Thursday, 28 August 2008

Gilding The Lily

If you love a book, NEVER NEVER go and see the film thereof (apart from "Hellboy", which was a class act). We've all been there - the extraordinary disappointment of seeing your favourite character played by Tom Cruise (or, worse, Val Kilmer, a man who looks like somebody drew a face on a balloon and then blew it up slightly too much), the dreadful soundtrack, the hamfisted casting, entire story arcs left out. I completely understand that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with altering a book to fit what some ponytailed suit thinks would be nice (and shoehorn some sex/car chases etc into a plot otherwise devoid of them), but in that case why say "Based on the novel by.." ?? Why not just totally rewrite it and call it something else - and in the process get the credit for a whole new and original plot? I only say this because I went to see "Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day" last night. Ho hum, I say to you, ho bleeding hum. And in fact quite the reverse argument applies to this one. Far from being a complex work gutted for the screen, the book was a frothy little nothing of a plot, a really good holiday read, and I have to say I could see it being a very sweet Sunday night feelgood kind of thing. So when I saw that it had Frances McDormand in it my heart sank slightly - not because I don't like her, because I really really do, but because she's decidedly not an insubstantial frothy kind of actress. And lo, lo and behold - suddenly the film was rife with foreboding, and I use the phrase advisedly (mostly because it sounds good); bomber planes flying overhead, air-raid drills, gasmasks in shop windows, characters saying sadly to each other "They don't remember the last war, do they..", all sorts of things that were never in the book - HELLOOO, I wanted to shout at the screen, the whole point of this book (written as it was in 1938) was to stop people thinking about the outbreak of war, and give them a frilly piece of frippery to take the nasty taste away. And as such, perfectly suited to our rather uncertain times, non?

I attach for your delectation a picture of Amy Adams, because she really was the only one who was perfectly cast and, bless her, she's another ginger. And Lee Pace, because when he appeared on screen we all cheered up immensely.



18 comments:

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Oh dear, I was planning to try and catch this film at the weekend. Perhaps I should save my money.

Since I am a pathetically slow reader, easily distracted and often trying to do other things simultaneously, I invariably watch the film BEFORE reading the book of something, so while I do not get quite as annoyed as you Lucy, I certainly agree with all you say.

However as a film fan foremost, I am certainly driven bananas over all the cheap re-hashes and re-makes of beloved old films, rubbishing the star quality that went before in a sea of blandness and non-acting (and usually sexing up to boot!)

Sometimes you think there isn't an original idea left under the sun!

At least this film is an attempt to bring something new to the screen (albeit pretty faithless to the book as per usual).

To get back to your point though what also gets me about 'adaptations' is that the book - when I read it - usually has sufficiently good storyline to be worth adapting as it is, so why f**k around with it?

LucyFishwife said...

Didn't mean to put you off! It was just so unnecessarily different from the book that I was a bit cross. Although Lee Pace is worth the price of admission. Go see it.
Remakes drive me round the BEND. I just say here "The Wicker Man" and weep silently into a small hanky. And I've just realised that they've remade "The Women" (Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, etc) with, God save us, Meg Ryan - I mean what next? Seth Rogen as Spartacus????? And when they take a good foreign film, or indeed a GREAT foreign film, like "Wings Of Desire" (a personal fave) and remake it WITH NICOLAS CAGE - words fail me (spot the big fat lie!. In fact - is Nicolas Cage the mark of a truly crappy remake?

Brother Tobias said...

I agree about remakes. How could anyone believe that they could top Robert Bolt and David Lean simply by lobbing £8 million at a remake of Dr Zhivago? (I admit to not having read Pasternak's original). There are some books which are improved by being made into films. I can't think of one offhand. (Shane maybe - the first film I ever saw?)

LucyFishwife said...

Weirdly, I didn't mind the first film version of "Lolita"... I suppose some authors are totally unfilmable (because of their use of language etc). And "Blade Runner", which is just NOTHING like the book it was based on but a fine film. Maybe the trick is to just be "inspired by" rather than to claim it's a faithful adaptation?

JRSM said...

Just discovered this blog (via Age of Uncertainty) and have wasted a great deal of time reading through the archives, and I LOVE it.

Re the first 'Lolita': how can you NOT love a film starring Peter Sellers as a homicidal paedophile?

Steve said...

Wow. From the pic I thought Amy Adams was Nicole Kidman. I haven't read the book or even heard much about the film... it's kind of off my radar but the old book-made-into-a-film scenario is one we can all share. Personally I havdon't usually have a problem with books being mangled / artistically tweaked to fit the director's vision. I tend to see books as being complete in themselves and films of them are additions, alternative fictional realities, alternative paths... though when a favourite scene has been left out I do admit feel an occasional niggle.

LucyFishwife said...

JRSM - Thanks! Am visiting your blog even as we speak! Welcome to what ("virtually") amounts to my untidy sitting room - drinks will be served shortly, but we're out of ginger ale and someone has to finish that Parfait Amour before I open a bottle of gin. Yes indeed - Peter Sellers could read a telephone directory and make you laugh - and actually Shelley Winters brought out the total sad desperation of Charlotte in a way the book (deliberately) glosses over. A great film.

Steve - The first thing we all said as we left the cinema (apart from "Phwoarrr that Lee Pace, if I was 15 years younger,.." etc) was MY GOD I BET NICOLE KIDMAN HATES AMY ADAMS... after all she's a 20-something version of her who hasn't even had to make a point of her abilities as a comic actress and she can sing better. No, I'm not totally anti the concept of film adaptations, but I find myself watching them with one hand over my eyes ("Aslan wasn't American!!!"..)

Reluctant Blogger said...

I don't really watch films (I fall asleep within 10 mins of any film starting no matter how rivetting it is - does rivetting have two t's? Doesn't look right, does it?)

Books get right into my head and stay there - almost as if I have incorporated them as part of my own life. One day I will probably be a dotty old dear in a home thinking that all the stuff I read actually happened to me.

so on the odd occasion I have seen a film of a book I have read and loved, it rips that experience right out and spoils it, however "good" the film is.

Lucy Fishwife said...

I have moments of thinking things have happened to me that actually happened in books! I prefer to think it's a tribute to the quality of the writing rather than my failing mental powers (that too, though, obviously). Or that most of my life is spent trying to remember the difference between truth and fiction. Yes, Narnia IS in my wardrobe.
Did you want a drink while you're here? I finished the Parfait Amour (youc) - there's now a nice chilled Sancerre in a bucket. Hope you brought cheese.

Can Bass 1 said...

I do so love your blog. (But I haven't the faintest idea what the latest post is about!)

Lucy Fishwife said...

Thank you! Welcome to my study! There's a chair over there under the periodicals if you want to sit down. Don't mind the cat, she does that to everybody.
It was about the iniquity of film-makers stripping out the complex plot of perfectly good books in order to turn them into mindlessly cruddy films - and, conversely, bunging a whole load of unnecessary stuff into "Miss Pettigrew" to try and give it more SUBSTANCE - a thing it was, charmingly, without...

Can Bass 1 said...

Why, thank you. I think we understand each other perfectly.

Reluctant Blogger said...

Oh dear I arrived a bit late for the Sancerre as you opened it 5 days ago. But I bet you have another bottle lurking, don't you? So yes, please.

And yes, I have bought plenty of cheese - I did nibble a few bits on the way here but I'm sure you're not too particular.

What's that funny smell? You're not wearing perfume are you?

mantua maker said...

I'm a bit late here chipping in to this discussion but I have to say that my all-time favourite adaptation is not a film but a TV series of a book that's been mentioned a few times before here - The Owl Service: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Owl_Service_(TV_series)

I, like you Lucy, still have my father's battered old copy (I know somebody who knows Alan Garner and he says he will sign it). One of the things that makes the TV version brilliant is that Garner did the adaptation himself - so it's very much his vision. I love Gillian Hills's bee-stung Mick Jagger lips. And the filming was done in a part of North Wales that I spent a lot of time in as a disaffected teenager in creeky old house. I even looked in the attic once just in case there was some old crockery!

mantua maker said...

I'm a bit late here chipping in to this discussion but I have to say that my all-time favourite adaptation is not a film but a TV series of a book that's been mentioned a few times before here - The Owl Service: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Owl_Service_(TV_series)

I, like you Lucy, still have my father's battered old copy (I know somebody who knows Alan Garner and he says he will sign it). One of the things that makes the TV version brilliant is that Garner did the adaptation himself - so it's very much his vision. I love Gillian Hills's bee-stung Mick Jagger lips. And the filming was done in a part of North Wales that I spent a lot of time in as a disaffected teenager in creeky old house. I even looked in the attic once just in case there was some old crockery!

Lucy Fishwife said...

RB- You KNOW there's another bottle. There's ALWAYS another bottle. I had a surprisingly lovely bottle of rosé the other day which was ENGLISH and reminded me of the 1970s Monty Python sketches laughing at the concept of Australian wines. How little we know! What kind of cheese?
I'm wearing "Vice Versa" by YSL - light with a strange hint of basmati rice on the drydown (as they say in t'industry!)

Lucy Fishwife said...

MM - Oh yes indeedy, the Owl Service. I remember my mum getting all worked up about it - but then "teen fiction" was in its infancy then, and she was delighted someone was writing books aimed more or less at kids which discussed things like class snobbery (although arguably E Nesbit covered that v early on) and step-siblings etc. Were you flowers or owls? I'm definitely owls this week...

Reluctant Blogger said...

Oh I am into strong cheeses at the moment - roquefort and the like. But I like all cheese.
I'm back again for a top up. Bit early I know - but who cares.