Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Favorite Book-to-Film Adaptation

I read a recent article written by literary agent Kate McKean (Article - Fiction and Movies) about what fiction writers can learn from movies in terms of plot, high stakes, and characterization, i.e. characters who want something, and how important it is to fall in love with characters, even if they wreak havoc - they need to be somehow charming, mean yet fragile, and most of all, unforgettable.

I began to think about which movies I've learned the most from, and realized that the reason Terms of Endearment (1983) has been my favorite movie of all time is because it covers all of bases as far as character development, plot, stakes, etc., and it just so happens to be a movie adapted from the book of the same name, written by Larry McMurtry in 1975.

In the movie, Shirley MacLaine played Aurora; edgy and guarded, yet loving and vulnerable - Debra Winger played Emma; fast-talking, looking for love like her mom, yet at odds with her mom; close to her in some ways, yet still a world away as far as emotions - and Jack Nicholson who played Garrett; the playboy, smooth, detached, funny, who in the end, became loving and attached, even to Aurora's kids and grandkids. I cry every time Emma speaks to her kids from her death-bed. It breaks my heart for them (because of her odd-way of wanting to keep it simple), yet it also touches my soul (for the same reason) for her.

This movie was touching, tragic, funny, surprising, and risky. It has been in the #1 spot in my heart since its release (#2 being Turning Point in1977 and #3 being Waiting to Exhale in 995). I remember telling my husband that I didn't want Terms of Endearment to end - and so, he took me to see it again.

It's my hope that this type of writing, an adherence to the craft and to the rules that literary agent Kate McKean spoke of, will cause some readers to "not want my books to end" either. Even though this was an adaptation, I salute Larry McMurtry for creating such a wonderful story.

Authors - what is your favorite book-to-film adaptation? And please offer a few words as to why. Thanks!

Write on! See you again on October 5th!


Charles Gramlich said...

hum, I watch very few movies. I generally wish the movie makers would learn some stuff from books. It would make my enjoyment of their product better. I generally thought The Lord of the Rings movies did a pretty good job with those books. And the Harry Potter movies.

William Doonan said...

I agree with Charles. The Lord of the Rings movies were excellent. Sticking with the fantasy theme, and I know I'm going low-brow here, but they did a good job with The Hunger Games. The book, albeit young adult, was great. The movie less so. But it wasn't half bad.

G. B. Miller said...

For the most part, I usually don't read the book that a film is made out of. To me, something seriously gets lost in the translation as so much stuff gets cut out that the movie often doesn't resemble the book.

For instance, I've seen the movie "The Dead Zone" and while I thought it was excellent movie with Christopher Walken, the movie was moderately different from the book.

There were definitely some parts of the movie that really didn't make sense because they did some ill-advised editing. My suggestion in regards to that movie is that if you watch the movie, don't read the book, and vice versa.

Liane Spicer said...

Haven't seen Terms of Endearment, but I don't even have to think of my favorite book to movie adaptation: The English Patient.

I loved the book, but the movie blew me away. Anthony Minghella pulled all the dramatic elements together with the literary elements, and did it so brilliantly that the film transcended the book, an almost impossible feat.

Joanne said...

I would have been little more than a kid when I saw Terms of Endearment but I remember bawling my eyes out and just being so moved by the performances, and the story, and maybe on some level relating to the push and pull of the mother-daughter dynamic. I've never read the book, though. Though I like that idea of creating something that people never want to end...hopefully I'll get there someday. It's hard to think of a favourite book to film adaptation; I generally think books give so much more...but I think Francis Ford Coppola did a good job adapting Mario Puzo's Godfather - I like both the book and the film because they do a good job of telling the story of a family at the heart of it, albeit a family in a very violent business. The Roots and Lonesome Dove miniseries are also coming to mind perhaps because the scope of a mini series gives a bit more latitude to capture the atmosphere and fully explore the characters, as well as to keep closer to the pace of the book. Oh, I highly rate the Lord of the Rings movies too, btw, but confess I've never read the books.

Lynn Emery said...

Long list. Devil in a Blue Dress with Denzel. Jaws (book was excellent, movie did it justice). The Green Mile.

Carol Mitchell said...

Like some others, I usually either read a book or see the movie (9 times out of 10 I chose to read), I seldom do both as I am usually disappointed by the movie. I create pictures in my head of the people and the places and the movie usually ruins this for me.

That said, I watched (under duress because my husband was watching it at home) the movies for the Girl in the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy. We watched the Swedish version and they were excellent. They stuck very closely to the story line in the book, did a good job of casting. It may have also helped that years had passed between my reading the book and my watching the movie.

Joanne said...

Oh, I'm currently reading the Girl with a Dragon tattoo book (not sure how I feel about it yet) and trying to resist the movie until I'm done. I usually prefer to watch the movie after reading the book.