At its core, says Donoghue, the movie "is about the child seeing the world for the first time."
To cast Larson, "We watched every film starring a woman between 20 and 30. There's such a lot of talent in that category. We saw her in 'Short Term 12,' and we thought she could do this. She's so loose and relaxed."
Larson and Tremblay spent days in their room. "They made the crafts you see in the film. They were intimate in the space. You can't make a child turn on the warmth. She put three weeks into it. They were like conspirators right through the filming. They were buddies," says Donoghue.
So if Donoghue and Larson were trapped somewhere together, who'd take charge in plotting their escape?
"She'd be way more of a leader," says Donoghue. "She'd be an extremely useful person to be locked in a room with. She doesn't think too much of herself. She's hardworking. Brie wrote teenage diaries for her character. She poured herself into this character."
We're guessing the movie will make quite the splash come awards time.
See more memories from Oscar season below.