It’s rare I go to the movies. Rarer still I head for theater the day a film releases. And yet, that’s just what I did last week when David Fincher’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s best-seller Gone Girl was released.
What did I think? Well, I liked the movie and found it to be an accomplished piece of cinema. (I’ll save for another blog my sense that the film’s portrayal of Amy and Nick Dunne, the protagonists, strays away from the equal partnership depicted in the book and instead veers into, ah, troubling territory.) I enjoyed the movie, yes. But I prefer the book.
This is almost always the case with me. I like the Harry Potter films; I love the books. Whether it’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Ella Enchanted, or Thank You for Smoking I’ll take the book almost every time. I’m a reader, so, duh. I like books.
There are, though, a few adaptations better than the books. Some of these are glaringly obvious: Casino Royale, The Sound of Music, The Graduate, and The Notebook. But many film adaptations aren’t as universally loved and it often comes down to what one prefers.
So, what lesser heralded adaptations do I think bested their written inspirations?
If you’ve never seen The Last of the Mohicans, you are missing out. I read Cooper’s novel in high school and have no interest in ever reading it again but the film, starring a “I haven’t yet won more than one Oscar but give me time” Daniel Day Lewis and a radiant Madeline Stowe is a visually walloping, heart-breaking work of art. I, and several other AAR staffers also prefer Sense and Sensibility (the one directed by the versatile Ang Lee in 1995) to Austen’s sisterly tale. Another British gem, Enigma, takes an dense sad book and turns it into a compelling story with a happier ending.
When I asked my co-workers to name films they preferred to their originating books, several mentioned Gone with the Wind. (I am always amazed to remember that Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind won the Pulitzer in 1937.) Also proffered were the Twilight movies, The English Patient, Forest Gump, Austenland, and (one of my favorite period pieces) A Room with a View.
None of the above film choices seem likely to elicit outrage. I do, however, have a few choices that many do not agree with.
I’d pick Atonement the movie over the book–I find the shocking last chapter far more palatable on film. The ideas and plot of Lord of the Rings are easier to follow and care about on the big screen. North and South the book I read once and am done, thank you. The BBC adaptation, I’ve watched four times since I discovered it–I’m a bit slow with TV things–last year. Thus far, the Hunger Games movies are kicking the books’ butt. Don’t get me wrong–I’m an admirer of Ms. Collins’s books, especially when read as a trilogy. But the movies, fueled by Jennifer Lawrence’s first-rate turn as the warrior woman Katniss, inspire me in a way the books don’t quite.
Producers never tire of drawing on books for their films and TV shows and that’s fine with me. As I said, I really like books. Currently I’m watching the transcendently gorgeous Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I love this show. And maybe, after I’ve gobbled up Season Two, I’ll seek out the books.
How about you? What movies do you like better than the books on which they are based?