I Know What I Want

So I’m at work and I brought my puppy and he’s rooting around on the floor, spinning in circles, being completely silly.  He loves rubbing his tummy on the carpet like that.  He grunts and makes goofy noises.  I love him so much.

So I’m reading this book, well, listening to this book being read to me in my car.  I’m really enjoying it.  It’s John Irving and he’s always great.  Anyway, as is often the case with me and books I enjoy, I can see the movie as I would direct it.  How I would tell the story, who I would cast in the various parts, what part of the book I would keep because it’s rare to be able to include an entire book in a movie.  Often there are smaller side stories in books that work in books but don’t in movies because of the nature of reading versus viewing.  For instance I thought the first Harry Potter tried to include too much.  One book made into a movie where I think the movie did better than the book was Sideways.  When I read Sideways, it was as if the movie makers saw the book exactly as the author and as the reader, yet they left out some sensationalized side stories that almost seemed like they were written as over the top movie scenes.  The movie was better having left them out.  I digress.

Anyway, I’m reading this book and I can REALLY see the movie.  It’s a great book and I can feel the entire atmosphere of the thing.  Then at some point, I hear the name of a chapter and it is the name of a movie and I realize that this book has been made into a movie and I would not have conceptualized it as the movie maker did at all.  I hate the movie version.  The actors they chose for the leads.  Ick.  Wrong.  And as is often the case with movies turned into books, they took the most sensationalized parts and chopped them together with none of the connecting tissue from the book and just made this big mess.  I remember when I saw the movie that I did not like it and feeling like something was missing.  Now I know why.

I know movies are different than books, that they are their own creation and I don’t think they should be compared in many cases because they are what they are.  But I also don’t think you should try to pretend a movie is the book if it loses so much of what was originally there.  Like The Shipping News.  Puke.  God, I couldn’t even watch it.  They fucking butchered the book.  Why didn’t they just call it something else and leave the book alone?  Get an idea from a book, then go make your damn movie, but don’t pretend it’s the book when it’s not even in the ballpark.  I have read The Shipping News so many times.  It is easily my favorite book, and that is saying a lot because you can’t pin me down on a favorite ANYTHING.  Seriously.  This book, I know it inside out and backwards.  I know its characters.  I can SEE its characters.  When I heard the book was being made into a movie, I had to read the book again.  I could SEE that movie, see how I would shoot it, the angles, the light, all of it.  And NONE of the book made it into that movie except a few pitiful, over the top plot lines and the names of the characters and that was IT.  They didn’t even make the characters look like the characters in the book and the looks of the characters in the book are almost characters themselves.  HOW could they?  Ack.  Gags me.

So I’m reading this John Irving book now and hearing it and having to force out the characters and story as envisioned by the screenwriter and director (one and the same in this case) as I try to enjoy this book.  The story is actually quite fascinating.  I love it.  And now I have Jeff Bridges’s face looming in to take over one of the main characters when he’s not even CLOSE!  He doesn’t even inhabit the character of the character, let alone the looks.  Looks in a movie can be different from the looks of the character in a book if the actor can BECOME the character, but he didn’t.  Remember Sandra Oh and Virgina Madsen in Sideways?  In the book, Maya looked like Sandra Oh and Stephanie looked like Virginia Madsen, but they are switched in the movie and it doesn’t matter because the actors so inhabited the characters.  It just doesn’t detract in any way.  But in this book I’m reading now, Jeff Bridges is not the character he plays.  Maybe he never read the book.  Maybe he just read the screenplay that butchered the book.  Because as I conceptualize the character in the book, not only does he not characterize the character, he does not look like the character looks.  And Kim Bassinger…I won’t even go there.

Why would John Irving let this happen?  Why would Annie Proulx?  Maybe they don’t get a choice.  But John Irving and Annie Proulx are HUGE authors. They have to be able to maintain some control.  Why couldn’t the movie makers just say that the movie was “inspired” by the book and not pretend the movie is the book come to life when it’s not?

Well that’s enough of my film/literary snob rant for the day. What do I know?  I just know I can’t stand that movie and it is interrupting my enjoyment of this book.

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