Fun Home is the show that managed to bring audiences to tears night after night during its run on Broadway at the Circle in the Square theater. I remember seeing the show by doing standing room, and I just stood up at the top of the theater and cried as I watched Alison Bechdel’s life unfold before me. And now, Jake Gyllenhaal is set to bring the story to life with his production company while starring as Bruce Bechdel (Alison’s father).
Breaking:#JakeGyllenhaal production company developing film of @TheTonyAwards winning musical #FunHome by @KronLisa & @JeanineTesori based on @AlisonBechdel ‘s memoir.#SamGold to direct . Gyllenhaal to play Bruce Bechdel , Ms.Bechdel’s father . pic.twitter.com/zlbFOBQQY9
— Baz Bamigboye (@BazBam) January 2, 2020
Here’s the thing about Fun Home: It’s going to be very hard to adapt for film. The show, which was performed in the round, is very much centered in a somewhat bare set as the story itself brings to life Bruce Bechdel’s home and Alison’s work. So, how is that going to work as a movie while going back and forth between the three different Alisons?
Set in the Bechdel Funeral Home, the musical cuts back and forth between Alison’s life as a child to her coming out in college, and all of it is narrated by an older Alison Bechdel, who is drawing cartoons of the story she’s telling. Throughout it all, Alison is learning about herself throughout her life while realizing (after the fact) that her father is gay but not out.
The show starts with Bechdel explaining that her father, Bruce, was also gay and killed himself rather than talking to his daughter and family about it. The show, while about Alison’s acceptance of herself and understanding her father, also focuses time on the importance of communication.
Throughout the musical, Bruce’s life is hinted towards with relationships he had and the “secrets” that Bruce and Helen Bechdel had. The show gets to a point when college Alison comes home after her father comes out, ready to talk with her dad, and her mother reveals everything she knew (despite the fact that Bruce points out that everyone in town knew he was gay and that it was, somehow, Helen’s fault for keeping secrets).
Alison asks her mother how she did it, and Helen begins to sing the song “Days and Days,” basically pointing out that she pretended for her family. She tells Alison that she’s not allowed to move home, wanting her daughter to live her life in the way that she never could, which then leads into my favorite part of the entire show.
The Alison who is narrating the story comes into the musical as part of the scene, the first time she really does so, and is in the car with her father remembering their last drive together. The song, which is entitled “Telephone Wire,” tells the story of their drive and how neither are really speaking to one another, but rather at each other. Alison begs herself to talk to him, to open up about their similarities and their relationship, but as history states, she does not. And despite her desire to go back and open up, communicate with him, she doesn’t, and her father goes on to kill himself.
And so, again, I go back to what Gyllenhaal is going to do with director Sam Gold to bring this story to life onscreen. There is a beauty to this story that comes from the simplicity of the staging. Watching these characters interact with each other without the worry of these elaborate sets, just focusing on the tragic nature of their story? It hits you even harder when Bruce Bechdel stands in front of, seemingly, nothing and waits to take his own life in “Edges of the World.”
To be honest, if the movie found a way to bring the magic of the bare stage presenting the necessary set pieces from “nowhere” and didn’t have to change the story into something linear, I’d be happy. Going back and forth between all three of the Alisons while showing her own discoveries along with her father gives a weight to the story that I think is necessary, so it’ll be interesting to see how they manage to bring it to life in a new way and keeping that weight to the film.
All this to say I’m very excited about a Fun Home movie could be, and I hope that it’s something that brings justice to the beauty of the stage musical.
(image: Marvel Entertainment)
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