Books to Film: Darlings and Disasters

Yesterday, my mother and I shopped, ate, and saw “Water for Elephants.” I finished the book the night before and, as a fan of film (and student of it as well during my days as a mass communications undergrad), I relish the idea of reading a book and seeing how a director takes it to the big screen.

So there were Reese Witherspoon, Robert Pattinson, and Christoph Waltz larger than life in a movie theatre in Annapolis. Here are my thoughts on “Water for Elephants” from book to film—

Top three things I liked:

  1. I liked the movie, but I liked the book better. Sara Gruen’s writing is very vivid, and so she sucked me into the circus world right away. I am glad I read it first before seeing the movie. Those folks who have not read the book and have only seen the movie have no basis of comparison and very well may have loved, loved the film.
  2. I enjoyed Robert Pattinson as Jacob. Totally worked for me. Reese climbed up on Rosie the elephant, and she earned points for that. Christoph portrayed a very evil Auggie well. Overall, I was okay with the casting.
  3. In some places, the circus life and depression era was exactly as I pictured it; the director, Francis Lawrence, staged it well. The vibrant colors of the circus big top, coupled with the behind-the-scenes life of the circus workers, in this respect, mirrored the book. Additionally, the malicious behavior of Auggie and his staff was believable, though it was tough to watch Auggie torture innocent Rosie.

Top three things I didn’t like:

  1. Why does Hollywood love to mess with a perfectly good read? In one part, Jacob and Marlena run away together: THIS DOES NOT HAPPEN IN THE BOOK. They do not jump off a train. Say what, Hollywood?
  2. Where the hell was Uncle Al, the owner of the circus? Hollywood decided to make Auggie the owner/ringmaster. I wanted Uncle Al. I wanted to see him in the final scenes (those of you who’ve read it, you know what I’m talking about!)
  3. Some of the best parts of Gruen’s novel are when Jacob is an old man in the nursing home. Some of his thoughts and reflections with Rosemary, his nurse, are incredibly poignant. No Rosemary in the movie. No nursing home.

Overall, I’m glad I saw the film, (loved the soundtrack/score, as well), and do recommend seeing it to those who have read the book, just so you can visualize Gruen’s work as it translates from book to film and compare and analyze it for yourself.

So, I would give “Water for Elephants” the following rating:

Book: Darling—Film: Darling (with a grain of salt)

Now…some other book-to-film winners and losers (in my humble opinion)…

 P.S. I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

What a great book! She was 22 when she wrote it, and I enjoyed it. (I was also hugely pregnant with my daughter and highly emotional.) However, when my neighbor Pam and I went to see it in the theatre, I leaned over and said to her “What the hell is this? It’s not anything like the book.” In this case: Book: Darling—Film: Disaster

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

It’s my all-time favorite book, and I think both versions of “Pride & Prejudice” (Keira Knightly/Matthew Macfadyen and Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle) were winners! This classic was brought to life well in both versions (the casting in each one is fantastic), though I adore the score in the Keira Knightly version. (My husband always says I am the only person he knows who pays attention to background movie music and buys soundtracks). Book: Darling—Film: Darling

Sleeping with the Enemy by Nancy Price

I couldn’t put this book down. It was riveting. Detested what Hollywood did to this thing. The ending in the book was far superior and thrilling. A real nail-biter. Book: Darling—Film: Disaster

The Love Letter by Cathleen Schine

Another book I tore through (you are seeing by now my pattern of reading—that I gravitate toward women’s fiction coupled with a good love story)…Loved this one. Couldn’t put it down as well. Great story, with a twist. Hollywood got a hold of it, and I have to say, it was not too badly executed. I thought Steven Speilberg’s wife, Kate Capshaw, was solid as Helen, and Ellen DeGeneres was super funny as her friend. While it did not stay entirely true to the novel, the film worked. Book: Darling—Film: Darling

The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

It’s been a few years, but this is another one that kept me up until 4 a.m. because I had to finish it. Despite all the controversy around this book (remember people—chill out—it’s fiction, not FACT), it was a sensation. The movie, however, did not fare so well, and while I’m a fan of Tom Hanks, he was not who I pictured as Robert Langdon. In the end, the book was much better than the film, and I even found myself bored in the theatre in spots…Book: Darling—Film: Disaster

(Gosh, I could go on forever, but I’ll stop at one of my all-time favorites, which of course is another Austen masterpiece…)

Sense & Sensibility by Jane Austen

There is a reason we love Jane Austen—her characters. Likewise, there is a reason we love Emma Thompson; we adore her ability to translate these characters through her writing and storytelling and along with director Ang Lee, fashion it perfectly for the big screen. Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, Greg Wise! What a cast. All directors and screenplay writers should model this film as an example of outstanding work when moving from book to film. Splendid. It’s the reason why Thompson won an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. Book: Darling—Film: Darling.

I’m sure you have your favorites, too. I didn’t even go near “Harry Potter,” “Lord of the Rings” or the Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol.” So many more to discuss! Feel free to post your darlings and disasters.