Terry McMillan’s "A Day Late And A Dollar Short" Acquired For Lifetime TV Movie Adaptation

by Tambay A. Obenson
September 20, 2011 11:15 AM
30 Comments
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Terry McMillan’s 2001 bestselling novel A Day Late And A Dollar Short, has been acquired by Ostar Productions to produce as a movie for Lifetime television.

Stephen Tolkin, primarily a TV director, will direct the 2-hour movie special, from a script adapted, not by McMillan, but by Shernold Edwards, also a TV-heavy talent.

Synopsis according to Publisher's Weekly:

Viola Price is the truth-telling, trash-talking Las Vegas matriarch at the center of McMillan's eagerly awaited new novel. As the book begins, Viola is in the hospital recovering from a devastating asthma attack, and she's decided to turn her life around, even if it means causing her large, unruly clan a little discomfort. Lewis, Viola's only son, is a drifter, handicapped both by his genius IQ and his alcoholism. Janelle, the youngest child, is perpetually searching for the perfect career, while ignoring signs that her 12-year-old daughter is in trouble. Viola's relationship with her perpetually angry middle daughter, Charlotte, is so volatile that Charlotte periodically hangs up in the middle of phone conversations, while Paris, Viola's eldest, appears to be brilliantly successful, but is actually desperately lonely and has developed a dependency on pills to maintain her superwoman act. To add to the confusion, Cecil, Viola's husband of 40 years, has moved in with his girlfriend, Brenda, a welfare mother pregnant with a child that may or may not be his. The story of how the family puts it back together is told from the perspective of all six main characters, and McMillan moves easily and skillfully from voice to voice. The characters are not entirely sympathetic; like Viola, McMillan (How Stella Got Her Groove Back) doesn't sugarcoat; the truth; but knowing their weaknesses does make their acts of courage all the more meaningful. This is a moving and true depiction of an American family, driven apart and bound together by the real stuff of life: love, loss, grief, infidelity, addiction, pregnancy, forgiveness and the IRS. Gutsier and less glitzy than How Stella Got Her Groove Back, McMillan's latest has perhaps the broadest appeal of any of her novels.

I haven't read Terry McMillan’s fifth novel, so I have nothing to say about it; anyone have?

And if you're familiar with the novel, how about some casting suggestions for the individual parts...

No ETA on when the completed film can be expected.

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30 Comments

  • Amb5150 | September 18, 2013 8:10 AMReply

    I think Jennifer Lewis would be the best Viola. As I read the book years ago the image of Jennifer Lewis always came to mind then and now. Therefore, I always thought if this were to be made into a movie she would best portray Viola.

  • Mr. Dawber | October 7, 2011 5:09 AMReply

    I read the book back in 2002, a year after it came out. Just for fun, here are my ideas for the main adult cast members:

    Viola: S. Epatha Merkerson or Alfre Woodard
    -in the book, the character's in her mid-50s, but I suppose she can be made a bit older

    Cecil: Richard Lawson or James Pickens Jr.
    -Viola married him when she was in her late teens

    Paris: Lisa Arrindell Anderson, Regina Hall or Sanaa Lathan

    Lewis: Jamie Hector

    Charlotte: Robinne Lee
    -been praised since childhood for her long beautiful hair but has a long-held complex about being dark-skinned

    Janelle: Nadine Ellis from BET’s Let’s Stay Together

    Al: Daniel Sunjata
    -Charlotte's Creole husband

  • CareyCarey | September 22, 2011 10:33 AMReply

    And btw artbizzy, since we're fact[in] and plain talking up in here (and slightly getting off topic), you mentioned your desire to get Andre Seewood's book. Well, if we're being open and honest up in here, I feel his writing is highly pretentious. Not only that, he uses too many absolute statements and presents his opinions as facts to support his premise/bases of his suppositions, which instantly turns me off. Is he a good writer, yes. Is his sentence structure tight, yes. But I believe he takes the reader for granted... if you know what I mean.

  • CareyCarey | September 22, 2011 10:09 AMReply

    artbizzy, I would suggest reading MiddleMyatt's last comment one more time... slow and easy. I'm not trying to be funny nor condescending but basically, it seems like your changing, or mistakeningly using the word in the wrong context.

    For example, I love "plain talk" authors like Walter Moseley and William Faulkner and Ernest Gaines, however, a writer like Morrison is not "pretentious", her "writing" (in the opinion of some) can sometimes be pretentious, based solely on the definition of the word.

    I get the whole literary elite vs. fluff stuff, and "entertainment" vs. "quality" debates, but we're not there.

  • CareyCarey | September 22, 2011 4:57 AMReply

    Well artbizzy, I think we are still slightly apart. I didn't mean to imply that the conversation on "pretentious" didn't fit this thread. I was saying from your references/examples you seem to be saying this has more to do with a class divide, than the true meaning of the word. This is not about the haves and the have not, nor stupid vs. smart.

    So, let me break out my urban dictionary: We're up in the club chillin'... sippin' on yak and bobbin' our heads. A chick wearing a ghetto fabulous spangle dangle booty-showin'-outfit, starts bumpin' that thang off the floor like she's lady gaga. We'll, some sistahs yell out "get yo fake-ass, phony-ass, pretentious-ass off the floor"

    over the top/fake/phony/pretentious .... take your pick or mix and match, and you will not be far off (imo). This is not about Socrates nor Aristotle, nor The Peasants of Bangladesh, it's an action and anybody can do it.

  • artbizzy | September 22, 2011 3:38 AMReply

    @CareyCarey

    I hear you. Saying it plain appeals to more people. It communicates, it translates well. We can go right to the matter at hand with a Stephen King book or a Terry Mcmillan book. And it is this reason they are also so criticized by the literary elite. Harold Bloom, the litery critic can't stand J.K. Rowling and Stephen King, too I believe. Their work isn't literary enough. Google Harold Bloom's literature of the Western Canon it's of note what's on that list and what isn't.

    Okay, forgive me you all for going on like this but you got me thinking. Okay so the saying it plain thing. Though of course reasons will be personal but why are some artists motivated to not say it plain? Why do they use purple prose or weird camera angles. Why don't they just tell their damn story? Some may do it too impress but what about the others?

  • artbizzy | September 22, 2011 3:29 AMReply

    @MiddleMyatt I think there's a fine line between being pretentious the way you described and a confident, experimental artist trying something different. And yes, of coure we all can be pretentious, and that includes black folks. It all boils down to attitude I suppose. Is the work shallow though it tries too be deep and is it trying to impress those in power. I think Is ee what you mean. Any examples? Some people think Toni Morrison is pretentious or above their heads or maybe they just think she's above their heads without the attidue of being pretentious. Would Kanye West be considered pretentious? He's self-important as hell but he's also talented imo. But then there was that short film he did with the swan(it was a swan, right?) and the ballerinas. I didn't care for it too much but I respected the fact that he was trying something difference. I feel as artists we do need to cultivate self-importance because many of us feel like shit about ourselves not too mention discouraged by the film industry and overall arts in general but it can go over the edge. I guess I can respect anyone no matter what race who tries to do something different out here because they truly have something they want to say that isn't laid out the way we want it to and they are to some extent okay with that. In other words, if someone says Kanye West;s pretentious what I see is a black man who knows how hard it is as a black man in this entertainment game to make aname for himself so he has to build himself up. Anyway, I'm trying to figure it out.

    Anybody have some examples of films or books they thought were pretentious and why?

  • MiddleMyatt | September 22, 2011 2:06 AMReply

    @Artbizzy:
    Telling a story in a so-called non-traditional or poetic way is not the issue. Pretentious is pretentious.

    A more pertinent question, I believe, might center on your admitted tendency to shake your head at the mere notion of a black person creating something pretentious. What, we can't? We too busy following the unspoken mandate to "keep it real" -- a sentiment to which Terry McMillan clearly subscribes (just as much as Toni Morrison does not).

    Only a certain type of person, when they fail to comprehend or appreciate a certain work -- when they "don't getting it" -- are prone to in turn simply dismiss it as pretentious (and in actuality, that type of person rarely uses such a term, because most likely, they even don't know what it means).

    Additionally, attempting to "do something different" in a work? That shouldn't warrant the pretentious label either -- avant garde or unconventional -- but not pretentious. Self-importance, over-importance, affectedness, being forced, attempting to be overly clever, or being ostentatious -- all those elements, according to my little dictionary, are elements of pretentiousness -- of which, black writers, just like all the rest, are capable of being guilty.

  • CareyCarey | September 22, 2011 1:34 AMReply

    dang, the word should read "only" not alone.

  • CareyCarey | September 22, 2011 1:30 AMReply

    Artbizzy, I'll take a shot at your question. Now alone the person using the word "pretentious" can speak for their personal intent/reason for using the word but when I use the word I am referring to an attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually needed to express the subject at hand.

    Granted, it's the author's choice and personal decision to use whatever "vernacular" and/or sentence structure they see fit to move "their" story. They own their motives and their "voice". To some it may seem pretentious (too much information) to others it may be sweet music to their ears.

    Also, once an author is successful and/or has a defined audience, they will generally continue to write to that audiience. Why change if it's not broken... pretentious or not.

  • artbizzy | September 22, 2011 1:08 AMReply

    @ CareyCarey

    "I get the whole literary elite vs. fluff stuff, and “entertainment” vs. “quality” debates, but we’re not there."

    Oh yes we are there. At least from what this announcement regarding Terry Mcmillan brought up from commenters. Literary elite, cinematic elite. And William Faulkner was far from a straight talk writer. I love William Faulkner's writing but his style was typically so baroque. He's written some of the longest, most beautiful sentences I've ever read in my life. I know Toni Morrisson cites him as a huge influence which makes sense when you read her work.

    On Andre Seewoods writing, I don't disagree with you to some extent. His writing sounds pretty academic, intelligent and well written but he's informative. Would I call his writing pretentious? I dunno. I can see where some folks might think so but it doesn't bother me. Once again we have a class issue.

    Here's my urban dictionary defenition of Pretentious:
    Pretentious=an black person who sounds intelligent, an intelligence we often think of as belonging to white folks and may even be talking down to their audience (kind of like you telling me to read MiddleMyatt's comment real slow but your not trying to be condescending- what you think I'm an idiot, CareyCarey,lol)

    That said, I do find lots of academic writing to be pretentious. The writing says I have had the education that says I belong, I am fully assimilated into the dominant culture and other negro I am leaving you out because you didn't have access to the education that I have.

    It's not off topic to me these are valid discussions to be had on an independent Film website for anybody because we have so many people in our community afraid of sounding too intelligent or making more intelligent, thoughtful, creative films. So Pretentious or not I will get Andre Seewood's book. If I turned away from great books because they came off as effed up in some way I wouldn't be reading a lot of overall great books

  • artbizzy | September 21, 2011 12:48 PMReply

    I have a question: WHY IS A FILM OR STORY THAT'S TOLD IN A NON-TRADITIONAL WAY, OR A POETIC WAY SOMETIMES CONSIDERED PRETENTIOUS?

    I'll answer first by saying I think Andre Seewood addresses this in his posts on here. I gotta get his book, Slave Cinema. But seriously, I SMH when I hear someone say that what someone has written is pretentious especially when a black person creates it. If someone creates something and you don't get it does not (necessarliy) mean you're stupid or that writer or filmmaker person is trying to show you how smart they are it might just be because they are trying to do something different that you are not used to. Does anybody get where I'm coming from on this?

    I would really love other people's take on ths.

  • artbizzy | September 21, 2011 12:40 PMReply

    Toni Morrison is more Kasi Lemmons or Victoria Mahoney than she is Spike Lee not because their women, (although, hmmm...) but their work tends to be more poetic and Toni Morrison is quite a poetic writer and Eve's Bayou is gothic as hell and Toni Morrison is hella southern gothic. Yelling to the Sky while not so traditionally gothic in atmosphere is very poetic. But you know I guess I can see Spike too but he's always brought up. But I think I can see that Terry Mcmillan/John Singleton analogy.

    Terry Mcmillan speaks to us in everyday language and that's why she's got a large following. Not everyone has the time or inclination to read layered prose. It takes work and most people want story and meaning handed to them. I can at times appreciate both. When I take the time to read or watch a classic or something more poetic and unconventional, I am richly rewarded. It's worth it. But modern life can eff with one's attention span, if they let it.

  • MiddleMyatt | September 21, 2011 10:14 AMReply

    Just finished reading Terry's "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" (really). Oh my God -- that's all I can say. Toni to Terry? That's not even a fair comparison. Terry simply can't write; she appeals to a certain demographic, to put it quite politely, who would perhaps otherwise involve themselves with episodes of Jerry Springer instead of reading an alleged novel. Dreadful, offensive, shallow stuff -- and very poorly written to boot! Indeed, Terry McMillan is to novels what Tyler Perry is to movies! Ugh!

  • MiddleMyatt | September 21, 2011 10:12 AMReply

    @Carey-Carey: "How the dew-drops nestled inside the darkened crevices of the yellow rose"? Brother, too funny. I'm done!

  • Melissa | September 21, 2011 9:59 AMReply

    @middlemyatt

    wow. so you called her novels crappy before having ever read any?

    I am an African woman, in Uganda, and I love her work. Her and Toni Morrison both. Not to mention Alice Walker. They are famous worldwide (African American stories do sell worldwide of course).

  • CareyCarey | September 21, 2011 7:39 AMReply

    "his story about her interaction with the students is hilarious. She’s indeed snooty and rather bitchy, but talented)"

    Don't you find that to be true about most authors you meet? Not bitchy, but totally different personality AND intelligence and wisdom and speaking skills than you had invisioned.

  • B | September 21, 2011 6:14 AMReply

    "If i had to compare them to filmmakers I’d say that Toni Morrison is like Spike Lee and Teri McMillan is like John Singleton." - Great analogy. I agree.

    I like both writers, honestly, but I always prefer a good story rather than flowery words when I pick up a novel (I go to poetry for flowery language - and that's the thing, Morrison is a poetic writer, just like Spike is a very visual filmmaker). Both beautiful and very different writers for sure.

    @MiddleMyatt: you should totally give Terry a try (maybe start with her first novel "Mama"). I agree she's pretty snooty and shallow in interviews (that professor I mentioned, when he taught at Stanford, he invited her to his class after the class had read Disappearing Acts - his story about her interaction with the students is hilarious. She's indeed snooty and rather bitchy, but talented).

  • CareyCarey | September 21, 2011 5:43 AMReply

    @ Mantan man, you love it and you know it lololol


    Tweeeeeet....

  • MiddleMyatt | September 21, 2011 5:11 AMReply

    @B -- I appreciate your comments overall, and your defense of Ms. Terry's work. And I am indeed guilty as charged: been reading some Toni lately, and in all honesty (and I too have attended a few colleges, and did the English degree thing at Columbia), she leaves a lot to be desired. And so pretentious, bloated in her descriptions, and enamored with the perceived nobility in every character she constructs! Ain't read no Terry, though -- simply hopped on that hater train, admittedly. Now, I'm gonna give her work a shot -- see for myself how great a storyteller she is. (Perhaps I was biased against her work because she comes off as so shallow, with such a funky attitude, during interviews -- but, guess she can't help that, huh?)

  • artbizzy | September 21, 2011 4:28 AMReply

    @middlemyatt lmao!

    @B Interesting thoughts! Makes me think about how people always go on about how crappy a novelist Stephen King is but he's imo he's put out some gems. I really loved "Disappearing Acts" by Terry Mcmillan. I haven't checked out her work in years.

  • BluTopaz | September 21, 2011 4:16 AMReply

    I haven't read one of Terry's novels in years, glad she is still working and getting another movie adaptation is major. Surprised that it's Lifetime, I can see Alfre Woodard doing very well in the Viola role. Plus I like that the family is from a place like Las Vegas which is not typically used as a setting for a "Black" story.

    And also like B's interesting comparative analysis; not that one writer is better than the other. They are just different styles from each other.

  • B | September 21, 2011 3:42 AMReply

    McMillan is hands-down one of the best storytellers of her generation. This novel is generally viewed as her masterpiece. It is absolutely brilliant.

    As a former graduate student of English and Af Am literature, I've read a lot of crap that people hail as brilliant and classic and I've read a lot of stuff that snooty types turn their noses up at that's actually brilliant. McMillan's work falls into the latter category. I once had a black male professor reveal a dirty secret to me: that he secretly thought McMillan was the best living black female author published. I asked him, "What about Toni Morrison?" His response: "Well, as an academic I should say Morrison. Morrison creates beautiful, cinematic images and places. Academics love her. But let me just keep it real with you. McMillan's the genius storyteller and character writer." I didn't know what to say, but after reading all of McMillan's work and all of Morrison's work, well, I'll say this much: I can talk for hours about McMillan's characters and stories and never get tired of re-reading her stories.

    Anyway, sorry about the ramble and digression. Anyone who hates on this woman's work just hasn't read any of it, IMO. (fyi: Stella is absolutely her worst novel, imo. I would recommend all the others, however.)

    I'll look forward to the film, but my expectations won't be high: film adaptations of novels just never live up to the original work it seems.

  • mantan | September 21, 2011 3:13 AMReply

    Also to have to note that "Disappearing Acts" is my favorite Teri McMillan book and the film adaption was very good as well, Sana Lathan and Wesley Snipes were great.

    "Beloved" is my most favorite book, I thought the film adaption was good as well when you take in to consideration the subject matter and the complexity of the story, there's so many things/details that Toni Morrison writes about that is hard transfer on to a screen, plus people just weren't ready to see a movie about slavery and the supernatural with Oprah Winfrey in it. But Beah Richards did a great job as Baby Suggs, she took Toni Morrison's writing and gave it such great life.

    alright, enough rambling....I'm starting to sound like to CareyCarey now, lolololol....

  • mantan | September 21, 2011 2:59 AMReply

    @B i would have to agree with you and what you're professor said about Toni Morrison and Teri McMillan, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that Teri McMillan was the best living black female author living.

    Toni Morrison is one of my favorite authors and although her books aren't easy to ready and they can be a little bloated as CareCarey said and I've had to actually reread some of them several times to really get the story she still tells great stories. Stories that speak to things/people on a deeper level than I feel that Teri McMillan does but then again they do write about different things and so that needs to be taken into context when comparing one to the other.

    As far as the books and the genre that Teri writes in she is the by far the best.

    If i had to compare them to filmmakers I'd say that Toni Morrison is like Spike Lee and Teri McMillan is like John Singleton. Both great in the genres that they create in but who you think is the best depends on your taste.

  • CareyCarey | September 21, 2011 2:06 AMReply

    Re: Good writers vs. bad writers in the context of good storytelling, I have to side with MiddleMyat and I am feeling Ms. B. I’ve read all the writers in question, so I agree with Myatt that Toni is for a “select” crowd. Yep, sometimes her writing to too “flowery”, too many metaphors, too bloated and pretentious for me. I want to yell out “get on with the damn story lady, I don’t want to read 2 pages of details on how the dew-drops nestled inside the darkened crevices of the yellow rose .

    Great writer vs. great storyteller... huuummmm. I think it largely depends on the desired/normal reading pace of the reader, subject matter and sex of the reader.

    "(fyi: Stella is absolutely her worst novel, imo. I would recommend all the others, however.)"

    Yep.

  • Darla & Mark | September 21, 2011 1:49 AMReply

    God I Love that book, the character was so real you could reach out them.

  • mantan | September 21, 2011 1:43 AMReply

    sounds like the makings of a decent movie to me, i wouldn't watching it but it doesn't sound that bad.

  • JMac | September 20, 2011 12:13 PMReply

    Terry's books aren't any crappier than Danielle Steele's and at least she doesn't paint all black women with a stereotypical brush. I'd watch the movie but need to read the book first.

    Not sure how they can fit all that in a 2 hour movie.

  • MiddleMyatt | September 20, 2011 11:51 AMReply

    Great -- another crappy movie based on a crappy Terry McMillan novel! The only person truly rejoicing about this is Loretta Devine (legally, I think, such films can't be made without her!)

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