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Writer-director Lisa Cholodenko is rightly heralded for her ability to wring comedy and drama from unlikely but still plausible situations, like her Oscar-nominated dramedy The Kids Are All Right that centered on the fallout of two teens seeking out the sperm donor who impregnated their lesbian moms. This makes Cholodenko an exemplary pick to helm the movie adaptation of Tom Perrotta's deeply funny and humane novel The Abstinence Teacher. The Playlist notes Cholodenko has confirmed she'll be directing the film, which centers on the surprising relationship that develops between two people on opposite sides of a debate about sex education in schools.
Perrotta's previous adaptations include the satirical comedy Election and the haunting romance Little Children, but the The Abstinence Teacher strikes a very different tenor. The book, published in 2004, splits its focus between a single mom and sex ed. teacher whose efforts to educate her students are repeatedly thwarted by an emerging and very vocal group of born-again Christians, among them her daughter's soccer coach, who shares the story and struggles to keep his demons—hard won from years as a rocker—at bay.
In his novel, Perrotta is careful not to make a caricature of his heroes, and allows their conflict and flirtation to unfold at pace that is totally satisfying. (Seriously, if you're looking for a good spring/summer read, I highly recommend The Abstinence Teacher.) So it's little wonder that it has been pursued for an adaptation. In an earlier incarnation, it was Little Miss Sunshine helmers Valerie Faris and Jonathan Dayton, who were attached to direct with Steve Carell and Sandra Bullock as possible stars. As much as I admired Faris & Dayton, I think Cholodenko's a better choice for tackling this romance wrapped in a taboo topic. And even though Carell is attached to star in Cholodenko's eventual studio adaptation of the children's book Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, it is presently unknown if he and Bullock are still connected to The Abstinence Teacher.
But that's not all that's on the busy filmmaker's plate, as she will write and direct the upcoming adaptation of the popular memoir Wild: Lost and Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. Reese Witherspoon is set to produce and star in the film, playing the aptly named author Cheryl Strayed, who details the eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that pitted her against intense heat, harrowing snowfall, black bears, rattlesnakes and a nearly crippling loneliness, only to leave her stronger than ever. Strayed will serve as a consultant and associate producer on the movie version of her adventure.
And last but not least, Cholodenko will return to the lovable but flawed family of The Kids Are All Right, working on a pilot for a TV spin-off for HBO. Of course, with two of its cast being in two of the years biggest franchise films (Josh Hutcherson in The Hunger Games, and Mark Ruffalo in The Avengers), it seems less and less likely the original cast would be able to reprise their roles. Nonetheless, Cholodenko is hopeful, saying, "You never know! I'm just writing it as if they're going to do it, because that makes it easier to write it."