>>Finally got around to it: June 2013
“Just about every actor in this city who’s worth a shit has something on their résumé that I don’t have. And I’m not stopping until I get it.”
“A part on a show that I can one hundred percent say I’m right for.” She takes a deep breath and narrows her eyes and says, slowly and deliberately, “I won’t quit until I get something on my favorite show: Law and Order.”
“You’ve never been on Law and Order?” I say, surprised. “But you’re perfect for it…”
“I know. I’m even Irish and Italian. Who knows cops and criminals better?”
“So, why? You haven’t auditioned for them, or…?”
“People known for being on the most ridiculed talking animal show of the last decade sometimes have a hard time being taken seriously.”
“But that was eight years ago!” I say, indignant.
“Funny thing about this business,” she says a little sadly. “It’s hard to tell ahead of time what they’ll forget and what they’ll remember.”
January 1995: with six months left on a self-set three-year deadline, Frances “Franny” Banks needs to get her life in order. Franny’s an aspiring actress desperate to kick her bad habits to the curb and do something with her career beyond basic commercial work and waitressing a day a week at a club where she’s neither valued or respected. Following a semi-successful showcase performance, Franny is approached by two very different opportunities for representation: the shiny, illustrious Absolute Artists (and their difficult-to-read associate Joe Melville), and the past-his-prime Barney Sparks—a relic of a showman from a different time, when an agent’s boisterous delivery could be swapped with a used car salesman’s.
Of course, one already knows Franny’s decision long before she even makes it. She has some early success with Absolute Artists, but as is often the case with artistic endeavours (and coming-of-age tales), early success gives way to a startling, depressing lull in which one begins to question whether or not they’re a fluke (perfectly exemplified by the amusing calendar inserts between certain chapters that go from being nearly empty, to quickly overfilling with meetings and possibilities, to being near empty again, filled instead with nervous scribblings of horses and balloons and Franny’s own name and signature written any number of ways). And like the most successful artists out there, it’s only once the shine of early excitement has worn off and the dull, dead eyes of reality are again staring down at Franny, her self-imposed deadline inching ever closer as love and career pitfalls become increasingly apparent, that she is able to eschew expectations and see clearly what she needs to do if she’s to find success.
Someday, Someday, Maybe hits all the notes of your standard romantic comedy—love triangles (and quadrangles), misplaced affections, learning that special someone is right under your nose the whole time but you just don’t want to admit it!—but its strong lead character and often-comical self-awareness separate it from the competition in what is an admittedly crowded playing field.
Author Lauren Graham (best known for her seven-year stint as Lorelei Gilmore on Gilmore Girls) does a great job peppering the landscape of 1995 New York with enough timely identifiers—such as Reebok Hi-Tops, Dep hair gel (holy crap I used a lot of that gunk in high school), fax machines, and cassette-based answering machines—without overwhelming readers with a litany of “remember when” moments. Her biggest stumbling block as a writer comes from an overuse of adjectives to tell us what’s happening instead of allowing the language and events to say what needs to be said. The result is a book of split-confidences: high confidence in her knowledge of the world on display, but not enough confidence in the characters and their actions.
Speaking of the world on display, this is where Someday, Someday, Maybe really comes into its own. From the very beginning it’s clear Graham is having a fantastic time sending-up your basic film- and television-industry stereotypes: from neurotic casting directors and over-the-top agents, to peacocking classmates desperate to seem so completely and utterly perfect for every part in order to build a résumé that will get them noticed by the public, the media, and decision makers alike. The most enjoyable of these personalities are the aforementioned Barney Sparks, who stops just short of shouting “I’m gonna make you a STAR!”, and one of Franny’s classmates, Charlie, who exudes a little too much Tobias Fünke for his own good (though, thankfully, without the unsettling sexual double entendres).
As one might expect from a former Gilmore Girls actress—and indeed from almost anything Graham’s done—the banter is often the star of each scene. For the most part it is hit and miss: Franny’s back-and-forth with her father is always spot-on, but her conversations with her best friend Jane felt, even in the very beginning, to be a bit stilted and overly manicured for cleverness, as if a wall had been erected between the two friends but neither one was willing to acknowledge its existence. The awkwardness between Franny and Jane never came across as competitiveness, but more as if their friendship was something that had naturally run its course.
My primary complaint with Someday, Someday, Maybe, beside the previously mentioned overuse of certain language, is that many of the beats felt telegraphed from a mile away: which agency Franny chooses in the beginning, knowing full well that she’ll find her way to the “right” one in the end; how Dan feels about her and where that relationship is likely to head; James and his effed-up priorities. However, in spite of these quibbles, Franny’s push for stardom won me over. Part of that, I’m sure, is that I felt a certain kinship with her. For a year now I’ve been pushing to survive entirely as a freelance writer and editor. Giving up a regular, reliable paycheque to follow a dream is a terrifying, frequently nauseating, but also exciting thing that I’m still getting a feel for. And when the money coming in isn’t on a specific day, when you’ve got to push and push for any job that might give you a paying opportunity while balancing all that with the work you need to be doing both for your soul and the career you truly desire, it becomes easy to ignore the sheer amount you’re getting done and to look instead only to what isn’t happening. And like with Franny, it’s the people surrounding you in those times who can help point at all you’ve accomplished and get you to take a breath and appreciate how far uphill you’ve managed to climb that make all the difference in the world. In that sense, it was difficult for me to feel anything but affection for this overly neurotic hopeful.
Someday, Someday, Maybe doesn’t do anything to reinvent to rom-com wheel. It relies on a formula that is never offensive and often predictable, but redeems any lacking structural originality through a realistic, sweet, and very relatable protagonist—one you desperately want to succeed. And of course you know she will, somehow, in some way. That knowledge, that assuredness, is why I appreciate Graham’s ending most of all—because it stops just short of finishing that journey and giving Franny her stardom with unbridled success and love and everything you’d expect this sort of story to truck out in the end. Graham instead exhibits a wonderful bit of restraint, leaving the end on a slightly ambiguous note—like a singer taking in a deep breath just before her solo is about to begin.