A few days ago we looked at a few examples of good children's books that are horribly served by their movie versions, also known as the GBBM juvenile virus. Today we put the adult strain under the microscope.
Oh Hollywood, what wreckage have you wrought? Let me count the titles. The question is... how to begin. Should I start with the worst? But then again, we are in one of those "highly subjective" areas. You might actually like the movie version of such-and-such, while it happens to provoke my gag reflex.
But an attempt must be made... So, in the category of Most Egregious Change of Endings, the winner is... Roland Joffe's revisionist take on Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, starring Demi Moore, with its new, improved happy ending that features Hester, Pearl and Dimmesdale horse-and-buggying out of town to start a new life together. The moral of this story: beware of any movie which uses the phrase "freely adapted from" in the credits!
Loved the retro look
The "Muddled Lukewarm Mess" award goes to the film version of The Bonfire of the Vanities, a big, luscious, hot casserole of a novel by Tom Wolfe, which, as much as he stirred into the mix, was still a crystal-clear examination of morals and mores of our culture in the 1980's. The novel held up a mirror to the racism, greed, ambition, politics and social class that festered under the sunny glow of Reaganism.
Loved the poster... the movie, not so much
But despite a stellar cast which included Tom Hanks, Melanie Griffiths and Bruce Willis, the film never gelled and failed to capture the essence of the Greed Decade. Perhaps Hanks wasn't right for the role of bond trader WASP Sherman McCoy. Or maybe the screenwriting just couldn't live up to Wolfe's elegant
prose (yes, I admit I have a "writer's crush" on him). Whatever the reason, the movie just gummed where it should have bit.
Pretty mysterious and exciting
Speaking of miscasting, in the category of "Most Miscast Milquetoast Movie," the winner would have to be Water for Elephants, the adaptation of Sara Gruen's delightful novel, which told a familiar story (love triangle variety) in an entirely fresh, unexplored setting: the traveling circus milieu of the Depression era. I love Reese Witherspoon. She's a fabulous comedienne who showed her serious side in Walk the Line; she's just not Marlena.
And Robert Pattinson? Great as Cedric Diggory in the Harry Potter series. I avoided him in the Twilight movies because, well, I avoided the books, too. I guess I have something against poorly written vampire novels -- or, I confess, poorly written novels in general, whatever the plot, characters and setting. As for the undead, I have been there, done that with the superior writing of Anne Rice. Back to Pattinson... he just couldn't connect as Jacob. Maybe he's just entirely too pretty or... wooden. When actors can't connect with each other, they are hardly able to connect with the audience. Something about chemistry...
Other failures to translate from page to screen include The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, a comic book series and graphic novel by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill (how could the screenwriters miss? They already had a !#$%^*! storyboard), The Lovely Bones by Alice Seybold, and My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult.
Then there is the special case of The Great Gatsby. My goodness, the novel is bursting with juicy scenes and all the glamour and grit one might desire and expect from an examination of the American experience during the Roaring Twenties.
The movie version has the potential of eye candy and acting chops with Robert Redford as Jay, Mia Farrow as Daisy and Bruce Dern as Tom, and Karen Black as Mrytle. However, again, the parts didn't add up to a great sum. The chemistry just didn't... combust. Maybe it was Farrow... too fragile, not enough allure to pine for over time? Maybe it was Redford... not enough fire in the belly? It was all entirely too beautiful, but strangely lifeless, like a butterfly pinned to a specimen board.
I promise to keep an open mind on the latest version being filmed by Baz Luhrmann, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and
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