Friday, December 17, 2010

from the bookshelf to the big screen

Yesterday we talked about films that are so bad they’re good. You guys added some good ones in the comments: Muriel’s Wedding is Toni Collette’s finest hour if you ask me and even though it’s not strictly a dance movie, Bring it On definitely deserves an honorary mention in this genre. As far as expectations go, these films are pretty low stakes. You want to be entertained, to have fun, to laugh and get Abba songs stuck in your head. The opposite of this experience has to be when you see a film based on one of your favorite books.
I caught the trailer for Water for Elephants online yesterday. I only recently read the book and I enjoyed it, so I like the idea of getting to continue my time is Sara Gruen’s excellently crafted Depression-era circus world via the film. For me this is the perfect book to film experience because while I liked the book, I didn’t love the book so much that I will feel in some way betrayed if the movie doesn’t live up. I’m sure there are many people who will have extremely passionate opinions on everything from the casting to the score to the inevitable changes that will have to be made to bring this very widely loved book to film, and you can count of hearing about them come April.
I have been meaning to see the film version of my very favorite novel Never Let Me Go since it came out but I find myself with trepidations; despite the fact that Ishiguro consulted on the film and I totally dig the choice of Carrie Mulligan for Kathy. If you’ve read it, you know that it’s both beautiful and terrifying and maybe I just don’t trust anyone but the man himself to take me into such a place. Or maybe as much as I love the book, I just don’t want to go through the heartbreak of that story again. I will probably see it eventually, as I did Atonement and The House of Sand Fog: similarly life-changing reads for me and very well done, excellently cast films.
One of the great things that happens when a book becomes a movie is that a whole bunch of people go out and buy that book. A couple of years ago when the film version of Love in the Time of Cholera came out, seeing the posters everywhere in New York reminded me that I’d never gotten around to reading any Marquez (of whom I am now a huge fan). The mere existence of the movie turned me on to him despite the fact that I never did see the thing (I heard it was terrible). Movies give books a life they would have trouble achieving on their own being just books. So while I have ambivalence about Hollywood’s handling of any great novel, I am always pleased that it will surely bring the book new readers.
How do you feel when a book you love hits the big screen?  


  1. I don't read much literary fiction which is what seems to go on to be made into movies these days, but I did read the Harry Potter series and saw all the movies (I could use my kids for an excuse, but that would be a lie). I hated that so much detail was left out of the movies, but I still enjoyed them nonetheless.

    Water for Elephants has a soft spot for me. I listened to the audio version and really enjoyed it. I recommended it to my husband and son who have a long commute each day and they surprised me by listening to it and enjoying it, as well. This was huge for me because my son doesn't read much fiction. To be able to talk to him about the story and the characters was really a gratifying and new experience. Well, new again. When he was little, I read to him all the time and we talked about the stories. So this was really good stuff.

    Now I want to see the movie.

  2. I don't mind seeing a movie after I've read the book, but generally speaking I prefer to do one or the other. Usually I end up reading the book after the movie comes out – it seems less disappointing that way. The movie tends to disappear from my memory once I'm engrossed in the book.