Though he’s churned out some forgettable movies (Father of the Bride Part II, Cheaper by the Dozen 2), those that he had a hand in writing are excellent (L.A. Story, The Jerk, Roxanne). Martin shines brightest when he writes.
His latest novel, An Object of Beauty, takes some cues from his 2001 novella Shopgirl. But this one’s far more sinister.
There’s a point that you realize you’re rooting for this vain, conniving person. Because as flawed as Lacey is, she’s not a caricature. Lacey remains three-dimensional even as pathology eclipses the rest of her. Her fixation with art borders on mania, and her calculating nature comes increasingly undone as she succumbs to the obsession. There’s a sadness about this woman that’s reminiscent of Mirabelle in Shopgirl. Still, Lacey knows exactly what she’s doing. Martin succeeds at giving this character depth, which is not easy, as she’s a sociopath—even if she is likable.
Martin knows when to drop a joke in before things get too serious. Timing. Comedians have it.
An Object of Beauty retains the dreamy ambiance of Shopgirl and, like its counterpart, is occasionally hilarious. Dark subject matter is conveyed with certain smart-assey detachment. Martin knows when to drop a joke in before things get too serious. Timing. Comedians have it.
This book will most certainly be made into a movie. Martin is a movie guy, and the story he tells is, for better or worse, very filmic, easily transferable across media. Claire Danes, whose palpable sadness made Shopgirl a mildly depressing joy, a could easily play Lacey, making An Object of Beauty a sort of spiritual sequel.
Martin shows off his impressive art history knowledge throughout the story, even segueing into the odd exposition. Rather than slowing down the story, it illuminates Lacey’s psyche. Martin clearly has a command of the subject, as he demonstrated 20 years ago in his gleefully art-world-jabbing L.A. Story. There’s a lot to be learned from Martin, but you don’t even have to like art to enjoy An Object of Beauty.