In September last year Ice Cream Man broke news about a film in development titled The Giant’s House that had Rupert Grint’s name attached to it. Regrettably, Mr Marvin Acuna with “Acuna Entertainment” informed us that Rupert was involved with this project but he was not able to commit, due to his busy schedule (which was made even busier by the Half-Blood Prince delay and the Deathly Hallows split). Mr Acuna said that they were quite disappointed and really looked forward to working with Rupert. Since then, the project has been put on hold and it is unknown if/when it will be reactualised. Nevertheless, our very own AJ has read the best selling novel by author Elizabeth McCracken that the film was supposed to be based on, and reviewed it below. The review contains major spoilers, so you’ll get familiar with the plot and the relationship between two protagonists, James Sweatt (whom Rupert was supposed to portray) and Peggy Cort (Niv Campbell was attached to this role). Feel free to comment on this book-should-have-been-turned-into-movie and whether it would have been a good role for Rupert.
The Giant’s House: A Romance by Elisabeth McCracken
Paperback, Harper Perennial, 1997
ISBN-10: 0380730200; ISBN-13: 978-0380730209
– Peggy Cort: A librarian in a small tourist attraction town of Cape Cod. She’s given up on love, she’s a bit plain and lonely. The book is written from her point of view, as if she’s telling a story of her past.
– James Sweatt: A young boy/man who has giantism. He likes to read and do card tricks. He likes to paint and take photographs. He dreams of traveling to places, like New York (which he gets to do) and Boston. Although he is very tall (growing to be about 8’4″) and attracts a lot of attention for it, he’s not treated too negatively, he has friends and folks like to visit him.
– Missus (Mrs. Sweatt): James’ mother. She’s dedicated her life to caring for James. But, I think she’s always had mental health issues as well. She’s an alcoholic, but she’s not mean or violent, she’s just sad.
– Caroline and Oscar Strickland: They are James’ aunt and uncle on his father side (who is pretty much non-existent… well, until the very end.) They are good people who love their nephew and even though James’ father left his wife and child years earlier, they took it upon themselves to care for them.
– There are some other characters that come in and out of the picture, but these are the most important.
Plot: The story is told through rememberances of Peggy Cort in three parts. The first parts discusses how she got in with James and his family. In the beginning, she pretty much dislikes people. She doesn’t think of them as anything beyond library patrons. However, I think she longs to be loved, appreciated and needed. She loves how the people NEED her to help them find books, and it makes her feel special when SHE has the answer to their inquiries. One day, James comes into the library. She notices his height (he was a kid, but already taller than a grown man.) He liked getting books out about magic tricks. This went on for some time, he needed a book about a topic, she’d help him. Until, one day, he’d stop showing cause he injured himself. His mother, Missus, came in to get books for him. Peggy would inquire about him, even offering to take books to him, but the Missus would just get the books. Eventually, Peggy invited herself over and met James’ family. She decided that she liked it there, so in a way, made it a point to become closer to them. James isn’t in the first part of the book much. He’s always out with his friends. During this time Peggy gets to know his mother (who’s a bit tragic) and his aunt and uncle (who brighten up the story a bit.)
Peggy has become close to the family, and then one day Missus takes her pills with her alcohol and wanders outside, and while trying to help her back inside, they fall and she hits her head and James hurts his leg (he’s very fragile, therefore, the smallest injury means months in the hospital for him.) While James is in the hospital, Missus dies from her injuries and no one tells him the entire time he’s in the hospital. This is when Peggy DECIDES that she loves him and that she’s pretty much dedicated to him. She and the Stricklands decide to build him his own house in the back of their house that is scaled for him. It has all of the amenities except a working kitchen and bathroom.
By the time he’d come home, he knew that his mother had died, even though they tried to keep it from him.
So, from this point on, much of the book is about him being in his house and having visitors (his teenage friends and tourists) come to his home. Meanwhile, although 10-11 years older, Peggy is becoming drawn to him, spending much of her time either working or catering to him. He gets a minor crush on this one girl, Stella, and though it pains Peggy, she encourages him a bit. Stella likes James as a friend, but she gets engaged and then married to another man.
James can’t buy his stuff at stores, he has to get his shoes made, his clothes ordered, etc. So, in order to make some money, he goes to a meet and greet at the store that makes his shoes. However, when they wanted to measure him for another pair of shoes, they discovered that his feet were infected (he can’t even feel things in his feet or legs, so he didn’t know.) The shoe store WAS going to send him to New York to a trade show to represent them, but after that, they didn’t want him and they didn’t have the heart to tell him (he’d been looking forward to it.)
James had been given offers by circus shows like Barnum and Bailey to join them, but he didn’t want to. But, finally, he did a small engagement with Barnum, so he could visit New York. He had a nice time (and took Peggy with him.) Met his circus partner, a really small lady, who told him that he should get married, thus causing him to haphazardly ask Peggy to marry him. There’s also this drunk guy in a restaurant (who becomes important later.)
When he gets home (back to being a tourist attraction in his house), he decides that he wants to go to Boston. He and Peggy have one moment together one night. (They’d been told by a Doctor who studied Giantism, that James wouldn’t be much use sexually.) Basically, they spooned and he held her hip and her breast.
That’s it, and then a week later after walking out of a store, he collapsed in the street, but refused to go to the doctor. They take him home, where he just kept getting worse and he died in his sleep. He had an infection in his leg because of the brace he wore digging in his leg (remember, he couldn’t feel things in his leg) and it led to pneumonia. After his death, they continued his house as a museum.
Part three, James’ father comes back, asking about an inheritance. (He was the drunk guy in the restaurant in New York…. but didn’t introduce himself as such). Of course, the Stricklands (his family) have no words for him. So, he bothers Peggy at work, asking questions about his son, for something like a picture of his. They meet and go to her house, where they end up having sex and she gets pregnant (of course, he leaves immediately, and she didn’t expect anything less.) So, she passes off the baby as… James’ baby. The End.
Okay, I have to think of it in its three parts. Part one, it started slow. It was mainly about Peggy and to me, her need to belong, even when she said she didn’t WANT to belong. It helped to establish a relationship with the family. You got to know about James’ mother, who as I said before, seemed a bit tragic. I think she held guilt over her son being so tall and knowing that even though she’d probably take all of the pain away if she could, couldn’t really do much for him. She was a bit overprotective, but wasn’t depressive over him. The Stricklands were a lovely, lively couple who loved their nephew and the two children they ended up having. I really didn’t get a feeling for James in this first part.
Part Two, after James’ mother died, Peggy spends more time around him. One thing that I liked, was that it wasn’t like Beauty and the Beast. For the most part, James was a nice guy. He had school friends, the town’s people liked him. Sure, he was considered an oddity, but he was engaging enough that people would sit down and talk to him. And he often corresponded with some tourist long after they’d gone (like Patty Flood.) The only sad part about him was that he kept growing, so his body was giving out on him. When he was younger, he was tall, but could play baseball, but as he got older, he needed a brace and a cane, couldn’t dance with a pretty girl if he wanted to. He’d become too big for things like cars (Peggy bought a car and had a seat removed so he could sit in it.) He had trouble doing simple things like walking and he couldn’t feel his lower limbs, so he didn’t even know when there were infections.
Regarding his relationship with Peggy, the story was told from her point of view, so we really didn’t know what HE thought about her romantically. He had had a brief crush on Stella, (even asking Peggy to help him with it…), but when she got married and he went to her wedding, he decided to let it go (nothing worst than unrequited love.)
Peggy always talked about how much she loved him (to herself that is.) But, I don’t even know if that was romantic. I personally think (and it becomes clearer to me in the third part) that it was NEED. Personally, I think she NEEDED to have purpose. She needed to take care of him. And when he died, she felt as if she had no purpose.
While at the hotel in New York (they shared adjoining rooms), he asked her if she wanted to get married? But, not in a way, like he was asking her hand, but more of, you’re a girl, do you want something like that, cause that’s what girls want. (However, he was only 20 and he KNEW his days were numbered.) She was thinking yes, but she didn’t want to say it, cause she didn’t want him to think he should marry her, because that’s what girls do.
But, I still don’t know if the love was romantic (in terms of the way, we would think of it), or just a sad kind of romantic way. Cause, he was going to die and he hadn’t had some experiences in life, like a true love. She even kissed him, because he had never been kissed. But, a week later he died.
Part Three: OK, this part FLOORED me. I was all like, this book isn’t too bad, I rather liked it, and then I read part three. Guess who comes walsing back into town two months after his son dies? Mr. Sweatt…. wanting something from his son.
I said before what happened between Peggy and him, but the two of them having sex totally invalidated everything that had happened in the book for me. Oh sure, she felt stupid about it. But, this leaves me thinking, ok, she’s just crazy and lonely.
I go back and think about everything that’s happened. Peggy manipulates her way into their lives. She purposely stops giving Mrs. Sweatt books James would find interesting and then looks up his address so she can worm her way over there. He wasn’t even 18 yet when in her mind she was in love with him. (She wasn’t thinking too much about him in naughty ways, but she wasn’t getting none, so it had crossed her mind a bit.)
Two months after James dies, she slept with his father (who had pretty much abandoned his family), she even though for a moment that she LOVED him (just for one day.)
She immediately tells another library employee (who loves to gossip), that it’s James’ baby, so that the rumor can spread. Even though the baby came out 10 months later (he died 2 months before she got pregnant), no one questioned it (cause it wasn’t supposed to be possible.)
In the end, Peggy is happy, because in her mind, she still has a piece of James; as far as she’s concerned, it’s James’ genes, so it’s James’ baby. And all lived happily ever after, the end. Anyway, she wasn’t an evil mean manipulative character, but in the end, I think she was mental and lonely and she never suffered any consequences (even internally) for her actions. Everything throughout the book just sort of happened, and let’s move on. Mother dies, okay, moving right along; even James’ death felt that way.
I think Peggy did love James. She did practically give her self to him as far as being his companion and doing things for him. That’s why the ending just ruined the rest of the book up for me — somehow it invalidated the entire book.
To be honest, much of the problem is with the author. She put stuff out there, and even though she’s writing from Peggy’s point of view, she never let Peggy go over too much the motivations of her actions. So, to be fair to Peggy, I’ll try to interpret her motivations (even though her actions were wrong.)
Before James died, Peggy invested everything in him. She even said before, that it was easy to fall in love with James because she knew he was dying. She could pour everything she had into him, because she knew that she was a selfish person, and that in a normal relationship, after years of marriage, she’d get bored (or something to that extent.)
However, when he died, her purpose was gone. She was empty again. (James even told her, the night that they “slept” together, that she lived vicariously through him.)
I was disappointed that she even agreed to talk with Mr. Sweatt cause his own sister wanted nothing to do with him. Peggy intended to be rude to him, but he was putting on the charm and I don’t think initially she knew THAT was going to happen. I think Peggy was an empty vessel without James around. And here was his father (oh sure, he’d abandoned him, but a physical link to James), and also, here’s a man in her apartment (and she ain’t had none in ages), and he’s touching her hand and stuff that she isn’t used to. And one thing led to another…..
The next morning, she regretted it and cried about it. She was depressed about it, guilty. But, when she found out she was pregnant, she just claimed it as James’ baby. (She couldn’t say that she slept with his father, now could she…) I think in her mind, she was maintaining a piece of James (James himself from what the doctors said, wouldn’t have been able to impregnate her.) In her mind, she was married to James (the first posthumous marriage, as she called it) and that was their child.
Because the story is told from Peggy’s perspective, we don’t know that much of what goes on in James’ mind. He is very smart, straightforward and aware. He knew his mother was dead well before they told him and was upset that they didn’t just come out with it. He knew that he was going to die young without having had many of the experiences that others his age would have and he resigned himself to it.
I think he loved Peggy (she was always there for him, definitely his best friend). I don’t know if he was in love with her, because he just wasn’t, or he just came to terms that he’d never be able to do anything for someone he was in love with. Even Peggy said that her love for James wasn’t sexual. It was a lot more to her.
So, Peggy is definitely not a bad person, but the author made it okay for her to think that she could do what she did. And we will never know what James would have thought. I think he wouldn’t have gotten too upset with her being with another man (he couldn’t give her anything in that respect), but I don’t think he’d be okay if it was his father. (We don’t even get into how he felt about his father, because James told Peggy not to ask.)
So, don’t hate Peggy, pity her maybe.
What I think about Rupert’s potential for this role?
The question shouldn’t be whether Rupert could play this role, (based solely on the character’s personality and ignoring the Giantism), but whether him playing this role would enable him to exercise his acting skills? Would we have seen something new that would stretch him as a performer?
Before I answer that, the one thing I liked about Peggy and James is their conversations. Though short, they were interesting back and forths. And one thing I’d really like to see Rupert do is to have a conversation in a film. Harry Potter has never really allowed for that.
Now to answer the question, I think personality wise, Rupert could play this character. However, that is not what I think he needs right now. Not saying that every role he plays should be stressful and overly challenging, but I think we can leave James in the Ben Marshall file to an extent (although James is not shy and repressed like Ben.)