Heartland 2020: Eat Wheaties!

OK, maybe this isn’t exactly a review. I’m not sure what it is. But here goes anyway. 

Way back when — when I was editing the late, lamented Indy Men’s Magazine — I received an email from Julia Spaulding. 

Here’s what you need to know about Julia: She’s got taste, a great sense of humor and an outstanding laugh. One of the funniest evenings of my life was spent hanging out with her and [Lou avoids name-dropping a reasonably famous comedian] and [Lou avoids name-dropping a known-to-cool-people actress]. What a fun night that was!

Julia had moved from Indy to Los Angeles. But even from a distance, she proved to be one of IMM’s biggest writing assets. 

But this isn’t about Julia. She’s just the spark.

After attending an author event in L.A., Julia sent me the aforementioned email asking me if she could write about a book called The Locklear Letters. She said the author was hilarious at the event and the book turned out to be one of the funniest things she’d ever read. I gave her the OK.

We ran a short review in IMM, I also read the book, and yes, it was one of the funniest books I’d ever read. I don’t usually laugh out loud at books. I did at The Locklear Letters. And I shared it so many times I honestly have no idea who still has my copy. 

The Locklear Letters is about Sid Straw, a guy who proves consistently to be his own worst enemy — until he isn’t. When Straw finds himself on the reunion committee for his college, he reaches out to a former classmate, Heather Locklear, to see if she’ll be attending. Misadventures follow, all told through letters.

Anyway, shortly after Julia’s review was published I received a very gracious email from the book’s author, Michael Kun. Being an editorial opportunist, I responded and asked if Kun had any previously unpublished stories sitting in his drawer since IMM published original fiction each month.

Over the next few years, I bought a batch of stories from Kun, included him in IMM’s book anthology The Xmas Men and assigned him to write a travel piece about his honeymoon.

(Side note: On my editorial bucket list was a travel package that included destination pieces on the three spots that the Brady Bunch visited. I never had the budget to send a writer to Hawaii but Kun was going anyway — so I assigned him a story, sent another writer to the Grand Canyon and took the IMM crew to Kings Island. Some dreams do come true.)

Somewhere in that mix, Kun told me The Locklear Letters had been optioned for a feature film but he really didn’t think it would ever get made.

Flash-forward something like 15 years. In that time, Michael — I’m calling him Michael now because by this time we had become good friends — had written a stack of other very good books — including one that included the pieces he wrote for IMM.

After reading one of those books — We Are Still Tornadoes, co-written with Susan Mullen — I begged Michael to let me adapt it into a play. Eventually we sorted out permission, and the play had its college premiere at Butler University and an industry reading in New York before the world collapsed. Michael attended both.

Before the pandemic, though, The Locklear Letters actually had defied Hollywood odds and been turned into a movie. 

The new title? Eat Wheaties!

That film, adapted and directed by Scott Abramovitch, is opening film festivals around the country, including the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis.

Given all of this, do you trust me to write a review? Really? Be honest. 

I’m not sure if I would if I were you. After all, you (likely) don’t really know me. But I (probably) don’t really know you, either. So we’re (almost certainly) even. I’m not sure what that means.

Anyway, for what it’s worth, Eat Wheaties! is one of my favorite films this year. Honestly.

It’s got the cringe-laughs of a good episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm but with a sweet, gentle heart beating inside it. It’s got a terrific cast of familiar faces who most folks might still need a credit listed to fully recall, including Tony Hale (Veep), Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell), Sarah Chalke (Scrubs), Alan Tudyk (Firefly) and Danielle Brooks (Orange is the New Black).

It’s smartly updated — subbing Elizabeth Banks for Heather Locklear and replacing the book’s letters with Facebook — but somehow maintains the DNA of the novel. And it’s got one of the most satisfying endings of any movie I’ve seen in ages.

In a cinematic world of superheroes and downer dramas (not that I have anything against superheroes and downer dramas), Eat Wheaties! is a balm. I almost wrote that it’s “da balm” but that would be cringe-y.

We all, I think, are a little bit Sid Straw. Which is another reason why I treasure this little gem of a film. I’ll sign off now.

Fondly,

Lou

P.S. Hi, Michael.

P.P.S.Hi, Julia. 


The 29th Annual Heartland Festival will be held October 8-18, 2020, with both virtual and drive-in screening options. Eat Wheaties! is the opening night film. Check out the official website for screening times and ticket information. 


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About

Lou Harry’s more than 40 books include Creative Block, The High-Impact Infidelity Diet: a novel, the recently released Little Book of Misquotations, and the novelization of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. His produced plays include Midwestern Hemisphere and Popular Monsters, and his podcast, Lou Harry Gets Real, can be heard via Apple podcasts, Stitcher and Spotify. He is Chair of the New Play committee for the American Theatre Critics Association and serves as editor of Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists. Follow him on Twitter @louharry and / or visit www.louharry.com


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