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There are some genres of movies that Hollywood studios do well and there are some directors who work in the current studio system and produce watchable films. Rob Riener is one of these directors. His next project may be a bit of a stretch.

This is from the Hollywood Reporter:

LOS ANGELES (The Hollywood Reporter) --- Kate Hudson is in negotiations and Robert Downey Jr. is in discussions to star in Franchise Pictures' drama "Alex and Emma" for director Rob Riener.

The project is aimed to go into production in the fall. Written by Jeremy Levin, the project is based on Feodor Dostoevski's short story The Gambler and is about a writer (Downey) and compulsive gambler who is under pressure to deliver his next novel. He hires a stenographer (Hudson) to transcribe his work and they fall in love in the process.”

It is correct that Dostoevesky dictated this short novel to a stenographer—a secretary with whom he fell in love with and married. He did so while writing Crime and Punishment and in order to fulfill an onerous contract with a rapacious publisher. It seems to be a slender framework for such an ambitious and expensive undertaking, but little else of the novel or the circumstances of its production could be used in a work aimed at the mulitplex at the local mall.

At one point, for example, Dostoevesky, having received some money from a publisher moved his family to Germany so he would have easier access to the roulette wheel. They reached a point where he left Anna penniless and pregnant in a hotel room for which they hadn’t paid and pawned her earrings to “try to catch up” at the casino.

According to one critic The Gambler is a small masterpiece in terms of social realism: a Balzacian picture of pride, cynicism, greed and of seedy Russians abroad.” (Albert J. Guerard, The Triumph of the Novel)

The Gambler has been subjected to the usual Freudian and Marxist interpretations—the only really notable thing about them is that the Freudian slant on it was written by old Sigmund himself. Which doesn’t make it any more or less correct, of course, but does give it pride of place among critical essays. Something like a Christian interpretation written by St. Paul or a Jewish one by Moses.

Dostoevesky was addicted to gambling—it was one of the many very dark aspects of his personality. He wrote to his wife that he was “a man devoured by the passion for gambling” after he had lost all the money he could borrow and beg, including train fare back to St. Petersburg she had sent him. Alexei, the protagonist and narrator of The Gambler shares many of the traits of his creator. He is impulsive bordering on irrational, is willing to defy the social hierarchy to bring attention to himself and is in the thrall of forces he feels he is unable to control.

Whether Reiner bases his movie on the novel, the circumstances of its composition or (most likely) a combination of both, he will have a very difficult task.

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