September 20, 2013

The more revenge I get the greater my appetite for it: How ‘Wuthering Heights’ compares from book to film

After a short interlude, we are continuing our exploration of Wuthering Heights adaptations – this time, the 2009 two-part TV movie starring Tom Hardy as Heathcliff.

And halleluiah, what an adaptation! By dividing the story into two episodes, director Coky Gledroyc allowed for the inclusion of the crucial second generation.

I was beginning to wonder if I would ever see an adaptation that didn’t call it quits half way through the book!

For from omitting the second generation, this adaptation begins with Linton’s arrival at Thrushcross Grange and his immediate summoning to Wuthering Heights. Cathy is distraught that her cousin has left, and the unraveling plot focuses on her discovering her mother’s old family homestead and all of the drama that unfolded before she was born.

Although the order of the scenes is entirely different from the book, the non-linear method of storytelling is very reminiscent of Emily Bronte’s original. (The book also begins with a visitor to Thrushcross Grange, who is then gradually told of the history of the place and all of its former inhabitants.)

By starting with the second generation, Gledroyc secured the audience’s interest in the story early. By revealing how much had been hidden from Cathy before it was explained why, the story was afforded a level of suspense that the novel didn’t have.

I always thought that the characters of Wuthering Heights were be too extreme to be heard or seen. It's one thing to read about a wildly thrashing Catherine, or an angry Heathcliff gnashing his teeth – but to see it played out is anther thing entirely. This adaptation therefore takes the logical step of depicting a much more subdued and likeable version of each character.

Nelly is kinder and gentler, and appears more sympathetic to Catherine. She genuinely grieves when Catherine dies, and still appears to feel her loss many years later.

Young Heathcliff is quiet and shy, and does not set out to intentionally antagonise Hindley. Although Hindley is the aggressor, the audience is made to feel like he was justified in hating Heathcliff when Mr Earshaw showed him such an obvious preference.

Catherine is sweeter, and not much is seen of her tempestuous side. She does act petulantly in front of Edgar, on the afternoon of his visit at the Heights, but her outburst is not as violent in comparison to the book. She is not as uncontrollable or wild. She is actually the most likeable screen version of Catherine that I have seen.

Catherine's daughter, the younger Cathy, is not as spoiled and spirited. She is kinder to Hareton and offers to teach him to read without intentionally ridiculing him. In turn, Hareton is not as uncouth or ignorant. The two then become friends with relative ease, and Nelly is permitted by Heathcliff to live with them at Wuthering Heights.

Even the land is not as wild. The lawns are manicured and green. The wind, even, is not as harsh as the “atmospheric tumult” that is described in the book.

The entire production is expertly cast. Charlotte Riley is beautiful as Catherine, and Andrew Lincoln dashing as Edgar Linton. But the masterstroke was casting Tom Hardy as Heathcliff.

Hardy is harsh and intimidating, yet sexy and appealing. You can see why the women are attracted to Heathcliff, yet at the same time you can understand how they could be repelled by him. You can emphasise with his feelings, while at the same time understand that his reactions are extreme. Such a complicated and enigmatic character would be difficult to pull off, but Hardy manages it perfectly. The timbre of his voice, the set of his jaw, his large, imposing body… It’s easy to say that Tom Hardy is the best incarnation of Heathcliff. And, in this adaptation, he is definitely the most faithfully interpreted character.

It was also pleasing to see the Wuthering Heights house as a majestic building. So many adaptations depict it as a dirty, wind-blown, rickety shack. But the Earnshaws are supposed to be a respectable upper-class family – second in the neighbourhood only to the Lintons. In my mind I always imagined a grand home. Even the balustrades where Hindley would have dropped a young Hareton fitted in with my imagination.

However there are a few areas where the adaptation does strike up some creative differences:

  • Catherine and Heathcliff are seen in the village with Mr Earnshaw. In the book, their time together is confined to rambling in the moors – but in this version their relationship is much more open and public. Heathcliff gifts her a horse, and she calls him “my love”, and is openly affectionate to him in front of her father. Although the lines are blurred due to their filial relationship, Catherine and Heathcliff definitely appear to be an item. She is romantic and affectionate toward him, and even though he is more restrained in public they do share a kiss in the grass and can be seen holding hands. In the novel they are not so open with their feelings.
  • In the film, it is Heathcliff who first raises he issue of his debasement and questions how he and Catherine could ever be together. He wants to run away, and she agrees to go away with him on the morrow – but that is when she is injured at Thrushcross Grange and their plans are delayed. In the book, they never voice any plans to go away together. It is never spoken of. Catherine’s stay at Thrushcross Grange occurs when they are much younger, and does not directly result in her courtship with Egdar Linton, as it does in the film. The events that lead to Catherine’s marriage to Edgar, and Heathcliff’s departure from the Heights, occurs over a much longer stretch of time.
  • Most of the dialogue has been taken straight from the lines of the novel – though at times it is spoken by different characters and in different contexts. For example, Catherine’s speech about being flung from heaven is said directly to Heathcliff late one night inside a church. Catherine also tells Heathcliff of her plans to “aid him to rise” – in the book, these speeches are only ever revealed to Nelly.
  • In the film, Catherine is clearly more concerned over her reputation than she is in the book. In the book, she is largely most concerned with providing for Heathcliff, but in the film she seems more seduced by a life as the area’s most refined lady.
  • In the film you see Edgar and Catherine’s wedding – and it is the same day that Heathcliff returns to the neighbourhood. This also adds an extra element of drama, as Catherine feels that Heathcliff could have prevented the marriage had he wished. Edgar then gives Catherine an ultimatum – she is told to choose between himself and Heathcliff, but the ultimatum is abandoned when Catherine reveals that she is pregnant.
  • Catherine’s sickness was also not brought on deliberately or vindictively – she was truly heartbroken over Heathcliff’s pursuit of Isabella. Her condition then declines after she wanders over the moors in the rain when heavily pregnant.
  • It is Heathcliff that is tormented at night by Catherine’s ghost at the window. Unlike Mr Lockwood who brings the child-like hand down on the glass in fear, Heathcliff grasps for it longingly through the shards of glass.
  • This version also saw it fit to tweak with Heathcliff’s death – apparently having him die of seemingly natural, although unsightly causes in his sleep does not translate well on the screen. He can’t just pass away when he is ready to return to Catherine and when his revenge is complete – his death needs to be given more finality. In this version, Heathcliff takes his own death upon himself, by committing suicide in Catherine’s old room.
  • Rather than ending with Cathy and Hareton happy to continue their lives at Wuthering Heights, and Heathcliff and Catherine’s ghosts haunting the moors – this version ends with Cathy, Hareton and Nelly packing up and leaving Wuthering Heights, with Catherine and Heathcliff’s ghosts left as the houses only occupants.

This is the most satisfying of all of the Wuthering Heights adaptations. I was drawn into the story and compelled by it, and although there were some deviations from the original, they added to the sense of drama and excitement in the story.

Anyone who wishes to understand why Catherine and Heathcliff, two of the most flawed characters in literary history, have earned a reputation for have one of the most passionate and memorable love affairs, would be well served by watching this adaptation.

I’m going to watch it again!

The verdict:

How does the film rate: 4/5

How does the film rate as an adaptation: 5/5

Total: 9/10

Book or Big Screen: Book

August 23, 2013

All you’ve ever needed is your pencils and your imaginary worlds: How ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ compares from book to film

I was on a cruise around the Pacific Islands in December last year, stretched out on a sun bed with Anna Karenina on my lap, when I first heard about The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.

My younger sister was reading one of the paperbacks in the series. I can’t remember which one, but I do remember feeling intrigued by the rapid page at which she flicked through the pages. She was so engrossed that the cocktails, pools and spas on the decks of the cruise ship seemed to have no allure.

I looked at the front cover of the paperback, and immediately lost interest. It looked like any other young adult fantasy novel with its caricature of a lead character on the cover, shrouded in light against a dark and brooding background.

I still asked what it was about and she begrudgingly spared a few minutes to run through the basics of the story – of Jace and Clary, the demon hunters, and their exciting adventures against werewolves and vampires and an assortment of other dangerous and mythical creatures.

I feigned interest for a moment, and then turned back to Anna to Count Vronsky. And I didn’t give Cassandra Clare a second thought.

When the previews for the film version of City of Bones – the first book in the series – were shown on TV, I felt only a slight flicker in my memory. And it was with the interests of this blog alone that I again asked my sister about the series, and at her insistence decided to give it a go.

The first few chapters were hard going. The way the Clare set up the story seemed strained, and the characters clich├ęd. Of course there was a beautiful yet unassuming and unconfident female lead, and of course she had a geeky best friend who was secretly in love with her. And here comes the bad boy, the love interest and would steal her heart, and his cool and attractive sidekicks. And together this is the group of teenagers that would save the world without asking the adults for any help. Sigh.

I’m 27 years old. There are too many books in the world, and not enough time to read them all. I didn’t want to waste my time reliving the same old story about teenage angst and love triangles set in a magical sub-human reality.

But I persisted, and soon enough I too was turning page after page in quick succession. Something about the story pulled me in. The world was imaginative; its characters were endearingly flawed; and there was enough intrigue to keep me guessing. I laughed out loud a number of times at Clary and Jace’s witty sarcastic banter, and I found myself caring about what happened to them.

But – spoiler alert – when it was revealed just a few short chapters from the end of the book that Clary and Jace were brother and sister, I involuntarily yelled “No!!”

I texted my sister:

Me: “It’s so shit that Jace is her brother!!”

She: “Yeah. Keep reading though it gets worse!”

Me: “Does she still have a crush on him in the next book? I don’t think I could read that… It’s too ‘Flowers in the Attic.’”

I was so disappointed. This twist completely ruined it for me. I lost all interest in reading what would inevitably be a series of books about a troubled brother-and-sister duo despairingly fighting their romantic feelings for each other. Ick.

I told my sister that I was determined not to read another book, so she might as well tell me the key plot points of what happened next. Spoiler alert number two – thankfully, apparently you learn in book THREE (!!) that Jace and Clary are in fact NOT brother and sister. It was all an evil ruse by Valentine. Woo eee, you got me Cassandra Clare. Well played.

This knowledge took away the ick factor and I felt much better about the series. I finished City of Bones this afternoon, and I have just returned from seeing the movie. And I was pleasantly pleased.

As is often the case, there were LOTS of deviations from the book – but in my opinion they were all well warranted and made the film much more cinematically effective. By showing scenes that were beyond Clary’s first person point of view – like the interactions between her mother and Luke in the kitchen when they discovered that she had been drawing runes – added interesting new elements to the story.

My sister tells me that many of the ‘new’ facts that were revealed in the film were actually revealed in later books. For example, we were not supposed to know YET that Clary’s mother put herself into the coma, or that Valentine experimented with demon blood. We were also not supposed to know at this stage in the story that Clary and Jace are not brother and sister…

Yes, that’s right. I was very pleased that the filmmakers decided that the audience didn’t have to wait for this revelation. In the film, it was at Hodge’s suggestion that Valentine break the hearts of Jace and Clary by lying about their lineage. By doing this, their heartbreak could be keenly felt by the audience, without allowing the ick factor to seep in.

Very clever.

There were some other key changes, that helped to make the film a bit more action packed and dramatic:
  • In the book, Simon is turned into a rat at Magnus Bane’s party and is mistakenly kidnapped from Clary’s bag and taken to a vampire lair. In the film, he is not turned into a rat at all, but is intentionally poisoned and kidnapped and strung up in the lair by vampires who were after the Mortal Cup all along.
  • In the film Simon has a brief dalliance with Isabelle to make Clary jealous. There is no such dalliance in the film – Isabelle is much too aloof, and Simon too dweeby. It wouldn’t have been believable at all.
  • In the film, Clary notices Simon’s vampire bites. In the book, no one is aware that Simon was bitten. My sister said that revealing this fact so early will have significant impacts on the second film. I’ll have to take her word for it for now.
  • There is very little detail in the book about the back-story of the former generation – of Clary, Jace, Alec and Isabelle’s parents, and the actions of ‘The Circle’. Perhaps this will become more important in the second film?
  • Clary is given the opportunity to kick ass and she experiments with runes in the films. This must be something that she builds up to more gradually in the books.
  • Rather than fleeing The Institute at the end when his curse is lifted, Hodge stays on and has a role in the battle. In fact, everyone has a role to play in the final scenes (except for Alec, who is still unconscious) and the battle is in The Institute rather than at Valentine’s hideout. This was much more effective - I didn't like that all of the drama in the book was played out in a fancy room with only Luke and Valentine involved in the fighting.
  • The portal is also at The Institute in the film, whereas in the book there are two portals – one in Dorothea’s flat, and the other at the old asylum where Valentine is hiding.
  • The film doesn’t have any of the “Forsaken” – the tortured and now monstrous humans who inhabited Clary’s apartment and then acted as Valentine’s army.
  • In the book, as far as we are aware by the end, Valentine escaped through the portal with the Mortal Cup. In the film, Clary flummoxes him with a replica and hides the real cup back inside the tarot card.
In all, I have to say that despite my initial reservations and snobbishness, I did come to enjoy this story. This is a series that I will follow with some interest. And the film did succeed on improving upon what was already a solid original.

The verdict:

How does the film rate: 4/5

How does the film rate as an adaptation: 4/5

Total: 8/10

Book or Big Screen: Big Screen

August 11, 2013

Would you like to live, with your soul in the grave: How ‘Wuthering Heights’ compares from book to film

Full declaration: Wuthering Heights is my favourite novel.

I have multiple copies, both old and new, paperback and leather bound. I have a large framed Spineless classics version above my bed. I sing the Kate Bush song repeatedly in my car.

There’s something that appeals to me about Catherine and Heathcliff – two of the most flawed literary characters of all time – who are so alike that they equally love and loathe each other. Their love is unconditional, they are meant to be together, and yet it is their own choices and follies that prevent it. They love each other with such ferocity that it only causes pain to themselves and everyone around them.

I don’t know what this says about my own character, but there is just something about the complete imperfection of Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship that appeals to me…

But anyway – as you would if noticed if you read my last review, I can be quite particular about how my favourite novel is adapted to the big screen. In my opinion, the 2011 film by Andrea Arnold didn’t cut the mustard.

I re-read every book before I review it – so while Wuthering Heights is so fresh in my mind, I thought I’d compare it to another film version. This time, the comparison will be of the 1970 version starring Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall.

Before the opening credits, the film begins with Catherine’s funeral, whose tombstone is surrounded by villagers. Only two of the mourners, Ellen Dean and Edgar Linton, appear to be grieving. When a glassy-eyed Edgar looks out beyond the churchyard, he sees Heathcliff on horseback on the crest of a hill.

Catherine’s funeral acts as the bookend for the film – the beginning, as well as the end. Like the 2011 film, this version also ends with Catherine’s death and completely omits the second half of the novel.

In my last review, I criticised Andrea Arnold for depriving viewers of the half of the story that offered any form of hope or resolution – but with this version I felt more forgiving. In the closing scenes, director Robert Fuest shows Heathcliff chasing Catherine’s ghost through the moors and to Wuthering Heights. Catherine’s ghost is smiling as a gunshot rings out, and it is all over.

This is a completely different ending to that which was written by Emily Bronte. In the novel, Heathcliff lives more than twenty years after Catherine – long enough to wreak havoc on the lives of the next generation of the Linton and Earnshaw families.

In Arnold’s film, the end credits roll with Heathcliff throwing himself against a wall. There is no light, no resolution. At least in Fuest’s concocted ending, the story has finality.

The Heathcliff of the novel only ever dreamed of Catherine haunting him – but in this film gets what he desires. And even though they are both dead, and all is effectively lost, their ghosts running happily through the moors gives the audience closure.

The 1970 film is in large part a very faithful adaptation. Like in the novel, Nelly has the role as the narrator and moral compass of the story. All the key plot points are there – from Heathcliff’s arrival under the coat of Mr Earnshaw, until his return to Wuthering Heights as an adult.

But along the way there are some noticeable differences:

  • When Mr Earnshaw arrives home with Heathcliff, he makes a point of announcing that the boy has been named after their first son – a boy who died. Much more importance is placed on Heathcliff’s position in the household than Bronte intended.
  • When Heathcliff comes out from under Mr Earnshaw’s coat, it is only Hindley who reacts negatively. In the book, Catherine is equally as petulant and cruel.
  • Hindley is generally treated in a much more favourable light in the film. He is presented as being undeserving of Mr Earnshaw’s poor treatment, and the audience is encouraged to pity him. It is also rewritten that Nelly harbored a desire to be Hindley’s wife.
  • Like in the 2011 film, the ages of the children at key points of the story have been altered. Catherine and Heathcliff appear to be adults when they sit at Mr Earnshaw’s knee on the night that he died. Heathcliff is also completely protected by Hindley’s physical abuse until he was fully grown.
  • Heathcliff is heard calling Mr Earnshaw “father” – something that never occurs in the book. In general, in the book, it is insinuated that the only person that Heathcliff truly cares about is Catherine, and he only tolerates Mr Earnshaw out of convenience. In this film, he seems to have a true admiration and fondness for the man.
  • The discrepancies with their ages are a little off-putting at times. Catherine and Heathcliff are seen meandering through the moors as adults, and generally appear to be acting too childish. Anna Calder-Marshall’s Catherine is generally too giddy and absurd looking for my liking.
  • The scene where Catherine urges Heathcliff to never leave was written into the screenplay. The Catherine of the book would have been too headstrong and confident to fear or beg of anything, even of Heathcliff.
  • Joseph is much more proper, and speaks much better than he does in the book. He is also not as pious or as aggravating. There is no equivalent to Zillah, the maid who replaces Nelly at Wuthering Heights.
  • As mentioned previously, in neglecting the second half of the novel, the film omitted a number of the book’s key characters – Catherine’s daughter Cathy, Heathcliff’s son Linton, and Hindley’s son Hareton. Hareton at least is born, but he is said to have died in infancy. Catherine dies in childbirth, but there is no mention of her daughter lived.
  • Heathcliff is much more physical with Catherine than he is in the book. He lashes out at her once in the barn, and throws her down by the hair in the grounds of Thrushcross Grange. His literary equivalent never harmed Catherine. He was also never shown rolling around on the ground in the throws of love with her either.
  • The pivotal scene where Catherine admits to Nelly that she will marry Edgar is there – and to a point is faithful. Catherine delivers a more succinct version of her speech and Heathcliff overhears from the hall. The difference is that Catherine discovers that Heathcliff overheard her speech before she was able to confess to Nelly her true feelings for him – this is done in the grounds of Wuthering Heights, when she has already begun searching for Heathcliff.
  • In the film, Catherine consents to go away with Heathcliff but it is he that decides to stay put. He is already plotting his revenge on Hindley, and already possesses the deeds to Wuthering Heights, and tells Catherine that he “has things to do” first. This never happens in the book – Catherine never agreed to leave with Heathcliff, she was only ever going to stay with Edgar.
  • Cathy doesn’t poke fun at Isabella for fancying Heathcliff the way that she does in the book. In fact, in the film she doesn’t seem to care two hoots about the blossoming affair between the love of her life and her sister-in-law. She seems completely unfazed and unthreatened by the prospect of it.
  • The scene in the kitchen where Edgar strikes Heathcliff on the gullet and Catherine throws the key in the fire is true to the word on the page – but the fall-out afterwards is much more dramatic. When Heathcliff flees, he fights two men with an iron rod on his way out, and screaming ladies spill from the house. Edgar even takes a shot at him as he runs away.

Despite its differences, this forty-year-old adaptation is true to the spirit of Wuthering Heights, and I believe the filmmakers understood the intentions of Emily Bronte well.

The verdict:

How does the film rate? 3/5

How does the film rate as an adaptation? 4/5

Total score: 7/10

Book or Big Screen? Book

August 3, 2013

All sinners would be miserable in heaven: How ‘Wuthering Heights’ compares from book to film

Adapting Wuthering Heights to the big screen would be a challenge for any filmmaker. The classic novel by Emily Bronte spans forty-odd years and details the lives of two generations in the Earnshaw and Linton households.

The story centres on the depiction of raw human emotion, and instead of pivotal events and plot points to propel the narrative the novel flows through impassioned prolonged speeches and detailed descriptions of the harsh and unforgiving landscape.

Told in a non-linear fashion, the novel begins with the arrival of a Mr Lockwood to Thrushcross Grange, who takes it upon himself to visit his landlord – a Mr Heathcliff at the neighbouring estate, Wuthering Heights.

At Mr Lockwood’s insistence, the housekeeper Ellen Dean (Nelly) soon begins to relay the stories of the prior inhabitants of the two houses. She begins with Mr Heathcliff’s arrival at Wuthering Heights as a young boy, and his blossoming friendship with the young Catherine Earnshaw.

Over the course of the novel, Nelly’s tale continues right through Catherine and Heathcliff’s teenage years, and into their adulthood when Catherine marries Edgar Linton from Thrushcross Grange. After Catherine’s death, the story then continues well into the lives of each of Catherine and Heathcliff’s children.

In bringing the book to the big screen in 2011, writer-director Andrea Arnold was faced with the obvious challenge of how to convincingly cast each of the characters at their various ages – from early childhood, through to adolescence and then into adulthood – and how to condense the sweeping story into one digestible feature-length film.

For Arnold, the answer was to begin with Shannon Beer and Solomon Gaive as the teenage Catherine and Heathcliff, and to end with Kaya Scodelario and James Howson as the relatively young adult-versions of the characters. The film ends with Heathcliff’s reaction to Catherine’s death and the second generation – and therefore the whole second half of the novel – is omitted altogether.

I can see where Arnold was coming from, with only attempting to adapt the first half of the novel. The lore around Wuthering Heights does centre on Catherine and Heathcliff and their passionate and doomed love affair. But by leaving out the rest of the story – of Cathy Linton, Linton Heathcliff and Hareton Earnshaw, and ultimately of Heathcliff’s demise – the film is barely able to progress to the middle before it ends.

Yes, the love that Heathcliff and Catherine share is all consuming. Their obsession for each other is the aspect of the novel that has the most impact, and is therefore the most remembered. But Wuthering Heights is not Romeo and Juliet – it is not about the kind of selfless love between two people that cannot exist without each other. Wuthering Heights is about a love that is so intense and selfish, and causes so much pain, that it could only ever end with one dead and the other mortally wounded.

Andrea Arnold’s 2011 adaptation is extensively pared back – and not only in content. The film is dark, desolate and completely devoid of colour and music – this absence of colour reminds me of an amateur theatre production of Wuthering Heights on an empty wooden stage. Also stripped bare is the dialogue. As mentioned previously, it is the grand speeches that allow the novel to flow, but in the film the characters are largely silent.

One of the most memorable scenes in the novel is when Catherine confesses to Nelly the depth of her love for Heathcliff, yet admits that she has consented to marry Edgar Linton. Unbeknownst to Catherine, Heathcliff overhears her intention to marry but tragically flees before she declares:

“…he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.”

This pivotal scene – the only time when Catherine shows forgivable emotion – is completely missing from the film. The audience never hears her confession, and is therefore deprived of the most powerful and heartfelt speech of the novel.

Although frequently described as rough, wild and surly, Heathcliff too is prone to loudly profess his feelings in the novel. Even in his youth, he exclaims:

“She is so immeasurably superior to them – to everybody on earth, is she not, Nelly?”

In the film, Heathcliff is comparatively dumb and mute. The only time that he admits his feelings is when standing in the drawing room at Thrushcross Grange as an adult. The rest of the film is all long looks and brooding silences, and Heathcliff could easily be mistaken for lamenting over his station in life and his cruel treatment at the hands of Hindley Earnshaw, rather than over his heartbreak.

In the novel, the reader is never under any doubt on the deep connection between Catherine and Heathcliff. As children their time together created a sense of fun and frivolity and it was clear that they completed each other and needed nothing else. In the film, a strange sexual connection between the adolescent couple is established with close-ups of Catherine’s hair and neck and lingering shots of Heathcliff’s quivering hand, but Catherine is more wild than affectionate and Heathcliff seems too morose to care.

Consistent with the novel, the film is told retrospectively, but without the help of Nelly or Mr Lockwood. The film begins with grown-up Heathcliff’s reaction to Catherine’s death. Overcome with grief, he throws himself repeatedly against a wall – an act that is reminiscent of his literary equivalent’s days in the grounds of Thrushcross Grange when he ferociously beats his head against the trunk of a tree. Loosely adapted from the novel, it borrows some familiar ideas and imagery – such as Catherine’s initials etched onto the wall, and the branch scratching against the window.

The film then continues with the back-story of Catherine and Heathcliff’s upbringing and growing bond, until it finally comes full circle and we once again see Heathcliff at his height of grief. It is a powerful scene that conveys the extent of Heathcliff’s obsessive devotion to Catherine.

When Catherine dies, she leaves Heathcliff a broken, traumatised and sadistically twisted man. He spends the rest of the novel reaping havoc on everyone that is left living. But by ending the film with Catherine’s death, the film fails to demonstrate the full extent of Heathcliff’s anger and penchant for revenge. All the audience knows is that he is heartbroken. Without showing the next generation, the audience has no idea that Heathcliff spends the rest of his life plotting revenge. They also have no idea that, against all odds, the original story does have a happy ending.

Some other deviations from the book to the big screen:

  • Although uncouth and isolated, the Earnshaws of the book were a respectable land-owning family, considered to be of noble breeding. Wuthering Heights was a country estate – although less grand than Thrushcross Grange, it was considered “the next best in the neighbourhood.” In the book, the family are depicted as poor, simple folk with no illusions of grandeur. The homestead is little more than a dirty shack.
  • In the novel, Heathcliff is described as “a dark-skinned gypsy” with a “degree of under-bred pride.” As Heathcliff is an orphan, the reader never learns of his true origins, but there is the implication that he looks exotic and for that reason it would be unseemly for Catherine to associate with him. In the film, Arnold ups the ante and interprets Heathcliff’s dark skin literally in casting Glave and Howson, who are both of Afro-Caribbean descent. For me, it works.
  • As mentioned previously, Arnold took liberty with the ages of the characters. In the book Heathcliff arrives when Catherine is six and leaves when she is at womanhood. In the film, it is a teenage Catherine that rambles with Heathcliff on the moors. She still appears to be an adolescent when she accepts Edgar’s marriage proposal. The grown-up Catherine (played with great charisma by Kaya Scodelario) is introduced later.
  • In the book, the reader is never under any doubt about Catherine and Heathcliff’s feelings for each other. It is only by their pride and folly, and not through lack of love, that they do not end up together. In the film, it is not so clear – Catherine and Heathcliff do appear to have a strange and slightly inappropriate brother-sister relationship, which is a little unsettling at times (in particular when she begins to lick at his back wounds!), but there is never anything overtly romantic and neither admit their feelings out loud until Heathcliff gruffly admits his feelings as an adult.
  • In the book, when Heathcliff returns from his travels, Catherine is giddy with excitement. In the film she is stern and stubbornly unforgiving of his leaving. The two versions of scenes have the biggest contrast – one Catherine is all laughter and the other has a firm control of her feelings.
  • Although the film Catherine is sufficiently selfish, the adaptation does not show the full extent of her mad ravings – of how she has the habit of trashing about and tearing at pillows with her teeth, and starving herself to deliberately reach a point of delirium.
  • The symbolism of the feathers was a nice touch to the film. In the book, Catherine found a lapwing nest full of tiny skeletons, and makes Heathcliff promise to never shoot one again. In the film, Catherine’s habit of collecting feathers becomes an important part of their childhood bonding and the lapwing becomes a symbol of their closeness.

This adaptation is raw and gritty, and brought down to its roots. Where the novel made grand speeches, the film settled for long looks and silences. Where the book allowed spring to flourish, the film persisted with the wind and the rain.

While Arnold’s adaptation captured the darkness and shades of Wuthering Heights, it neglected its light. Essentially, this is an illiterate version of a literary classic.

The verdict:

How does the film rate? 2/5

How does the film rate as an adaptation? 2/5

Total score: 4/10

Book or Big Screen? Book

June 11, 2013

So, what did the other bloggers think?

There are a number of bloggers who share my interest in film adaptations, and we all – not surprisingly – have very different opinions on the films that cut the mustard and the films that fall flat.

Reviewing books and films is a very subjective process. There is no right and wrong when translating a story from one medium to another – so assessments of success largely come down to the personal opinions of each reviewer.

No film has so divided the film vs. book crowd as much as The Great Gatsby.

Fitzgerald and Luhrmann unite and divide in equal measure. Each has their share of passionate fans and harsh critics.

Here is just a quick run-down of some of the varying opinions of us blog-based adaptation critics:

@kizzylark from ‘Half Sweet, Half Salty - Movie Reviews for Movie Lovers’ said:
“Baz Luhrmann is a wonderful director of some genius, who has a certain style, it may not be to everyone's taste, but it is perfect, perfect for The Great Gatsby… Much has been made of the fact that the film is too over the top. Well, yes it is, in the parts that it's supposed to be.”

@kateinkew from ‘Books are my favourite and best’ said:
“Perfection down to the very last sequin… I’m not even going to attempt a book versus film comparison because it’s all bloody brilliant. I love the book. I love Baz Luhmann’s interpretation.”

@curiousnessa from curiousnessa said:
“Reading 'The Great Gatsby' just made me feel like I was drowning. Everything in the book felt like it was supposed to be a symbol for something else… honestly I felt that the movie was a lot better than the book – at least, it was in terms of conveying a clear message.”

@DrHasslein from Cinematic Randomness said:
“I've always felt Luhrmann's work to be all style and no substance and I went into The Great Gatsby expecting pretty much the same… It's not a great film but one well worth seeing. But I must say as much as I did enjoy the film, it left me feeling very sad and with a reminder of the grim reality that people can be really horrible.”

@LifeVsFilm of Life vs Film said:
“I was thoroughly disappointed with the film, mostly because I’d read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel last year in preparation for the film, and really rather enjoyed it.”

@filmvsbook wrote in Novelicious:
“As adaptations go, this may well be one of the most faithful book to film conversions ever made, with some of it incredibly literal. If lines are already in your head from the novel, you are likely to recognise many of them in the film.”

@BrukDiana on said:
“The film is staunchly faithful to the book in both plot and dialogue, and it manages to flesh out the themes of class difference more so than the book, even though there's a little character development that's lost along the way.”

June 2, 2013

Something significant, elemental, and profound: How ‘The Great Gatsby’ compares from book to film

Although I have not yet read any reviews of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, I have heard some of the talk. I have heard lamentations that the film is “too long” and “too slow”.

Were we seeing the same movie?

The Great Gatsby is anything but slow. It is a fast, frenetic, sensory overload of a film. Through 3D glasses your gaze will constantly ping-pong across the screen as you try to take in the full extent of the pace, the rhythm, and the dazzling eye-popping colour.

THIS is what Baz Luhrmann is all about. In Moulin Rouge he set the stage. In The Great Gatsby, he takes F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel and catapults it into his extraordinary world of flamboyance and flair.

Luhrmann’s world is well suited to this story. When reading the book, the words seem to flow together in a flurry, as if Nick Carraway is desperate to etch down all the details of his recent history so that he can put it all to bed and get on with his life.

The book darts from one event or thought to another, as Nick explains only the people and places that are most pivotal to the plot. In this way, Fitzgerald himself lay the foundations for a film that could whizz and whirr from one day to the next – like Gatsby himself, hurtling through the Long Island streets in his yellow automobile.

As the film opens, our narrator is speaking from a sanitarium. In these scenes, he stumbles, disheveled and forlorn, around a darkened room and begins to recount the events that led to his loss of innocence.

There are many parallels with these scenes and the opening and closing of Moulin Rouge. Like Christian on the streets of Paris, Nick Carraway starts off fresh-faced and bright-eyed in New York, and eventually descends into a deep depression and comes to loath the city.

By adding these Moulin Rouge-style bookends, Luhrmann has set a much more somber scene than I was expecting. In reading the novel, my impression was that Gatsby’s story was told in a casual, matter-of-fact way. Nick’s words implied that he was vaguely sad but still slightly curious of Gatsby – so I didn’t expect Tobey Maguire’s Carraway to be so angry, bitter and disillusioned.

Perhaps this disconnect between the book and the film is only due to my interpretation? Perhaps Luhrmann noticed something that I didn’t? Could I have missed the subtle hints that indicated to Luhrmann that Gatsby had a more profound emotional impact on Nick?

In adapting this classic American novel to the big screen, Luhrmann took all of the things that Fitzgerald could only hint at and made them overt. Fitzgerald was constrained by the conservative nature of his times, and of the printed medium. Luhrmann had no such constraints.

In depicting Tom’s relationship with Myrtle, for example, Fitzgerald could only hint at what they were getting up to in the hotel room. Luhrmann, on the other hand, had Isla Fisher (as Myrtle) standing on furniture and garishly flashing her underwear and kicking her heels in the air. Nick was also shown sitting in discomfort as he was subjected to the grunts and moans coming from the bedroom.

In the novel, Tom Buchanan is described as having an aggressive appearance with a “gruff, husky” speaking voice. He is proud and domineering and has a habit of physically compelling Nick from one room to another, as though “moving a checker to another square.” Joel Edgerton plays this part well and is very convincing as the arrogant, obstinate character.

The casting of Jay Gatsby was always going to be over-analysed. The novel revolves around the mysteriousness of this central character and Nick’s occasional descriptions of Gatsby’s appearance, speech and demeanor are for a long time the only clues to who he really is.

Gatsby is described as having a rare, reassuring smile and hair that “looked as though it were trimmed every day.” He is a few years over thirty, elegant, and considered to the point of appearing artificial, with an “elaborate formality of speech [that] just missed being absurd.”

The rationale of giving Gatsby a famous face was always going to be questioned. The audience requires a level of intrigue, which may have been diminished by allocating a face as familiar as Leonardo Dicaprio’s. But one cannot question Luhrmann’s choice when you see the Hollywood stalwart in action – not when he plays charm, anger and heartbreak of Gatsby to such perfection.

I have heard it said that a major deviation from the book is in the way that Tobey Maguire’s Nick appears to idolise Gatsby. Much stock is placed in one line of the novel: “I disapproved of him from beginning to end.”

It is true that, in the book, Nick is from the outset wary and cynical of Gatsby. He claims to have heard every false note in his speech and is frequently irritated by what he sees as Gatsby’s charade. While in the beginning Nick was in awe of Gatsby, he was eventually perceived as being more average and “without any particular wonder.”

In the film, Nick does seem to have a more persistently romantic, idealistic view of Gatsby. He describes Gatsby as the “single most hopeful man I ever met” and the “one man exempt from disgust.” But I don’t see how the relationship between Nick and Gatsby has deviated too far away from the line set by Fitzgerald.

Although Nick may have “disapproved” of some of his actions, he always maintained a level of underlying affection – or at least respect for all that Gatsby had aspired to and accomplished. Nick wavered from admiring Gatsby to pitying him, but he never truly disliked him. Again, I think that the only disconnect here comes down to a personal interpretation of the text.

Daisy Buchanan’s character is given a mixed appraisal in the novel. At times, Nick is enchanted by Daisy’s beauty and grace. In detail, he describes the charm of her “low, trilling voice” and the “stirring warmth” that flows from her.

But Daisy is a contradiction. She is sweet and careless in equal measure. She is both selfish and ashamed, excited and unfulfilled, deprived and cherished. She is at times held up on a pedestal, and at others dragged through the dirt.

In casting for this role, Luhrmann would have been looking for an actress who could convincingly embody all of these qualities. She needed to be beautiful enough to make an indelible impression of all the men that she encountered, while at the same time appearing as innocent as her character in the novel, whose “attention leaps from one thought to another” and is completely out of touch with the ordinary world.

Carey Mulligan was an ingenious choice and is an absolute vision as Daisy.

For me, the appeal of Fitzgerald’s story is its underlying love story. Gatsby has a love for Daisy that surpasses every other motivation and feeling. Deep down, every girl dreams of being loved that way – but the tragedy comes when we understand that a love with such intensity could never be sustained.

Gatsby had built Daisy up into a lofty dream that she could never live up to. This truth is both sad and beautiful. When I watched Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, I experienced that flutter that only comes with an epic romance. Thank you Baz!

Of course, Luhrmann did give the “green light” to some other very distinct and deliberate changes:

  • The Nick of the book is much more resilient. He doesn’t seem to require the professional help that Toby Maguire’s Nick finds in the film.
  • In the book, Nick seems to be writing of his own accord, and the fact that he is doing so seems to be no great feat. In the film, he is convinced to write as a form of therapy, and it quickly becomes an obsession that returns Nick to his true profession.
  • In the book, Nick is not told that Jordan is a “very famous golfer,” as he is told in the film. He recognises her face from some past controversy and only confirms her identity later on.
  • The Dan Coady rescue scene is different. In the book, Jay did not row out and commandeer a stricken vessel that was already perilously close to the rocks. He was casually walking along the beach when he decided to warn of the dangers of the coming wind to an already anchored ship.
  • Daisy’s debut at Gatsby’s party was also less dramatic in the book. There was no fistfight, only a phone call that diverted Gatsby’s attention for a portion of the evening. In the book, Daisy tried to convince herself that she was enjoying the party, but it was clear that she was from a different world – in the film, the difference between old money and new was unavoidable.
  • In the book, the “I know your wife” statement occurred one afternoon at Gatsby’s house, when Tom appeared unexpectedly as part of a small riding party. Gatsby becomes intrigued by Tom, and wants to join the party, but is snubbed and left behind when the riders depart. No such snub occurs during the film.
  • Daisy introduces her daughter to Gatsby in the book, whereas in the film the young girl is only seen briefly when Daisy and Tom are packing to leave their mansion.
  • In the book, Gatsby never lost his temper at Tom. There was just a glimmer of the rage in his face. That was all – but it was enough for Daisy.
  • Tom was so confident that Gatsby had lost Daisy in the book that he smugly insisted that they drive back to Long Island together. In the film, Daisy runs away from the hotel room in distress and Gatsby runs after her.
  • In the film, Tom offered Gatsby’s name to Wilson at his garage. In the book, Wilson had to walk for hours before eventually finding Tom and learning Gatsby’s name.
  • In the book, Myrtle’s sister Catherine helps to correct the rumors about Gatsby before they can rage out of control. In the film, Luhrmann allows the rumors to rage and rage and rage.
  • In the book, when Nick telephoned Gatsby that final afternoon, the line was busy. In the film, the phone was answered and Nick could overhear what was happening in the background.
  • In the book, Gatsby floated on an inflatable mattress in the pool. In the film, he dove in and swam the length of the pool before stepping up the ladder and looking one last time out toward the green light. In this way, Luhrmann created a Gatsby that appeared to have everlasting hope.
  • Gatsby’s father makes an appearance at the end of the book, and speaks of a son that was always concerned with his family’s wellbeing. In the film, Gatsby never felt connected to his family. When he walked away he never looked back.
The verdict:

How does the film rate? 5/5

How does the film rate as an adaptation? 5/5

Total score: 10/10

Book or Big Screen? Book (No matter how good the film adaptation is, a classic is a classic.)

P.S. I forgot to add this to the post originally, but couldn't leave it off for long. In the reviewing process I endeavored to count all the mentions of "old sport" and compare from book to film. For anyone who is interested, the infamous Gatsby-ism is mentioned 45 times in the book and 47 in the film!

June 1, 2013

Among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars… I have been waiting a long time for this

It’s safe to say that I have been patiently waiting for Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby.

In this blog, I have published a number of posts over the last few years to document the filming process. As far back as October 2011, I started posting paparazzi photos from the set in Sydney, and speculating about how Leonardo DiCaprio would fare as Jay Gatsby.

In November 2011, I mused about how Luhrmann might struggle with the delicate balance between showing off his leading man and conveying the air of mystery that is supposed to shroud this Gatsby character.

In February 2012, I posted about the Sydney reshoots that delayed the production of the film and provided yet more opportunities for the paparazzi to give us a glimpse at the costumes and set designs.

All the while, I eagerly waited for the December 2012 release date, only to be disappointed when the film was pushed back until May 2013. Whenever I sat in the cinema and the Gatsby trailer was screened, I would muffle a shriek of excitement and feel a shiver up my spine. Soon, so soon!

My patience has really been tested over the last few weeks, as the rest of the world filed into cinemas and Australia was forced to wait. I have retweeted dozens of reviews on Twitter, but I have not read a single one.

I will read them all, but not before I write my own.

In this blog, I painstakingly compare the page to the screen. In the film adaptation process, which elements of the original did the Director leave out? Which plot points and characters have been folded in together? Has the original work been respected or even improved upon?

After a few years of writing such comparisons, I have realised that it is a very personal process. Everyone reads books differently and conjures different interpretations of each word. Sometimes film adaptations compliment people's imaginations, and sometimes they don’t. There is no right or wrong, just opinion and conjecture.

When I publish my review of The Great Gatsby (hopefully later today), it will be my interpretation alone. This review has been a long time coming, so it will not be coloured by the thoughts of another.

April 25, 2013

The highest and the lowest of all the worlds: How ‘The Host’ compares from book to film

The Host is precisely what you would expect from Stephenie Meyer, bestselling author of Twilight. Like Twilight, The Host has a supernatural premise, which is overshadowed by a dominant, romantic theme. Like Twilight, it is written from the perspective of a young female lead, in an accessible, young-adult style.

Like Twilight, there is one, central, unwavering love story. Two young lovers are for a time kept apart because of their core biological make-up. By continuing their love, they risk placing the other in danger.

In Twilight, the seemingly insurmountable obstacle is that Edward is a vampire, and Bella is a human. Vampires should consider humans as a food source, and humans should be chilled to the core when in a vampire’s presence. And yet, they fall in love.

In The Host, Earth has been taken over by a parasitic alien species. Wanderer, one of these aliens, or ‘souls’, comes to love the human partner of her host, Melanie. Jared is still human, and although Wanderer should have no empathy for the human race, she comes to value the life of this human life above any of her own species.

But Edward tries to stay away from Bella in Twilight, and Jared despises Wanderer even though he is still in love with Melanie (who may still be alive inside of her). Cue the love triangle. In Twilight, Bella has Jacob the werewolf. In The Host, ‘Wanda’ has Ian, the compassionate human who falls in love with her ‘soul’.

Stephenie Meyer knows how to write a good, mushy romance. The Host is brimming with fantasies from the mind of Melanie, and the dreams of Wanda, and the desires of Ian, and the tormented pain of Jared. The romantics out there will be satiated with lines like:

“After all the planets and all the hosts you’ve left behind, you’ve finally found the place and body you’d die for.”

“I wondered if death was strong enough to dissolve something so vital and sharp. Perhaps this love would live on with her, in some fairytale place with pearly gates.”

The book can be a bit repetitive. In showing, in detail, how Wanda fares with the humans in the caves, many of the chapters focus on Wanda’s nervous trips down dark corridors, and days spent working tirelessly to make bread or harvest the fields. There is also intricate detail on how the humans manage to live in exile: How they wash and take care of other, essential ablutions, and how their sleeping arrangements are made. Although it might sound a bit monotonous, this level of detail does succeed in pulling you deeply into the story.

One area that could have benefited from a good editor is the use of the same phrases to explain Wanda’s facial expressions and physical reactions. Whenever Jared touches her, it feels like fire. When she thinks about the Seeker, she feels nauseous. When Ian touches her, she crinkles her nose. Through the narration we understand these descriptions to be necessary, as Wanda is learning how her new body works. But I think the reader gets the point quite a while before Meyer believes she has made it.

In all, I enjoyed The Host. It is a very suspenseful read that seems to move with pace despite the repetitiveness of life in the caves, and Meyer succeeds in making you feel for the characters. It is the kind of book that you will rush through, only to regret your haste when it’s all over.

The film doesn’t endear you in the same way. The way that the filmmakers have adapted the pseudo science fiction-love story is very Bold and the Beautiful meets Body Snatchers. It’s all a little bit corny, and very Twilight.

My sister is a good barometer for the cheese factor in films. The way she audibly sighed throughout this movie was similar to her involuntary reactions to Anna Karenina.

Saorise Ronan’s breathy voice is reminiscent of her ghostly character in The Lovely Bones, where very sentence is made to sound ethereal. As the film wore on, I became impatient for the resolution. Whether Wanda took over and Melanie died, or Wanda gave in and Melanie returned, I didn’t care, so long as Wanda could show more than a vacant, confused expression, and we didn’t have to hear Melanie’s passive-aggressive voice-over any more.

In the book, Melanie’s influence allows Wanda to experience real some emotion – if it weren’t for her eyes, you could mistake Wanda for being human. But this wasn’t conveyed in the film, as the emphasis was on presenting Wanda as clearly ‘alien’ and ‘other’.

In the book, Melanie’s sarcastic, frustrated inner voice is often very humorous, and is a welcome contrast to Wanda’s sickly sweet view of the world. But in the film, Melanie’s narration from inside Wanda’s mind often comes across as laughingly lame one-liners.

At the heart of The Host – the book, as well as the film – are questions about our humanity. The souls take over earth because they perceive humans to be vicious, cruel, and careless with their planet. But, to the humans, the souls are not saving the Earth – they are taking over the world by force and destroying an entire species.

The message is that, even though there is a dark side to humanity, it is the dark that makes the light so much more beautiful. Love is more powerful amongst human beings, because they understand what it means to hate.

“This place was truly the highest and the lowest of all the worlds – the most beautiful senses, the most exquisite emotions… the most malevolent desires, the darkest deeds.”

Despite its comparatively simplistic approach, the film version does do justice to this overarching theme of the novel. The conflict between the values of the human race and the souls is well presented, and the audience is left to question whether ‘humanity’ is all it’s cracked up to be.

Getting down to the nitty-gritty now, there were some significant changes made, in transitioning this book to the big screen:

  • The film didn’t delve into as much detail about the other planets that the souls have populated, and the nature of Wanda’s past lives. It is still quite clear that Wanda is special, and her experiences unique, but in the film she is not the ‘celebrity’ that she is in the book.
  • By omitting details of Wanda’s past lives, the film also refrained from detailing the nature of the seaweed planet, and the fire planet and the claw beasts, dolphins and spiders. Which I think was a good move. These other planets are supposed to be beyond human comprehension – so to give them a visual representation on the screen would have impacted on this surrealist element of the story.
  • Another early omission is Wanda’s teaching job at the university. In the book she is given the title of ‘Honorary Professor,’ and her contribution to society is teaching other souls about the other planets. In the film, she has no such occupation. She also has no need for a Comforter like she does in the book.
  • In the book, Wanda’s Comforter acts as a counselor who tries to ease her transition into life on Earth. There is not place for the comforter in the film, as Wanda’s struggles are not as strongly felt, and she does not harbour any inner shame over not being able to rid her body of Melanie.
  • Wanda loses some of her intensity in the film. In the book she struggles for months to fight back against Melanie and is disappointed and shamed by her inability to do so. She is also fiercely proud of her past lives. In the film, Wanda is much more reserved and modest, and she doesn’t put up the same level of fight against Melanie.
  • While Wanda loses some of her intensity in the film, the Seeker becomes a much more powerful nemesis. In the book, the Seeker is a short, dark-haired, pixie-like soul, who begins as a source of annoyance and frustration to Wanda, which eventually develops into hatred. In the film, Diane Kruger’s statuesque Seeker is a force to be reckoned with. She is harsh and murderous, and although she might not trigger the same revulsion in Wanda, she does incite more fear.
  • Wanda’s getaway is much more dramatic in the film – the Seekers are lurking outside of her door as Melanie propels her from the balcony and into the pool below. She then attacks a soul, commandeers a vehicle and escapes into the night before Melanie takes control over her body once again, crashing the car in the middle of the desert. In the book, Wanda’s is traveling to see her Healer when Melanie quietly convinces her to seek out Jared and Jamie.
  • Missing from the film are the other examples of the resistant human minds taking back control of their bodies. In the book, an example is the fabled Kevin whose body had to be ‘retired’ because his resistant host made it unsuitable for habitation by such a kindly soul.
  • In the film, Melanie’s Dad shot himself to avoid capture. In the book, he was captured by the souls and he led the Seekers to find Melanie and Jamie.
  • In the book, Melanie throws herself down an elevator shaft to avoid capture. In the film, the elevator shaft is replaced with a glass window.
  • In the book, Wanda was locked away in her small, cavern-like prison for more than a week before she was tentatively ingratiated into human society in the caves. In the film the transition is quicker, and her sleeping quarters are much more humane. Wanda also has a few more run-ins with fists in the book, whereas in the film the physical assaults that she experiences are minimal.
  • The film has no Walter – Wanda’s human friend who dies of cancer and is buried in the desert – and no tribunal for Kyle who tries to murder her.
  • Wanda’s grief at the murdered souls lasts three days in the book, and she is almost comatose as she huddles in the darkest recesses of the caves and mourned the loss of her ‘family’. She only rouses when she is told about Jamie’s sickness. In the film, the mourning period is comparatively briefer, and less dramatic.
  • The way that Jamie hurts his leg is different in the film. In the book, he comes back with the injury after a raid. In the film, it happens while working in the fields inside the cave. The innocent Jamie of the film would never have been taken on a raid. He is more child-like than the Jamie of the book who is well into his teen years.
  • When Wanda and Jared go out in search for alien medicine for Jamie, the means of establishing Wanda’s cover story is different. In the book, Jared rips at Wanda’s face with a rock to obscure her scar and Wanda almost hacks her own arms off with a knife. In the film, the injuries are less brutal, their actions more restrained – Jared has no hand in it, he only watches as Wanda cuts a slice on her cheek and arms with a knife.
  • The incident with the truck accident was created for the big screen. After a high-speed pursuit, two humans deliberately crash their truck to avoid being captured by Seekers. The parallel in the book is a much less dramatic highway scene, where police officers pull over Wanda and Jared’s car, but Wanda is able to talk herself out of the situation and the supply truck passes by unnoticed.
  • Also missing from the film are the long raids that Wanda, Jared, Ian and Kyle go on, once they realise how useful Wanda can be. They travel from town to town constructing new identities, sleeping at hotels, and collecting masses of supplies. In the film, this is reduced to one casual trip to the grocery store.
  • Also missing is the family that Wanda observes at the park – the two souls with the human child, who prompt Wanda’s musing about the potential future of earth with souls and humans living together in harmony.
  • In the book, Wanda swears not to tell her secret – of how souls can be safely removed from human bodies – to any human. But eventually, and after much heartache, she comes to realise that it is the only way to save both species. In the film, Wanda doesn’t anticipate the humans’ want of this information, but eventually offers it willingly and with less sense of personal suffering and sacrifice.
  • The coaxing of the souls out of the human body is also different. In the book, Wanda teaches Doc how to reach his fingers inside the human neck and follow the spine of the soul, before massaging and cajoling it free. In the film, the trick is kindness. All that is necessary is to cut the skin and wait as the soul floats its way out of the body.
  • In the film, once the soul is removed from the Seeker’s body, the human left behind is obnoxious and “difficult”. In the film, she is reduced to a sobbing wreck that is only grateful to be free.
  • In the film there is no Jodi, and no Sunny, and Kyle does not come around and accept that souls can be treated like human beings. There are also no middle-aged healers, abducted to help pass on healing tricks to Doc.
  • In the book, there is a tribunal where the humans argue about whether Wanda should be allowed to leave Melanie’s body, and where she is presented the option of having another host body. In the film, there is no tribunal. The decisions are made without in-depth discussion.

The verdict:

How does the film rate? 2.5/5

How does the film rate as an adaptation? 3/5

Total score: 5.5/10

Book or Big Screen? Book

Coming soon: A comparison of ‘The Shipping News’ from book to film.

April 16, 2013

Look alive out there: How ‘Warm Bodies' compares from book to film

Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion starts as strongly as any book I have ever read. The opening line of the novel should go down in popular culture as one of the best in our generation. In years to come, it should be read out in small-town pub trivia games along with “It is a truth universally acknowledged” and “Call me Ishmael” for the way it, in one simple line, sets the theme and tone of the entire novel.

“I am dead, but it’s not so bad. I’ve learnt to live with it.”

Direct, funny, clever and witty. And thankfully, with the bar set this high, the rest of the novel does not fall short.

Warm Bodies has been touted as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet, with an obvious paranormal twist. Our protagonist ‘R’ comes from the wrong side of tracks (in this case the decaying world of the walking dead) yet is somehow able to maintain a romantic and philosophic view of the world.

The ethereally beautiful Julie may as well come from the other side of the world (because she is still living and breathing) – and yet, despite the differences that keep them apart, Julie and R fall in love.

If you were ever in any doubt of the Shakespearean connection, Marion also has included a balcony scene – as if to (tactfully?) point out to the reader that he intended for the parallels to be obvious.

For any Twilight fans, this story will also be familiar. You see, R is a zombie with a conscience – he doesn’t like hurting people and falls in love with woman who should be a part of his primary food group. But R and Julie are no Edward and Bella – they are imperfect, embittered, and angry at the world and they are taking no prisoners.

There is so much more to Warm Bodies than the plight of star-crossed lovers.

The novel is about the ruthlessness and meaninglessness of life: “I don’t know why we have to kill people. I don’t know what chewing through a man’s neck accomplishes. I steal what he has to replace what I lack. I eat until I stop eating, then I eat again.”

It is about the evils of our modern age, and the inhumanity of the human race: “You and I are victims of the same disease. We’re fighting the same war, just different battles in different theatres.”

The ‘life’ that R lives in the airport with the boneys and the hoards of other zombies seems like the apocalypse. It doesn’t seem like things could get any worse, until you learn how the humans are living in the stadium. That’s real chaos.

By fighting to survive, the humans have lost all remnants of what makes them human. Ironically, the dead seem to have more of a life – they get married, send their zombie children to school, make friends, and fight to be alive once again.

Humanity is the real evil. The zombies, without any hope, fears or futures, have the luxury of a more peaceful existence than the humans who are still consumed by their own pride, ambitions and selfishness.

The underlying messages of the film are not so deep. All the clues are still there, but the focus has shifted more to the developing romance to R and Julie – how they got to know each other, and the quirky little parts of the days they shared together. There is less time for existentialism.

What the film does adapt perfectly is the wit, humour and heart of the book. The film is funny and touching in precisely the way that Marion intended.

Nicholas Hoult is incredible as R. It’s amazing how he can pull off looking so believably dead, while at the same time injecting so much life into the role. He walks the line perfectly between decay and delight.

Teresa Palmer also plays her part well, although it was a little distracting how much she resembled Kristen Stewart. It’s hard to forget the similarities to Twilight when you keep expecting Robert Pattinson to burst into the airport and save Bella from the zombies.

As a matter of course, I will have to list the key differences between the book and the film:

  • Rob Corddry’s character M (the Mercurio of the adaptation) is altered in appearance, and also slightly in nature. For example, in the book he has a penchant for pornography that is not translated to the big screen.
  • In the book, R’s last outfit before he died was a suit and tie, and he speculates that he may have been an office worker. In the film, he jokes that he may have been homeless, on account of his red hoodie.
  • The occasional zombie is the film is able to retain parts of its identity – the janitor and the security guards at the airport, for example – but the rest of the zombies have shed all remnants of human life. In the book, they keep up some semblance of tradition, by getting married and sending their little adopted zombie children to school.
  • Julie’s father in the film, General Grigio (who is wonderfully depicted by John Malkovich), is frightening in his severity – yet in the film he softens somewhat. He is eventually able to relent and see the truth, whereas in the book, he is too far gone – he refuses to fight, he prefers to let go of his life rather than accept that the world may be healing.
  • In the film, the zombies and the humans unite against the boneys – in the book, the end comes about by much more cosmic means.
  • A significant change is the Berlin-style wall that separates the land of the living from the land of the dead. In the book, the humans are all huddled in a makeshift city inside a stadium, living in tins shacks and their own filth. In the film they are living in comparative splendor – Julie lives in a mansion, and the abandoned stadium exists only for R and Julie to run through, as they sneak from one land to the other.
  • The way that R sneaks into the stadium is also different. In the book he acts like a human and deceives the guard who lets him stride right past. In the film, they are much less trusting – they use eye-scanning devices to test for infection on everyone who approaches the gates. In the film, R delves into Perry’s memories to find a secret entry through the wall.
  • In the film, R doesn’t slip up inside and attack a guard, as he does in the book. Julie and Nora don’t take him to a pub and he also doesn’t have the opportunity to injure some rude and ignorant men. Overall, R’s time inside the human world is much more limited in the film – he has less opportunity to experience human life, and therefore less opportunity to fail at it.
  • Perry doesn’t speak to R in the film, the way that he does in the book. In the film it is only Perry’s memories that R accesses, and he eventually finds even that too much. In the book, R is so connected to Perry’s mind and they have real or imagined conversations.
  • The way that Perry’s father dies is different. In the book he dies in a “stupid work accident” and Perry find it difficult to reason that his death was not for any noble cause. In the film, Julie and Perry come across the zombie version of his father and Julie shoots him in the head.
  • Similarly, the story about Julie’s mother is different. In the book she gives in, accepts that the world is over and walks out into the world to accept her fate. They never find out what actually happened to her, yet they imagine the worst. In the film, it is insinuated that her mother turned into a zombie, and Grigio shot her in the head.
  • As is perhaps inevitable when changing a book into a film, the value of literature is missing from the film. Perry did not have a love of writing; he did not leave behind a manuscript for Julie to find; R does not lament the loss of his ability to read and struggle to form letters together into words; and there is no talk of the importance of recording the end of humanity in words on a page.

The verdict:

How does the film rate? 4/5

How does the film rate as an adaptation? 4.5/5

Total score: 8.5/10

Book or Big Screen? Book

Coming soon: A review of 'The Host' by Stephenie Meyer

April 4, 2013

The world is run on tricks, everyone plays: How ‘Water for Elephants’ compares from book to film

With every word that Sara Gruen allocated to the pages of Water for Elephants, she was asking the reader to care.

Through this novel – through its intricate detail, seemingly effortless style, sweeping scope, and intriguingly flawed characters – Gruen asks the reader to feel sadness, passion and empathy, and to make an investment of emotional energy as well as time.

I was more than willing to oblige.

Before reading Water for Elephants, I had heard many things. I had heard “best seller,” “five million copies” and “must read” – but these types of recommendations had long become customary. Water for Elephants was a novel that I would one day get around to, but I was in no rush.

When the film rolled through the cinemas, like every girl with a heartbeat, I was intrigued. I heard “Robert Pattinson” and “romantic” and “colourful” and “stunning” – and I thought, ‘I’ll get around to it.'

But then the time came. Water for Elephants was the next book on my ‘to-review’ list, and I started to read. And I wondered how I could have waited for so long.

I relished this book. Every word on every page felt like a gift.

Over the course of the first few chapters, I would lay down the book late at night and think about my grandfather. And suddenly I felt like I truly understood what he went through in the last few years of his life, and more than I every thought possible I valued his memory.

A few more chapters on, and I began to feel a deep sadness for the working animals and the suffering that they endured day after day so that a blissfully ignorant crowd could be entertained. Especially for the animals with enough intelligence to comprehend their own suffering.

Most of all I felt for Walter, the dwarf whose life was forever bound to the circus as he had no means of escape or of a brighter future, and who was stuck between the workers and the “rubes” (performers). He didn’t fit-in with either group and was forced to sleep with the horses.

This book is so rich and so full of colour and character it seemed a perfect fit for the big screen. Which brings me to the 2011 film, directed by Francis Lawrence. I have no criticisms. The adapters did a perfect job of translating Gruen’s cruel and magical world to the visual medium.

Although I have no criticisms, I do have some comparisons:

  • The film is a much more polished than the novel. While all the important elements of the story are where they should be, the on-screen Big Top is much more bright and clean than its literary equivalent. The construction of the circus is like a rhythmic, well-orchestrated dance; the animal enclosures are clean; the ground is lush and green; and the dust and dirt and manure and grime is replaced by light and colour and music. Jacob even has the freedom to walk around the circus grounds and enjoy the splendour – and even begins to thank his lucky stars for sending him Benzini Bros – before he is then given the task of shoveling the manure.
  • In the film, the elderly Jacob’s nursing home is across the road from the circus and he wanders over there by himself, manipulating his way into the show after insulting the ticket collector. In the book, he intentionally misses the bus back to the nursing home.
  • In the film, Jacob didn’t live away at school at the time of his parent’s death. He left the family home that same morning, and farewelled his parents when he left to sit his final exam at Cornell. The exam was then interrupted by the terrible news. In the book, Jacob was attending a lecture at Cornell when he was called out and informed of his parent’s death, he then traveled back home to identify the bodies and due to his grief he later walked out on the final exam.
  • Another slight alteration early on in the film is in regards to Jacob’s relationship with Catherine, the flirtatious girl in his class. In the book, it is implied that Catherine intentionally leads Jacob on and teases him and he is shy and inexperienced and unsure of how to deal with the attention. In the film, Pattinson’s character is much more confident and seems certain of his success in the bedroom.
  • This added confidence is also shown in Jacob’s dealings with August – he cunningly manipulates the circus-owner into employing him with the statement that “I’m sure Ringling has its own vet,” whereas in the book he just stumbles his way through the first meeting (in the book it is with Uncle Al). Pattinson’s Jacob is also more capable of dealing with Marlena’s advances, and her looks and actions in the film are much more direct and encouraging.
  • In the film, there is no Uncle Al. August, the head animal trainer of the book (and Marlena’s husband), also becomes the ringmaster and circus owner. The two brutal and remorseless characters are rolled into one ultimate evildoer, who even does most of his own dirty work.
  • When Jacob first entered the Benzini Brothers train carriage Blackie ambushes him. In the film, his reception is a little more restrained. Following Camel’s advice, Blackie backs off – whereas in the book Jacob takes quite a pounding first.
  • In the book, Jacob first sees Marlena with her ponies inside the animal enclosure, but he doesn’t actually see her perform for quite some time. When he tells Uncle Al that Marlena’s act is his favourite, he is taking a wild guess. In the film, Jacob – and the audience – is able to see Marlena’s act on his very first day, as well as the clowns, the dogs, the acrobats and the lions as well.
  • Also through Jacob’s eyes, in the film the audience is also gifted a much broader tour of the Benzini Bros carriages than they are given in the book. In the book, Jacob is forced to jump precariously from carriage to carriage on the roof of the train – although he also does this in the film, Camel also walks him through of the performer’s sleeping quarters, which are stacked to the roof with narrow bunks.
  • In the film, Jacob goes against August’s direct instructions by putting down Marlena’s horse – and Marlena is also present when he does it. It is the first time that the two really bond, and the first time that Marlena reveals how ruthless and cruel August really is. In the book, August is aware of what he is going to do but it is initially kept from Marlena to protect her feelings.
  • In the book, it is initially not known who is stealing the lemonade – and the value of the stolen liquid is deducted from the wages of the workmen. In the film, Rosie only treats herself to lemonade once, and it is done openly in front of Jacob as a way of demonstrating her intelligence.
  • In the book, Jacob is the “menagerie man” who cares for many of the animals, including the Orangutan. In the film, he is the ‘Bull Man’ only as Rosie takes up the majority of his time. The way that Jacob finds out that Rosie only understands Polish, and Rosie’s eventual circus act with Marlena, are also altered in the film.
  • The tragic nature of Marlena’s back-story is ramped up in the film. In the book she is disowned by her parents because they did not approve of her unsuitable marriage to August – in the film, she is orphaned as a baby and the circus is the only home that she has ever known.
  • In the book, Marlena does not make a deliberate, conscious decision to leave August for Jacob – she feels compelled to, and is driven into Jacob’s arms after August beats her. In the film, their romance is taken up a notch as she decides to leap from the train with him. The drama is also amped up when August’s men find Jacob and Marlena in their hotel room – in the book, they are not discovered and return to the circus separately the following day. In the book, August is never certain that they are having an affair. The stampede scene also has significant differences in the film – no doubt as a way of also making the impact more dramatic.

Actually, having thought about it, I do have one criticism… Throughout both the book and the film, I was waiting for the penny to drop. I was hoping to hear the full explanation of the symbolism of the “Water for Elephants” title. But it never came.

Sure, there are a few references. In the beginning of the novel, Jacob is certain that another resident of the nursing home is lying when he claims to have carried water for elephants at a circus. And when Jacob is brought to Uncle Al, he is taunted with the sarcastic "You want to carry water for elephants, I suppose?" at a time when the Benzini Bros did not have an elephant as part of their act.

It is explained that the circus train can only carry a limited amount of water on board, and only the most favoured employees have the luxury of a bucket of water to wash with. It is also implied that elephants can drink a significant amount – as evidenced by Rosie’s habit of stealing the lemonade, as well as her penchant for whiskey.

But, it is never explained why Jacob was so sure that his nursing home companion was lying. Why was he so certain that the man did not carry water for elephants at some other circus? What did Jacob’s experiences in the circus teach him that others would not ordinarily know?

If only I could answer these questions, I could put this book and film aside and feel perfectly content. So if you can answer them, let me know.

The verdict:

How does the film rate? 4.5/5

How does the film rate as an adaptation? 4.5/5

Total score: 9/10

Book or Big Screen? Book

Coming soon: A review of 'Warm Bodies' by Isaac Marion

March 21, 2013

You’ll only regret the ones you didn’t take: How ‘Safe Haven’ compares from book to film

Safe Haven – the latest in a long line of novels by Nicholas Sparks that have been adapted to film – is everything that you would expect it to be.

The book and the film will each give you their own slightly different versions of the kind of story that Nicholas Sparks has become synonymous with – the kind of story where everyday people find themselves in an unexpected and all-consuming romance that is anything but ordinary.

The love will encounter some expected hurdles, and there will be twists and turns in the road, but the ending will cause you to swallow deeply and sigh. If you have someone in your life that you love, you will reach over and squeeze his or her hand, if you don’t, you will reach a hand to your own heart and hope that some day soon they will come.

For those of you who are fans of The Notebook, The Lucky One, Dear John, A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe, Message in a Bottle and The Last Song, Safe Haven is a must-read and a must-see. You won’t be disappointed – Safe Haven follows Sparks’ tried and true method, and hits all of the right marks.

The book is the kind that you can curl up with at night and relax with. As with Sparks’ other books, the language is simple, the descriptions are vivid, and all of the characters are very neatly summed up. Sparks explains everything so clearly that, by the end, you won’t have any concerns or unanswered questions.

For my taste, it is all a little too clear. You see, Sparks doesn’t leave anything open to interpretation. If his leading lady is scared and lonely, everything about her will show you that she is scared and lonely – she will be quiet and withdrawn; she will jump at loud noises; she will live in an out-of-the-way place and make few friends. But in case you miss these none-too-subtle clues, Sparks’ narration will then confirm to you: yes, she is scared and lonely.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes it’s very nice to lie in bed and lazily read a story that is linear and consecutive, with a reliable third-person narrator to tell it like it is. But for me, Sparks goes too far. He needs to trust that his readers are smart enough to follow along without every plot point being constantly reiterated; he needs to leave some things unsaid, and allow his readers the freedom to analyse and interpret their own meanings.

Another thing that bothered me was Sparks’ habit of beginning new chapters with lengthy, flowery descriptions of the weather:

“The temperature had dropped and the air felt cool and clean. While pockets of mist rose from the ground, rolling clouds drifted past the moon, bringing light and shadow in equal measures. Leaves turned from silver to black and silver again as they shimmered in the evening breeze.”

Sparks works very hard to paint a picture on every page. He wants his readers to feel completely immersed in his romantic, idyllic world. I appreciate the effort, but at times it becomes too much.

As an example, take the flowers that “would explode in colours so bright they almost made Katie’s eyes ache.” Really? Explode? Almost ache? I think sometimes he just gets a little carried away.

I did enjoy the book. Particularly when the story started to shed light on Katie’s previous life and the abuse that she endured at the hands of her husband. I became completely gripped by the story - it is riveting and fast-paced and suspenseful, and it will have you turning each page quickly as you race toward the end.

The film version, starring Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough, is also thoroughly enjoyable. The chemistry between Katie and Alex is sufficiently swoon-worthy; Katie’s husband Kevin adds the right amount of darkness to create the cloud that hangs over their heads; and the whole film moves at exactly the right pace.

I was pleased to find that the physical side of Katie and Alex’s relationship was taken up a notch, and most of the other changes of the book were forgivable:

  • One of the first things that often changes in film adaptations is hair colour – in the film Alex is not prematurely white as he should be, and rather than going from blonde to brunette Katie’s transformation goes the other way around.
  • Rather than being a next-door neighbour, Jo’s house is down another fork in the isolated road. There is also no mention of Jo’s job as a counselor, and Katie does not divulge her secrets to her friend over a bottle of wine.
  • Alex’s daughter Kristen is renamed Lexie, and his son Josh is much more sullen. He pushes Alex’s buttons, whereas in the book there was no conflict between Alex and his kids.
  • Alex and Katie’s first date is on a canoe, and they just so happen to be caught out in the rain – which continues the tradition in many of the Sparks adaptations (The Notebook and The Lucky One are two examples), of the lead characters having a canoe/ rowboat scene after which they kiss in the rain. (Or in the shower, as in The Lucky One.)
  • In the book there is also never any conflict or argument between Katie and Alex. Katie tells him the truth about her past in her own time and he is not left to find out for himself.
  • Katie’s escape is much more tactical in the book – she plots and plans for many, many months before she is able to leave and the way that she pulls off the escape is exactingly detailed. In the film it is only lightly touched on.
  • Kevin’s career difficulties are also very different in the book, as is the way that he eventually finds Katie – and the way the ultimate ending plays out.
By focusing the majority of the film on the blooming romance between Alex and Katie, the film had to leave out many of the details of Katie’s life with Kevin in Boston – so the audience is left with no real idea about the extent of Kevin’s controlling nature and how difficult Katie’s domestic life really was.

By leaving out the details of how Katie orchestrated her escape, the audience can only have a limited understanding of how desperate she was for freedom, and how escape was her only real chance to survive.

I relished these details in the book – it was like reading a mystery thriller novel that was all wrapped-up inside a romantic drama. It’s a shame that film audiences may miss these details, which were very masterfully plotted by Sparks.

When deciding between the book and the big screen, it is for this reason alone that I sway forward the print-and-bound version. While the film hits ticks all of the boxes with the romantic elements of the story, it does fall short by not showing how resourceful and brave Katie truly was.

The verdict:

How does the film rate? 3.5/5

How does the film rate as an adaptation? 3.5/5

Total score: 7/10

Book or Big Screen? Book

Coming soon: A review of 'Water for Elephants' by Sara Gruen

March 3, 2013

The wilderness years are over: How ‘Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason’ compares from book to film

It’s the Sex and the City sequel effect. Step one: make a brilliantly funny movie that resonates with masses of women the world over. Step two: in the inevitable sequel, make everything bigger and better.

Well, at least better is the intention.

From the moment that Renee Zellwegger reappeared on our cinema screens as Bridget Jones – plunging from a plane and landing face first in a pigsty – it was obvious that the filmmakers were upping the ante.

In Helen Fielding’s 1999 book version, Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, the equivalent scene saw Bridget partake in a horse-riding misadventure. A skydiving news report did feature in the book, but Bridget was not required to do the jumping, or to release her own parachute.

In my last published review, of the original Bridget Jones’s Diary and its film adaptation, I gushed at how faithful the filmmakers were to the original story. Every change was for the story’s cinematic benefit, and all the most important elements remained in tact.

The same cannot be said for The Edge of Reason.

The most obvious deviation is with the Rebecca storyline. In the book, Rebecca is the ‘jellyfish’ character who makes Bridget’s life miserable, and who determinedly and ruthlessly pursues a relationship with Mark. In the film, the ‘jellyfish’ is a new and only briefly mentioned character named Jeannie Osbourne, while Rebecca is a sweet colleague of Mark’s who, it turns out, actually has a crush on Bridget.

In the film, by making the competition with Rebecca imagined, and by rendering the threat of losing Mark to nil, the Bridget had more opportunity to dither her way into embarrassing (and funny) situations. It also lightened up the story and paved the way for an on-screen lesbian kiss.

Reading The Edge of Reason, I was surprised to discover some familiar lines and anecdotes that featured in the first movie. The “ghastly, huge scary pants”, for example, (which I mentioned in my last review were not present in book one) were actually borrowed from book two. The boiled egg peeler that you see Bridget’s Mum demonstrating in the shopping mall in film one also originated in book two.

Several of the story lines from The Edge of Reason were slightly altered or omitted for the film sequel:

  • In the book, Jude marries Vile Richard. In the film, the wedding is for Bridget’s parents to renew their vows.
  • In the book, Pam and Una take a trip to Africa and bring back with them a tribesman named Wellington.
  • Mark and Bridget have a bust-up in the book when Bridget walks into his bedroom to discover a naked boy holding a rabbit on the bed.
  • There is no pregnancy scare in the book, nor any argument about whether Mark and Bridget’s future children would be sent to boarding school.
  • Bridget goes to Rome and records a hilarious interview with the real Colin Firth, in which she dwells far too much on his wet shirt in Pride and Prejudice.
  • ‘Gary the Builder’ cuts a hole in Bridget’s apartment wall and sends her a death threat in the mail.
  • Magda – Bridget’s married friend – had a larger role to play in the book. In the film, she is downgraded to only two shot appearances and is introduced as the wife of one of Mark’s colleagues.
  • Daniel only makes a brief appearance in the book, and his career has not transitioned to television.
  • The ‘Smooth Guide’ television program did not have its origins in the book and Bridget’s tragic trip to Thailand did not originate as a work trip, but as a holiday with Shazza.
  • Although (alike the first film adaptation) Mark and Daniel do not have the occasion to brawl in the streets, in The Edge of Reason Mark does get the chance to give Daniel a single punch o the nose.

In my review of Bridget Jones’s Diary, I noted that the film left out an entire saga about Bridget’s Mum getting caught up in a timeshare apartment swindle. By leaving out this element, the film was missing a crucial element of its literary parallel with Pride and Prejudice.

Happily, the film adaptation of The Edge of Reason allows this to be rectified.

The storyline about Bridget’s imprisonment in a Thai prison, and Mark’s heroic attempts to free her, allowed him to pull off the Lydia and Wickham-style save the day that was missing from the first film.

Just as it can be so often generalized that the book is always better than the film, it is so often believed that sequels rarely reach the heights of the original.

In this case, the generalization is correct. The film and the book versions of The Edge of Reason were ever so slightly inferior to their original counterparts – but they were still a hell of a lot of fun!

The verdict:

How does the film rate? 3.5/5

How does the film rate as an adaptation? 4/5

Total score: 7.5/10

Book or Big Screen? Big Screen