Sometimes, flipping through the channels, I’ll notice Titanic playing on cable, and though I’m painfully aware that it will send me directly to my living room floor in a sobbing pile of raw human emotion, I watch the entire movie from start to finish. I know how Titanic ends, guys. I know that (SPOILER ALERT, just kidding, if you haven’t seen Titanic I don’t even know how we’re friends) Jack gives Rose the goddamn piece of wood and then descends to his watery grave. But there’s a small, highly idiotic part of me that watches until the end every single time because I hope that this time, maybe, just maybe, things will be different. Maybe Rose will just scootch the fuck over and Jack will try more than once to hoist himself on up there. Maybe they’ll both survive, and I won’t have to storm angrily around my apartment, muttering about the irresponsible hubris of rich white dudes in the early 1900s.
I was still holding onto that fantasy until about 40 minutes ago, when I read the synopsis for The Lifeboat, and I realized things could have been a lot shittier for our fair Rose. Announced a few years back as a starring and producing vehicle for Anne Hathaway, and reappearing in the news today thanks to confirmation that Joe Wright (Anna Karenina, Hanna, Atonement, Pride & Prejudice, and, um… Pan) has signed on to direct, The Lifeboat is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Charlotte Rogan. And somehow, The Lifeboat features a plot even bleaker than that of Titanic, which I heretofore believed to be the bleakest tale ever told of the early-20th-century high seas. Here’s the official book synopsis, courtesy of Amazon:
Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life. In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying Grace and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize has exceeded capacity. For any to live, some must die. As the castaways battle the elements and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she'd found. Will she pay any price to keep it? The Lifeboat is a page-turning novel of hard choices and survival, narrated by a woman as unforgettable and complex as the events she describes.
See what I mean? Like, we were all certain that sending your beloved to a certain death at the bottom of the sea as you rested comfortably atop a floating door was the worst possible boat-related thing that could happen to you between 1912 and 1914. But it turns out that getting onto a lifeboat, watching your husband and countless others die, then being charged with one of their murders is actually the worst thing. According to this New York Times review of The Lifeboat, things get pretty Ayn Randian in the novel, too, with Rogan essentially posing the question, “is it ethically acceptable to allow (or compel) the weakest to die so the majority may live?” Damn.
William Broyles Jr.—the Oscar-nominated scribe behind films like Cast Away, Apollo 13, and Flags Of Our Fathers—will adapt the novel for the big screen, dashing against the rocks any remaining hopes that The Lifeboat will be a farcical comedy. At least Joe Wright, who’s lent his discerning eye to a number of lush period pieces, will make The Lifeboat look pretty through our tears?