Saturday, July 4, 2009

Book Versus Movie?

I work for an academic department that studies film, so I am attuned to the prejudice that book readers have against the movie version of their favorite book. Woe be the director who changes any part of a beloved book when adapting it for the screen! Academics who study film denounce that prejudice and believe, as I have come to believe, that you must rate a film on its own merits. To compare the two texts is inevitable, but you begin to wonder if people who do these comparisons understand that films and books are different mediums and are capable of very different forms of expression. Better to rate all the Harry Potter films against one another, rather than compare them all to their respective books.

Since I have so many books to read on my bedside table, and it is hard to find a good novel, I tend to leave the big blockbuster novels like My Sisters Keeper for the big screen, and so last Wednesday, I went with three good friends to take in this summer "tear jerker".

Apparently, according to my companions, the book My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picault had a very different ending than the movie did. What's worse, they would not tell me the ending and said I had to read the book! Huh? Read the book.

I won't bother with a review of the book. Jodi Picault has written dozens of books which have sold a million copies, no one hardly cares what I think at this point, but I will say this, the movie is much much better and is a good case about why and how movies can be better that books.

A movie does not have to be 100 % loyal to its source material. A script writer, director, and producer can feel free to experiment with different endings and add and subtract different scenes. This is helpful, mostly because to adopt a 300 page novel to a feature film, out of necessity you will need to cut some parts. If you want to have a reasonable length for a book you need to cut some of the subplots. In this case, I found a few of the subplots of the book to be trite, and they happily did not appear in the movie.

So, say what you will about the movie version of the book, they ain't all bad. I would love to hear reader comments on this topic. And your favorite book to movie adaptation...


K.T. said...

So...I don't read many tear jerkers anyway, but I do read comedy. And lately, those books have been made into movies. I always like the books so much better. I won't even go see "Confessions of a Shopaholic" because while I loved the book, I don't think I'd like the movie. It's not about comparing the two, but I rarely get to see movies in the movie theater that are not kid movies. From the previews I could tell that it wasn't one that I would want to spend my limited amount of movie time on. Maybe I'll see it on Netflix this winter. Also, I liked "The Devil Wears Prada" as a movie, but I kept trying to get people to read the book because the Meryl Streep charachter was even more extreme in the book. And, of course, the ending was different.

zenabu said...

"My Sister's Keeper" reminds me of Kazuo Ishiguro's "Never Let Me Go."

Hootie said...

I think it's always fun when a book I've read gets turned into a movie...mostly because I like to see how the director interprets the story too.

I always think about the author though and wonder how she/he feels about their characters and the changes others might do to them.

I really need to read My Sisters Keeper and then see the movie! But I need to find a little more time in my day too. :)