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In the second episode of the Apple TV+ adaptation Mosquito Coast, Allie Fox (Justin Theroux) and his daughter, Dina (Logan Polish), briefly seek shelter in a homeless camp in California while on the run from the police. Allie, ever resourceful, teaches his daughter how to create a “shim” so she can pick the lock in his handcuffs. During his instructions on the maneuver, the idealist inventor — who has been living off the grid with his family while on the run from the U.S. government — opines about consumer capitalism.
The scene, which is not in the best-selling novel of the same name, was writer Neil Cross’ attempt to articulate how the great individualist American contrarian in author Paul Theroux’s 1981 story could translate into Justin Theroux’s modern character in the series. “One of the challenges of adapting or reinventing or rebooting the novel was, ‘Who would that guy be if he existed now in 2021 with a very different set of economical, political and cultural circumstances?’ ”
Cross says Allie’s speech to his daughter was “a moment to express a thesis, an expression of who Allie Fox is and what he really believes.” That is why Justin Theroux gave input on the material that would make it to the screen. “We have this kind of weird, shared relationship with this guy who we both love and we both have to own him equally. And that means that we both understand and know his voice,” says Cross.
“The thing that I love best about Justin’s additions to this scene is making that connection between broken things and broken people. When he says these are ‘broken consumers,’ I thought that was profound and insightful. He was also able to fold in a direct quote or two from the novel. The stuff about vacuum cleaners and so on is the Allie of the book. So this is the moment wherein we were able to say, ‘OK, he’s new, but he’s also the same guy.’ “
By the end of the scene, both viewers and Dina see Allie in a different light. “Because this experience for Dina is in such a radically different context to how she is used to experiencing Allie, which is as an arbitrarily annoying father who is constricting her life, we’ve begun the process of Dina seeing her father through a different lens and a more adult eye. And maybe the beginnings of a slightly more forgiving and understanding eye.”
With viewers in the dark about what exactly Allie did that forced him to take his family on the run, Cross pinpoints this scene as the first of several hints to come. “The bread crumbs are spread out throughout the season, partly for reasons of the intervention of COVID. In the originally conceived, slightly longer first season, we found out a little bit more than we do now. But I like the way the bread crumbs are spread.”
This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
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