Written by Kyle SlagleyA few days ago a friend of mine commented to me on Facebook about a class we took in college called Shakespeare and Film. The class covered exactly that, Shakespeare’s plays and their various film adaptations, some of which I enjoyed and some of which I did not.
That a successful book will be made into a movie is almost an assumed fact these days. I can’t help but think that filmmakers consider this both a blessing and a curse because as the success of the book increases, the room for creative license and interpretation decreases – particularly when a film adaptation is made almost immediately following the publishing of the book a la Fifty Shades.
As we approach the final Twilight movie release I started thinking again about the book-to-film process. You could create a program for your library that focuses solely on book-to-film titles; in fact you may already have a club like that. If you don’t, allow me to make a few recommendations to get you started.
The Firm – This John Grisham novel is about a young man fresh out of Harvard Law School who accepts a position at a very powerful firm in Memphis. Like most Grisham novels, the book is a thrilling read. The film starring Tom Cruise is just as thrilling as the book and is a faithful interpretation until about halfway through, where it veers off to an ending that makes Cruise’s character look much better than in the novel.
The Time Traveler’s Wife – I broke the cardinal rule with this one and saw the movie before I read the book. I was genuinely surprised to find that I enjoyed the film just as much as the book despite the pounding it took from critics. This title will make for great discussion on how the concept of time travel works on the screen, particularly when it jumps all over the place.
There Will Be Blood – Daniel Day-Lewis was simply fantastic as Daniel Plainview in the film adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s Oil! and earned himself a hoard of Best Actor awards for the role. The film is only loosely based on Sinclair’s novel, with differences in both plot and character names but the loose adaptation leaves plenty of room for discussion. With 80 years between the publishing of the novel and the release of the movie, this is a good opportunity to discuss creative license as it relates to timing of the film release.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – I know it sounds ridiculous to plug this title for a book club, but I know a lot of people that didn’t realize this movie was based on a book. The book reads like a biography; the movie is, well, the movie. If nothing else, it’s good for a few laughs!
For young adults:
Stardust – Neil Gaiman did a fantastic job with this relatively short novel. Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, and boy discovers girl is actually a fallen star. Simple enough, right? The novel is a dark and haunting fairytale for adults whereas the film is a lighter, cheerful movie geared more toward children. Because the novel ventures into more adult topics, this book would be better for teens than young children.
Inkheart – I was unaware that this film was based on a novel until recently, so I saw the movie before I read the book for this one too. This is a typical case of “the book is better than the movie” even though I thought Brendan Fraser did a decent job playing Mo and Paul Bettany was as good as ever in the role of Dustfinger. The ending to the movie is completely different from the book, but even still, I didn’t think the film was nearly as bad as the critics said it was.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – This title is perfect for a book-to-film club because there are two films based on Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s book. The film starring Gene Wilder from 1971 will always be one of my favorites, as I suspect is the case for millions in their 20s and 30s, but deviates from the book quite a bit. The 2005 film starring Johnny Depp is faithful to the book and was a box office success, but failed to claim a devoted following like its predecessor.