Have you Read the Book? Passing by Nella Larsen
Great books and great movies often go hand in hand. Just think of all of the films that have been adapted from books. From the many movies and TV series based on the books by Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters to The Help, Memoirs of a Geisha, Les Miserables to the BBC’s Poldark.
The streaming service Netflix has its own Book Club. It’s no surprise that the streaming giant appreciates a good book. After all, they have turned several ChickLit novels into the series and movies that we love!
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Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Virgin River by Robin Carr
Maid by Stephanie Land
Nappily Ever After by Trisha R. Thomas
The Queen’s Gambit by Walter Tevis
⭐️ Related Posts: Movie Adaptations: When Good Books Go Bad
In November the novel, Passing by Nella Larsen will be the first meeting of the Netflix Book Club.
The thought-provoking movie, filmed in black and white, has received critical acclaim at the 2021 Sundance International Film Festival. But the contrast, or maybe even conflict, is not necessarily about race (while is it a catalyst to the drama).
Based on the novel by Nella Larsen, Passing takes place in New York City in 1929. The movie follows Irene Redfield (Tessa Thompson) and Clare Kendry (Ruth Negga), two light-skinned black women who were childhood friends that met years later as adults.
Over the years, their lives have diverged in entirely different paths, living on opposite sides of the color line. So their chance meeting on the rare occasion that Irene passes as white to dine in an upscale hotel sets off a series of events and emotions that change both of their lives.
Director Rebecca Hall (Iron Man 3, The Town), who also wrote the screenplay, draws from her own bi-racial family history to tell this complex story that some modern-day audiences may not have seen before. Hall.
Passing also stars Alexander Skarsgård as Clare’s racist husband, John, and André Holland plays Irene’s husband, Brian.
What is “Passing“?
Passing: Racial passing occurs when a person classified as a member of a racial group is accepted or perceived (“passes”) as a member of another. Historically, the term has been used primarily in the United States to describe a person of color or of multiracial ancestry who assimilated into the white majority to escape the legal and social conventions of racial segregation and discrimination.– Wikipedia
Contrasting Lives in Black and White
Married to a prosperous doctor and the mother of two young sons, Irene Redfield lives in high society during the early days of the Harlem Renaissance. She goes to upscale Jazz clubs frequented by wealthy, white patrons and celebrities. She is friends with a famous author and is a benefactor of the local Negro League.
For a Black woman of her time, Irene enjoyed a relatively comfortable life with more freedoms than others of her race did not have. Even though Irene has the complexion to pass as white, she chooses to live and embrace her race.
In her efforts to pass, the fair-skinned Claire has dyed her hair blonde and is living a life of luxury in Chicago with a wealthy white man husband who has no clue about her true ethnicity, which is a good thing because he is a racist.
Claire visits Irene in her home in Harlem and quickly inserts herself deeper into Irene’s comfortable life. With her beauty and carefree attitude, Claire charms the men in Irene’s life, even the maid and her sons. As a result, the lives of these two women become more and more entwined.
The subject of ‘passing‘ is not new in African-American culture or movies.
White actresses have portrayed women who tried to ‘pass in movies many times. My very first blog post was about the movie Imitation of Life, with Susan Kohner as the tragic Sara Jane. Then there is also Jean Crane in Pinkie, Ava Gardner in Showboat, and the 1995 film Devil in a Blue Dress, starring Jennifer Beals, to name a few.
How Passing Was Adapted From Book To Netflix | But Have You Read The Book?
Check out the first episode of The Netflix Book Club on November 16, 2021. Host Uzo Adub Uzo sits down with Rebecca Hall, Ruth Negga, and André Holland of Passing to discuss bringing the page to screen.
So, put on your comfy socks, pour yourself a lovely glass of wine, grab your copy of Passing by Nella Larsen and enjoy the Netflix Book Club.
See Passing in theaters, October and on Netflix in November.
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