Silver, Marisa 1960–

views updated

Silver, Marisa 1960–

PERSONAL: Born April 23, 1960, in Shaker Heights, NJ; daughter of Raphael (a film director, producer, and real estate developer) and Joan (a director; maiden name, Micklin) Silver; married Ken Kwapis (a director). Education: Attended Harvard University.

ADDRESSES: HomeLos Angeles, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, W.W. Norton Co., 500 5th Ave., New York, NY 10110-0017.

CAREER: Director of films and documentaries, including Permanent Record, Paramount, 1988; Vital Signs, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1990; (with husband, Ken Kwapis) He Said, She Said, Paramount, 1991; "A Community of Praise," Middletown, Public Broadcasting System, 1992; Indecency, Point of View Productions/MTE, 1992; Dexter T.; and Light Coming Through: A Portrait of Maud Morgan. Screenwriter.

AWARDS, HONORS: Grand Jury Prize, Sundance Film Festival, 1984, for Old Enough.


(And director) Old Enough (screenplay), Orion Classics, 1984.

Babe in Paradise (stories), W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2001.

No Direction Home (novel), W.W. Norton (New York, NY), 2005.

Contributor to periodicals, including New Yorker, American Film, Hollywood Reporter, Interview, People, and Working Woman.

SIDELIGHTS: Novelist and short story writer Marisa Silver is also a director of feature films. As the daughter of a director mother and a director/producer father, she came to moviemaking in her early twenties when she and her sister made an independent film entitled Old Enough. Silver asked her sister, Dina, to produce the script she had written, and Dina agreed. Silver's early film-making efforts were tinged with controversy, however. When she applied to the filmmaking workshop held by Robert Redford's nonprofit Sundance workshop and was accepted, there were charges of favoritism because her father had taught marketing at the workshop and introduced his daughter with a personal letter. However, Silver responded to her critics by pointing out that at the prestigious Sundance workshop, having a famous parent does not guarantee acceptance; she was accepted on her own merits and not through cronyism, she maintained.

"Still," wrote John Stark in People," there's no denying the sisters had a head start. Marisa conferred with Hollywood screenwriters and Redford even helped her direct a scene of her movie. Dina (who accompanied her sister to Sundance) tackled the business end, taking workshops on how to produce and distribute films. When the month-long workshop was over, the Silver sisters headed to Hollywood, hoping to sell their movie. Hollywood wasn't buying, so they returned to New York where Dina formed a limited partnership called Silverfilm to raise an additional 400,000 dollars to be used on the film." The possibility of a sale to Hollywood was encouraging as the Sundance Film Festival had awarded sisters' movie the Grand Jury Prize.

The film was ultimately released by Orion. David Denby wrote in a New York article that it "has some shrewd moments, but I wish it had been bolder." It is the story of the friendship between two girls living on Manhattan's Lower East Side. Lonnie (played by Sarah Boyd) is the twelve-year-old daughter of wealthy parents, and Karen (played by Rainbow Harvest) is the fourteen-year-old streetwise daughter of an Italian janitor. New Statesman writer John Coleman described the film's detail as "exquisite" and called Old Enough "unassuming and not to be missed."

Silver next directed Vital Signs, a film about third-year medical students. The movie stars Jimmy Smits as the dean and chief of surgery. Other cast members include Laura San Giacomo, who plays a waitress putting her husband through medical school, William Devane as a surgeon, and Norma Aleandro as a cancer patient. Unfortunately, critics of the film complained that it is not very original. "The film's very basic problem is that it contains no surprising turns, and that its characters are familiar through and through," commented Janet Maslin in a New York Times review. People contributor Ralph Novak wrote that "by the time the romantic subplots are resolved and the predictable medical crises have been dealt with, this experience seems too much like a long hospital stay."

Silver and her husband, Ken Kwapis, codirected the more well-received He Said, She Said, starring Kevin Bacon and Elizabeth Perkins as columnists who fall in love despite their opposing viewpoints. Writing again in People, Novak called Bacon's character, Dan, "a womanizer" and Perkins's character, Lori, "marriage-minded, and always the twain shall meet. The only real difference between them is that Perkins gets away with throwing a coffee mug at Bacon's head, a bit of ostensible comedy that would not be regarded as at all funny if it were a man throwing a hard object at a woman." Bacon eventually throws over Sharon Stone to settle down with Perkins. For this project, Silver and Kwapis shared the directing responsibilities along gender lines, with Kwapis responsible for Bacon's lighter role as a marriage resistor and Silver for Lori's side of the relationship story. Maslin called Lori's characterization "more sincere and much more heavily fraught with emotion."

In addition to her movie work, Silver has also published a short story collection and a novel. The title character in Silver's story collection, Babe in Paradise, is Babe Ellis, a young woman trying to find her place in the city of Los Angeles. She appears in three of the nine stories set in the City of Angels. The characters here are not the movers and shakers of Los Angeles and Hollywood, but rather the people who live on the periphery of the fast lane. Atlantic Monthly reviewer David Uhlin felt that "when it comes to small moments—the frustrations and regrets of daily living—Silver's work is powerful and heartfelt." Uhlin further found this to be particularly true in her depictions of the relationships between children and parents. New York Times Book Review reviewer Bernard Cooper wrote that in Silver's collection "trouble comes thick and fast: wildfire, carjacking, robbery, drug addiction, panic disorder. It is an indication of Silver's considerable gifts that rather than being melodramatic or numbing, this onslaught of misery retains its sting story after story."

In Silver's first novel, No Direction Home, the author "deftly tells the stories of three families whose struggles to survive are made tougher by depression, dementia, and traumatic separation," commented Deborah Donovan in Booklist. Themes of abandonment, family breakup, and responsibility underlie Silver's plot. When Caroline's husband becomes so depressed that he leaves her, she moves herself and her ten-year-old twin sons to her parents' home in Los Angeles. Her mother, Eleanor, is suffering from dementia, and her father, Vincent, has hired Mexican immigrant Amador to be her caretaker. However, Amador has also recently left his own family in Mexico to work in America. Seeking to reconnect with his father, teenager Rogelio sets out from Mexico to locate Amador and bring him back home. Meanwhile, teenager Marlene, an illegitimate half-sister to Caroline's sons and daughter of the father who recently left them, also sets out to find her father, whom she has never known. Caroline and Vincent must also deal with emotional issues left over from when he abandoned her and her mother decades earlier. The three families' lives merge and intersect as old wounds reopen and healing begins.

"Silver has a knack for creating flawed but sympathetic characters," observed Christine DeZelar-Tiedman in a Library Journal review of No Direction Home. She "proves herself a deft juggler of plot lines and an effective realist; she conjures an aching world of half-truths, physical need and emotional frustration," remarked a Publishers Weekly contributor. "Silver's prose is insightful, deeply empathetic and nonjudgmental, focused on individual struggles and the all-too-human face of suffering, her language charged with grace," concluded Luan Gaines on the Curled Up with a Good Book Web site.



American Film, March, 1991, Elizabeth Drucker, "He Said, She Said: Ken Kwapis and Marisa Silver Do a Tale of Directors," p. 56.

Atlantic Monthly, July-August, 2001, David Uhlin, "New and Noteworthy," review of Babe in Paradise, p. 161.

Booklist, June 1, 2001, Michael Spinella, review of Babe in Paradise, p. 1849; April 15, 2005, Deborah Donovan, review of No Direction Home, p. 1434.

Chatelaine, May, 1991, Gina Mallet, review of He Said, She Said, p. 14.

Entertainment Weekly, August 3, 2001, Megan Harlan, "The Week," review of Babe in Paradise, p. 62.

Harper's Bazaar, August, 2001, Emily Eakin, "LA Stories: Three Fiction Debuts Reveal the Flip Side of Celeb City," review of Babe in Paradise, p. 102.

Interview, March, 1991, review of He Said, She Said, p. 44; August, 2001, Deborah Treisman, "Marisa Silver," p. 74.

Kansas City Star, June 22, 2005, John Mark Eberhart, "Marisa Silver's Characters Grapple with Guilt over Leaving 'Home,'" interview with Marisa Silver.

Kirkus Reviews, March 15, 2005, review of No Direction Home, p. 313.

Library Journal, April 1, 2005, Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, review of No Direction Home, p. 88.

New Statesman, June 7, 1985, John Coleman, "Skaters on Thin Ice," pp. 36-37.

New York, September 3, 1984, David Denby, review of Old Enough, p. 57.

New York Times, April 13, 1990, Janet Maslin, review of Vital Signs, p. B4; July 27, 1990, Lawrence Van Gelder, "His Story, Her Story," p. B8; February 22, 1991, Janet Maslin, review of He Said, She Said, p. B9.

New York Times Book Review, August 26, 2001, Bernard Cooper, "City of Angels," p. 25; September 9, 2001, review of Babe in Paradise, p. 30.

People, December 10, 1984, John Stark, "Joan and Ray Silver's Daughters Show They're Old Enough by Making a Hit Movie on a Shoestring," p. 163; April 30, 1990, Ralph Novak, review of Vital Signs, p. 20; March 4, 1991, Ralph Novak, review of He Said, She Said, p. 14.

Publishers Weekly, April 30, 1990, Ralph Novak, review of Vital Signs, p. 20; May 28, 2001, review of Babe in Paradise, p. 45; March 21, 2005, review of No Direction Home, p. 34.

Rolling Stone, May 3, 1990, Peter Travers, review of Vital Signs, p. 37; February 21, 1991, Peter Travers, review of He Said, She Said, p. 48.

Seattle Weekly, August 17, 2005, review of No Direction Home.

Variety, April 11, 1990, review of Vital Signs, p. 29; February 25, 1991, review of He Said, She Said, p. 50.

Vogue, July, 2001, Megan O'Grady, review of Babe in Paradise, p. 118.

Wall Street Journal, February 28, 1991, Julie Salamon, review of He Said, She Said, p. A8.

Washington Post Book Review, August 9, 2001, Jonathan Yardley, "The Hidden Corners of L.A.," p. C02.


Beatrice, (December 6, 2005), Ron Hogan, interview with Marisa Silver.

Curled Up with a Good Book, (December 6, 2005), Luan Gaines, "An Interview with Marisa Silver," Luan Gaines, review of No Direction Home.