Thursday, May 17, 2007

"No, it's not my house." - Kathy Niccolo, in "House of Sand and Fog"

I would argue vehemently that books made into movies are most often unsuccessful. I almost never see a movie of a book I loved; made that mistake once and will NEVER do it again ("Possession").

In some cases, a movie absolutely destroys a perfectly lovely, intricately layered, wonderful book (Again: "Possession," anyone? UGH. Also, "The Prince of Tides." WTF were they thinking casting Nick Nolte in the Tom Wingo role?!?!)

I CAN think of books which were made into movies that I enjoyed almost as much as I did the book: The World According to Garp, Angels and Insects, mayyyyyyyyyyyyyybe Cider House Rules.

But seldom is the movie better than the book. Seldom, but not never:

House of Sand and Fog - Andre Dubus III. I still HATED the Kathy Niccolo character, but I really liked Ron Eldard as Lester, and Ben Kingsley made Colonel Behrani much more sympathetic and complex than he was in the book.
My friend E, her husband, and I watched it last Friday night. By the end, poor J was sitting between a pair of sobbing, hiccuping women; I am sure he didn't know which way to turn - he just kept eating the popcorn.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (HP2) - JK Rowling. Oh my dear God, will this book n.e.v.e.r e.n.d???? But the movie was terrific – much faster-paced. Much more sure of itself. Plus, as always, a perfect excuse to ogle Alan Rickman as Snape.

Bridget Jones’ Diary - Helen Fielding. Renee Zellweger totally rocked in this movie, (and Colin Firth didn’t hurt it, either). Once I’d seen the movie, I enjoyed the book much more. The movie allowed Bridget to be fussy and flaky but also funny and cute and charming; none of that came across for me the first time I read the book.

You could probably convince me to include Peter Benchley’s Jaws and Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (the Gene Wilder one, NOT the remake with Johnny Depp), if you tried a little bit.

Check out this blog for further thoughts…


--Deb said...

"Unbearable Lightness of Being," with a young Daniel Day Lewis, Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin. So much better than the book....

Anonymous said...

Silence of the Lambs. I Don’t necessarily think it’s better then the book, but it was equal to it and it contains one of the great villainous performances in movie history.

Joke said...

Prince of Tides, book or movie, is an ideal example of a KGB torture device.


nutmeg said...

I agree with your thoughts on Bridget Jones - the book just didn't grab me but I really enjoyed the movie.

I agree also with Rogue Librarian - I still think that The Silence of the Lambs movie was one of the best and heart thumpingly scariest movies I've ever seen. I was then inspired to read the book (which does not happen very often) and thought it very good too and it made me appreciate how well done the movie was - even more!

I also think that Emma Thompson did a great job with the script to the Sense and Sensibility movie - she made some cuts and changes from the book which I believe made the story even better (which is a big thing for me to say as I love me some Jane Austen). And Ang Lee's direction was great too!

nutmeg said...

Oh and I still have House of Sand and Fog in my TBR pile AND my DVD pile ;-)

Velma said...

Bridget Jones was a perfect example of this for me. I found the book fluffy and annoying, but the movie was adorable...probably due to my ongoing Mr. Darcy obsession.

Jess said...

Anne of Green Gables - not better than the book, but equally good in a completely different way. And Anne of Avonlea was an excellent example of smashing several books together with good results.

jenny said...

Jurassic Park and The Color Purple - those are two that quickly come to mind.

My book group read The House of Sand and Fog and then went to the theater to see the movie. It was a sobfest - but I enjoyed them both.

Penni Russon said...

In Opposite Land, I remember loving the tie-in novelisation of Pretty in Pink more than the movie - the ending was more subtle and poignant.

The Sweet Hereafter - loved the movie. Love the book too, but there was something about the visual landscape of the film that heightened the story for me.

I always wish M. Night Shimalayan (I know I've spelt that wrong) would write books instead of films. I do love his films, but I always come away wishing I'd read it (slowly savouring the unfolding of the narrative) rather than seen it.