10 Book to Movie Adaptations I Read But Never Watched

This is a follow up to Memorable Book-to-Movie Adaptations  -- I'm talking about books I've read which were adapted to screen but I never saw the movie. I may do a separate post on films I've seen which were based on books I never read.

1. One True Thing

Ellen Gulden returns to her childhood home to help care for her mother, Kate, who has cancer. She believes her mother's pain is bearable, so she doesn't give her the overdose of morphine that kills her. Nevertheless, she is tried for this alleged mercy killing.

This is sort of a coming of age story about a young woman getting to know her mother for the first time as a human being and not just "Mom" and reassessing her assumptions about her parents' marriage. It also explores the pain of losing a parent, as well as her difficult legal battle afterward, and her troubled relationship with her dad.

I really liked this novel by Anna Quindlen, and it has stayed alive in my memory for a long time. She has a gorgeous writing style and a knack for delving into the complex layers that comprise relationships. However, I balked at seeing the film, even though I really like both Meryl Streep and William Hurt (I'll never forget his performances in Kiss of the Spider Woman and Children of a Lesser God). After really liking a novel, I find it nearly impossible to appreciate the film adaptation on its own merits. I wonder whether it's worth seeing, especially now that several decades have passed since I read the book?

2. Cold Mountain

This 1997 historical novel by Charles Frazier, based on events in the life of the author's great-great-uncle won the U.S. National Book Award for Fiction and holds a special place in my heart as one of my all-time favorite civil war novels. Near the end of the American Civil War, W. P. Inman is a wounded deserter from the Confederate army  He spends months crossing North Carolina to return to his fiancee, Ada, in the mountains.  Ada, a minister's daughter from Charleston, recently buried her father. Despite her city breeding, she must learn to survive and run a farm on her own. She is helped by Ruby, a tough and edgy mountain native.

On his journey, Inman risks starvation, extreme weather, and the efforts of the home guard to track down and shoot deserters. This novel does a beautiful job of capturing the ravaged state of North Carolina at the end of the brutal War Between the States. It also eloquently explores the psychological effects of war on both soldiers and civilians.

I loved this book, and I was afraid the movie would be underwhelming, especially since I'm not particularly a fan of any of the lead actors (though I remember Jude Law as having been quote good in a few movies, including The Talented Mr. Ripley). I haven't heard much about this film, actually -- is it worth seeing?

3. Twilight

I've mentioned several film adaptations I've skipped because I loved the books so much. Here's one I skipped because it was based on a novel I hated. My daughter and I plodded through this whole novel, because we we determined to give it a fair shot. After all, there must be some reason for its phenomenal popularity, right? We weren't expecting an epic work of fiction, but surely it must be a good read, eh?

After hundreds of pages of Edward's smoldering looks and alabaster skin, we were still waiting for it to get good. It never did. The bottom line: if I want to read about a vampire, I'll find one who's a real man, not an angsty, creepy bloodsucker who sparkles. And Bella, sweetie? I understand that you have hormones, but your helpless fragility in the face of this hot, dangerous vampire who lurks outside your window? It just set the women's movement back to the 1950s. And I have no intention of wearing a girdle and lecturing my daughters about their hymens.

I've seen snippets of the movies, and all I can say is that I didn't see any acting going on. Maybe it got better, but the bits I saw were in no danger of being anybody's Oscar reel. I do like the "bad lip reading" video, though.

"Dude you slapped a fish." "Wow ... how dare you...that cake was most bestest creation"

4. Fahrenheit 451

451 degrees Fahrenheit, as we all know thanks to Ray Bradbury, is the temperature at which paper bursts into flame. This wonderful classic novel describes a future in which independent thought is discouraged and "firemen" burn books. The population is sedated by wall-to-wall interactive but mindless television and mood altering drugs. Even in an era when dystopian fiction has become a whole genre unto itself, this groundbreaking book is beautiful and rich with food for thought.

I am curious about the film adaptation by Francois Truffaut, but I haven't seen it. For one thing, I've read that the mechanical hound owned by the fire department doesn't appear in the movie. Seriously? Fahrenheit 451 with no mechanical hound?

5. The Devil's Arithmetic 

I bought this novel for one of my daughters when she was immersed in learning about The Holocaust. I read it one day, while the little people were napping, so I could discuss it with her. I found it pretty brutal. Not as painful as it could have been, of course, given the subject. But I was surprised it was marketed as a young adult novel. The descriptions of the deaths of children had me in tears.

It is a wonderful book, though.  In a wibbledy-wobbledy timey-wimey manner (thank you, Doctor!) a young girl goes back in time and witnesses the taking of an entire Polish shtetl to a Nazi death camp and the events that follow.

One of the reasons I was never tempted to see the movie was that, until recently, I didn't take Kirsten Dunst seriously as an actress. But I thought she was great in The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is one of my favorite movies. And I heard she delivered a fantastic performance in Melancholia, which I haven't seen. (I'm still on the fence about Lars von Trier). I don't know -- is this one to skip?


 6. Anna Karenina

Holy Mother Russia! There have been a lot of adaptations of this timeless novel of unhappy families and adultery, and there is another in the works.  I didn't read Tolstoy until I was in my early 30s -- I remember reading while my son nursed. Yes, I know that sounds weird, but he wanted to breastfeed a LOT. And it's Tolstoy. This novel is just as wonderful as everyone said it would be.

I am looking forward to the new adaptation with Kiera Knightley, and maybe I'll give at least one of these others a go.

7. War and Peace 

I loved this even more than Anna Karenina, but I've never seen the movie. Though with Audrey Hepburn as Natasha, I'd say it's a must-see.

8. Family Pictures

I dearly loved this novel by Sue Miller, who also wrote The Good Mother, when I read it in my early twenties. It focuses on a large family and how they adapt to the middle child, Randall, who has autism. Randall's father, David, is a shrink by trade. In an era in which the "experts" are taught that cold, unresponsive mothering -- Bettleheim's "refrigerator mother" -- causes autism, Lainey, the warm, affectionate, quirky, and over-burdened mom, finds herself under her husband's scrutiny. Needless to say, this doesn't bode well for their marriage. The novel also follows the children into adulthood, as they try to make sense of their family and their lives.

I don't know much about the T.V. movie starring Angelica Huston. I missed it when it came around, and I never had the urge to track it down.

9. Cujo

The only book and movie ever made where you actually ROOT FOR THE DOG TO DIE. The novel, by Stephen King, was heartbreaking but very well crafted and nearly impossible to put down. I never had a desire to see the movie.

10. Blood Work

Michael Connelly is one of my favorite mystery authors, and while this novel isn't as good as his Hieronymous Bosch series, it was very difficult to put down. I wasn't tempted to see the movie because it's a very plot-driven story. Once you know what's going to come down, from beginning to end, there's no sense in paying for the DVD rental.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hello, and thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts -- reader comments make this blogging gig worthwhile. :-) Due to excessive spam, we are now moderating all comments. Like that dude in the Monty Python skit, we just Don't ... Like ... Spam. I will try to post and respond to your comments as quickly as possibly.