I finally bit the bullet and rented The Time Traveler’s Wife a few nights ago. I didn’t go see it in the theatre despite my deep and abiding love for the book. Mostly I was afraid that the film wouldn’t do the book justice…and I was right. I really like Rachel McAdams and although Eric Bana might not have been my first choice for Henry, I don’t mind him either…but the movie just wasn’t good. Maybe it’s impossible to create a faithful adaptation of a novel like TTTW, I don’t know. That said, Peter Jackson did a pretty impressive job with Tolkien.
In any case, it got me thinking about other book – to – film adaptations. What works and what doesn’t?
An example of one that works which immediately springs to mind is Ordinary People. The book, by Judith Guest, was published in the 1976. The film, directed by Robert Redford, came out in 1980. I’d read the novel and I went to the movie. You’d be hard pressed to say which is better. The film stars Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore (I know!), Timothy Hutton and Judd Hirsch. I can highly recommend the film because it’s so faithful to the novel and the performances are so rich. The book’s excellent, of course. Back in the day, Mary Tyler Moore’s performance garnered all sorts of praise as the character she played was so different from the one we were used to seeing on the Mary Tyler Moore Show. Really, rent the film. (It won four Oscars: Best Director, Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor and Best Screenplay)
I also think Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of Robert James Waller’s The Bridges of Madison County is terrific. The book is actually on my Reader’s table, but not because I think it’s great literature. Nevertheless, that novel made me cry so hard. And so did the movie. I loved that they didn’t try to pretty it up. Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood played the title characters, two people who fall in love – deeply and unexpectedly- later in life. Clint Eastwood is a terrific director anyway and this movie was simple and beautiful and hey, is there any character Streep can’t play?
Speaking of Streep, I was first introduced to her back in the 70s through a film called Sophie’s Choice. That film was based on a novel by William Styron, which I read after I saw the film. The film is a doozy. The book, although excellent, is slightly drier.
One author whose work has often been adapted successfully is Stephen King. The Shawshank Redemption based on King’s short story “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” is fantastic.
So is Brian De Palma’s adaptation of King’s novel Carrie. I saw this movie when it came out in the theatre back in the 1970s and it scared the living crap out of me.
One thing I’ve realized doing this is how much movie trailers have changed!
What about you? Do you have any favourite film adaptations? Any movies you felt really didn’t capture the essence of the book? I’d love to hear about them.