Lydia Millet’s ‘Mermaids in Paradise’ picked up by ‘Portlandia’ pair

Lydia Millet

Lydia Millet’s novel “Mermaids in Paradise” is being adapted as a feature film.

(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

The producers behind IFC’s “Portlandia” have picked up the option for Lydia Millet’s “Mermaids in Paradise.” The pair intend to make it into a feature film.

“Portlandia” writer-director Jonathan Krisel and writer Graham Wagner are adapting the book, Deadline reports, and Good Universe will executive produce.

In “Mermaids in Paradise,” a young couple, Chip and Deb, go on their honeymoon and see what appear to be live mermaids. There are forces who want to protect them, unexpected violence, mermaid believers and nonbelievers, paparazzi, and heavily armed soldiers. The chaos that surrounds them is a little like the classic Kirk Douglas film “Ace in the Hole,” except instead of a dusty mining town it’s at a tropical beach resort.

“I like to amuse myself,” Millet explained to the L.A. Times’ David Ulin. “Everyone desires to laugh sometimes, and I want to make that available. There has to be space for play in literature. We all need some breathing room.” As for what this means, Millet elaborates: “A serious book, for me, is like writing in a room, but this is more like writing at a party, where I’ve had something to drink. It’s a social as opposed to a private gesture. It’s a friendly act to write a lighthearted book.”


The book is a satire, but, Millet says, "not straight satire; it can’t be. It’s necessary to mediate between what is realistic and what is cartoonish.” That’s why the mermaids, mythical though they may be, are also rendered realistically, with bad teeth (“No dentists in the sea,” Chip conjectures. “No underwater dentistry”) and “the features of an actual person ... the nose ... a little wide and flat, the lips a little thin.”

Of course, the “Portlandia” pair are used to doing satire with levels of complexity. Krisel has received Emmy nominations for directing the last two seasons, and is slated to direct “Mermaids in Paradise.”

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