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Retro Reading: The Return of the Player by Michael Tolkin


Sometimes it's best to leave an original story alone and not do a sequel.

A few years have gone by and studio executive Griffin Mill is on the border of bankruptcy- with about six million dollars in his bank account. This is what his wife, Lisa, learns as she sits in her lawyers office while seeking a divorce.

Griffin's career is also on the line as he's supporting two households.

The first is his ex-wife June and their two children, Ethan and Jessa and the second is with Lisa and their daughter Willa. All three children go to the same private school (Willa is the middle child, having been the product of a relationship between Griffin and Lisa, while still married to June, who became pregnant with Jessa) and the three children don't especially get along with one another.

Lisa downright hates Willa, but she's more motherly toward Jessa, and wishes that she were her daughter instead. This is evident when she takes Willa shoe shopping and not liking any of the shoes, Willa throws a tantrum and injures a baby in a carriage.

She's taken into protective custody that night and Griffin's new boss, Phil Ginsberg, manages to pull a few strings so that Willa can be released the next day.

But, before all of this family drama, Lisa tells Griffin that she was planning on divorcing him and shows him a secret novel that's going around Hollywood, written by Phil's ex-wife, Candace. Lisa tells him that only women have read it and not to mention that he's read it.

As Griffin reads the book, he knows that he needs to set his sights on working with Phil, since he's on the board of the exclusive high school that Ethan's been accepted into. He learns that Phil wants to become a billionaire and in order to make sure Ethan has a spot in the school, donates money to the school.

When Phil learns of this, he invites Griffin and Ethan to his yacht for Sunday lunch.

Griffin also knows that Ethan's best friend, Eli, hasn't been accepted into the school, due to a lack of funds, so he goes to visit his grandfather, a former movie mogul, who although retired, still finances a movie every now and then.

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At the meeting, Warren Swaine tells Griffin that he won't finance his grandson's future, because he's upset with his son Greg (and former employee of Griffin's) and that the two have nothing in common.

As Warren has a massive heart attack, Griffin blocks him from reaching for his medicine and watches as the old man dies.

Now that Griffin has blood on his hands once more, he continues on with his life and meets Phil. Following the meeting, Griffin heads to the studio and finds out that he's been let go.

Phil calls him on his car phone and tells him where he's to go for work and once he gets to the office building, his secretary, Alicia, takes him into an empty office (albeit there's a rocking chair) and is told that he's to give up his phone and he's to sit there and think all day.

Following the incident at the store, June agrees to help Lisa by moving into the newer house for a few days. Seeing that the arrangement isn't going to work out, June moves back to her house and brings Willa with her.

After Squire Ginsberg's bar mitzvah, Lisa and Griffin head over to June's and he remembers that they put a tracking device on the computer. Griffin logs into the computer and discovers that Ethan and Eli set up an account on a porn site and while logged in, a couple IM's him and Griffin plays along.

This has given him an idea and Phil brings Griffin to a meeting in Telluride on his private jet. Griffin pitches his idea and he's promptly let go.

While there's still a lot of really boring stuff going on within the story, I thought it would never end. I had hoped that the book would have somehow caught Griffin in his lie about murdering David Kahane, but it seemed like it was an open secret in Hollywood since everyone knew.

In this installment, I really had no idea what was going on, since most of the book is narrative driven and I only seemed to catch up in long drawn out dialogue. Even during the dialogue, I wasn't sure who was talking.

While I really enjoyed The Player (both book and movie) this just didn't satisfy my wanting to know what happened to Griffin and June, and I'm glad that a third installment wasn't written, since it would have gone into political territory with Griffin running for office.

However, it does show how the rich try to out beat one another and that's kind of sad.

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