Friday, June 5, 2009

Movie before book

The traditional lament of readers is that a movie never quite captures a book. I will be watching along, and say right out loud, 'that wasn't in the book!' Many times we choose not to see a visual adaptation because we want our own imaginations to prevail, and not be tainted by actors or representations. Yet, I've just had the opposite happen to me. You may recall that I was pretty thrilled by the movie, Revolutionary Road. My friend Les most kindly sent me her copy of the book. She wasn't wild about it at all, but I was still eager to read it while the movie was fresh in my mind. I was sure I'd enjoy a more complex view of the characters which a book offers. And so I began. A small criticism I did have about the movie was it started abruptly without the viewer really knowing what was going on. The book begins with the same scene, but with more explanation of the situation. I thought, good, good, this is what I was hoping for. And then two little sentences jumped right off the page. But let me set the scene first. The couple, Frank and April Wheeler, are having a powerful argument. In the movie, he raises his fist to her, but hits the car instead. In the book, the same event occurs, but in the midst of the fight she says, 'do you think I've forgotten the time you hit me in the face because I said I wouldn't forgive you? Oh, I've always known I had to be your conscience and your guts - and your punching bag.' And then the scene happens when Frank hits the car.

And I closed the book. I didn't want to know Richard Yates' Frank Wheeler. Leonardo portrayed a different man, a man I liked and respected a fair bit. He was not a wife-beater, and that's that.


  1. On your advice I may just watch the film.

  2. Dear Nan,
    I just can't keep up with you!
    You are just so quick. The other day I saw your blog and admired the beautiful spring blossoms, later the lovely reading scene and now....the book is gone but the chair remains so inviting!
    I tell sure keep your readers on their observation toes!
    Thanks for all the loveliness!
    Joanne in Ontario

  3. Contrast that book with The Reader. I read the book first and then watched the movie, which followed the book quite faithfully. Have you read/seen The Reader?

  4. I feel the same as you with books and their movies and also work from the film back to the written story. Recently did that with No Country For Old Men. The movie left open a few questions and mysteries - so I went to the source and Cormac McCarthy's book.

    Not only were the questions answered, but the richly accented voice of Tommy Lee Jones as the sheriff kept echoing in my head as I read thru the written dialog.

    I found it interesting you had such a visceral reaction to the written character of Frank Wheeler. If anything, it shows the powerful juxtaposition of book and film. One can exist without the other - yet combine them and create something even more potent.

    - J.

  5. Cait, I'd love to hear what you think!

    Joanne, I got rid of the chair plus book because I quit the book! :<) Thanks for your constant kindness.

    Gigi, Sometimes it does work. For example, I liked both Chocolat the movie, and Chocolat the book though they were quite different in many ways. I didn't think I wanted to see or read The Reader.

    Jeff, I really steer away from any books or movies in which there is abuse of people, esp. women and children and animals. As I wrote to Gigi above, there have been occasions when I've liked both - To Kill a Mockingbird comes to mind. Because of Winn-Dixie, Howards End, and the original televised version of Brideshead Revisited and the book. The last movie and book were a perfect example of what you noted.

  6. I'm wondering if they left it out of the movie for the same reason: unforgiveable, and almost guaranteed to alienate the audience right from the opening scene?

    Sure don't blame you for bailing out of a book that would probably mar your joyful appreciation of the movie. Life is too short to read books you don't like!

  7. I think I will watch the film and not bother with the book too.
    Inspired by you, I have ordered a similar chair to yours, but it is a rocking version, plain wood. Typically our heatwave seems to have ended and we now have steady rain, I hope I will be able to rock and read in the sun soon.

  8. Oh dear. I have the book, but saw the movie first, and I am in agreement with your Leo assessment, and his movie character.

    I may have to wait awhile, so the movie isn't so fresh in my head, because I want to really like Frank.
    If I read the book, I might sympathize more with April.

  9. I agree with Cait.
    I'll add the movie to my netflix queue.

  10. I read the book first, and then saw the film. And I think both are very good indeed. I understand why you decided not to finish the book, but it's a shame too, because the book is somehow subtler than the film (though, for a film, it was very subtle!) For example, his affair is a little more tawdry in the book, but the character of the secretary is much better drawn. Leonardo did bring a humanity to the character that wasn't quite present in the book.

  11. Interesting Nan!! I have the book so I will read it but I want to watch the movie too...

  12. Revolutionary Road is in my queue, and I can't wait to see it, thanks to your review.

    I just watched Changeling, which I don't think was a book at all, but I loved. There's heartstopping violence in it, but not really onscreen as much as talked about, and it's not happy, but gives you a feeling of hope at the end.

    I liked The Reader more than I expected to, but have not read the book. You are not meant to sympathize with the Kate Winslett character but she is interesting nontheless.

  13. I'm a big fan of Kate Winslet so now I have an excuse to just see the movie!
    Meanwhile, like the color the chair and your pillow - my new loveseat has very similar fabric on it.

  14. If you'd read a bit further, you'd see that Frank isn't a wifebeater ... it's the wife, whose name I can't recall, who is a self-dramatist!

  15. Nan, I love your header picture! I absolutely love the color of the adirondack chair!!

  16. J.G. - that was a brilliant thought and I bet you are right!

    Carole, the rocker will be great! Maybe you can email me a picture?!

    Raidergirl, it is such an interesting situation to me. I'd like to hear what you think if you read it.

    Pamela, if you have a minute, come back and tell me what you think of the movie.

    Stuck in a book, I loved reading what you wrote. Thanks so much for taking the time to write.

    Staci, it will be interesting to me to hear your thoughts if you read it, and then watch it.

    Mary Lois, thanks for your movie reports!

    Susan, my favorite role of KW's is The Holiday. I love that character.

    'Anonymous' - in the part I did read; he did not deny it.

    Sherri, I'm wild for the color, too.

  17. Oh, he did hit her ... once. But it's that awful melodramatic quality in April to define that one-off as being a punchbag!

  18. Anon. - that quality in April came through in the film.

  19. I listened to the audio book first and then saw the movie. I actually loved both, pretty much the same.

  20. I'll be interested to hear what you think of the RY on your list, Diane.


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