Book vs Movie: Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann

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So far I haven’t been too disappointed with the Valley of the Dollsmovie adaptations, of course that had to come to an end. I have issues with some of the movies but this one by far has to be the worse adaptation I’ve seen. Of course, a large part of that could be the novel’s length and two decade timeline. A movie just could not do it justice.

Valley of the Dolls is an excellent book and it’s easy to see why it was and has remained so popular. It provides an interesting story with genuine characters you care about. It starts as a fish out of water story centering on Anne Welles, a small town girl who moved to New York City. Her job puts her in the center of the city’s entertainment industry, which highlights her innocence and naivety. Central to the story are her friendships with Jennifer North and Neely O’Hara. Switching points of view we get a picture of each of their struggles in the limelight and eventual reliance on prescribed pills, other wise known as Dolls. By the end we can read it as a cautionary tale and social commentary of show business. It’s relevance is not relegated to it’s own time period, many of the themes are just applicable today.

One reason the book works so well is because the reader becomes invested in the characters. We get to know them as they form their friendships and are just starting out in their careers. The movie does a poor job portraying this. None of the women seem to struggle at all, in fact they seem to become famous and wealthy overnight. And the friendships seem to form out of nowhere, we barely even see how they know each other besides being loosely associated through familiar social circles. The character’s in the movie end up coming off unsympathetic, especially Anne and Neely. Almost from the beginning they seem entitled and self absorbed. It’s easy to blame some of the issues on the time constraints of a film, but there are lots of other changes that simply do not add to the story. And the most horrific change of all, the ending. It was completely butchered.

I waited until after writing this to read reviews, or anything else about the film, and apparently many people love it because it’s so bad. I can understand that and yeah I got a few laughs out it. But it was just sooooo disappointing after the book. I was going to say don’t waste your time with the movie, but on second thought go ahead, just remember you’ve been warned. If you do give it a try I’d say watch the movie, then read the book.

Thoughts, opinions, questions? Comment below.

 

Book vs Movie: Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis

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This movie and book are a little different from the rest of this series so far. It’s the first nonfiction book I’ve done and the movie is not meant to be an adaptation. Rather it’s simply inspired by the book. Which makes sense if you know anything about the movie.

I actually came across the book accidentally; I was searching the library catalog for the movie and instead the book came up. I remembered seeing it when I was younger and only vaguely remembered it. I was curious how it’s story could have come from a nonfiction book, much less one written by a scientist. I didn’t expect the book to be as interesting as it was. The full title is, Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist’s Astonishing Journey into the Secret Society of Haitian Voodoo, Zombis and Magic. I assumed it would be a dry scientific statement of facts, when actually it’s written as a narrative of the author’s experience. It begins with his first adventure to South America where his interest in ethnobotany began. The rest of the book tells the story of his trip to Haiti in the hopes of discovering the secret to making zombis, assumed to be a drug made from a plant with an anesthetic effect. While relaying his experiences, he includes information about the country’s history, it’s culture and political structure. This provides a much larger story about Haiti’s political and social issues at the time.

It’s been a long time since I saw the movie and watching it again I realized how much I didn’t remember. The images that had stuck in my mind of zombies and magic made up a very small part of the movie, and mostly appeared as dreams or hallucinations. Surprisingly, the movie’s basic plot doesn’t deviate that much from the author’s story. They used a fictional name instead of the author’s and additional changes that enhance the story and gets movie viewers invested in the characters. Including a romantic subplot which of course provides an excuse for sex scenes. And while the main character does have to battle with unseen forces, the scariest parts come from real world horrors.

The book and the movie are both excellent and a preference for one or the other would depend on the type of experience you’re looking for. The book tells a compelling true story that also educates the reader. I’d recommend it if you are interested in learning more about the country of Haiti and the voodoo culture. While the movie does a great job integrating the author’s story into an entertaining horror movie.

 

Book vs Movie: A Simple Favor

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It’s been a while since I did one of these posts and this one is the result of pure coincidence. I had no idea the movie was based on a book and checked it out of library hoping to just watch an entertaining movie. A day or so later before I even got the chance to watch it, I came across the book. My crazy brain decided it was a sign, so I held off watching the movie until after the book. I was able to finish it in a matter of days, it’s a pretty quick read, although I may have rushed it a bit.

The book is okay, it’s a good read. It jumps into the story quickly, with a blog entry from Stephanie about her missing friend Emily. Stephanie is a stay at home mommy blogger, very sweet, and innocent seeming. She comes across very sympathetic especially placed opposite the darker, mysterious Emily. Most of the book is written from her point of view and we get a really well rounded picture of her. She has some questionable actions but she still seems like the victim and you can’t help but root for her. On the other hand the few chapters from Emily’s point of view kind of just make you not like her, at all. It sheds a little light on her motivations, however, she really seems to lack substance. It’s all very surface level making her seem selfish without any remorse of self reflection.

The movie is not so different from the book, we get the same basic story with a few different twists. Some are completely understandable and necessary, for example changing Stephanie’s written blogs into videos. One change I really liked was adding to Emily’s backstory which was pretty non-existant in the book. The movie does a much better job of creating a well rounded character and we can almost understand some of her actions. I really liked the movie, until the end. I’ll start by admitting that the ending of the book is pretty far-fetched and unrealistic, but not half bad. The movie on the other hand is not just unbelievable but actually bad. It ends with this scene that completely does not fit with the tone of the rest of the movie. While the movie does have some humorous moments, mostly due to Anna Kendrick, it’s pretty dramatic. However, the ending is almost comedic. I’m not sure how to explain it, but it felt like a parody of the rest of the movie. (If that makes sense.)

I think the movie did a good job with the source material. In fact, many of the deviations made it better than the book. But I just can’t get over the ending. In the end neither was that good.

Have you read the book, seen the movie? Let me know what you thought of either or both.

Book VS Movie: The Shining by Stephen King

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Despite watching the movie The Shining a bunch of times and being a huge Stephen King fan, I never got around to reading the book. When I started this series of posts I decided it was about damn time.

It’s a different experience reading the book after already having seen the movie. I found it really interesting to get more background about the Torence family, our main characters. The novel includes details about their life before moving to Denver, Jack’s alcoholism, how he lost his teaching job, and even memories of his own abusive father. I’ve read that Stephen King didn’t like the adaptation mainly due to the lack of character arc. I can understand his point, Jack’s descent in the novel is much slower and you actually see his struggle for control. You really see a guy that wants to do the right thing for his family. And one thing I did always hate about the movie was Wendy. The character in the book is nothing like the weak and timid woman in the movie. I can’t really say I like the book better, but it was nice to really go in depth into the characters, even some of the minor characters like the cook, Dick Hallorann.

While the novel and the movie share a basic story, they are depicted in very different ways. Few of the iconic scenes from the movie appear in the book. There are not creepy twins,  the elevators do not spew blood, no hedge maze and the ending is completely different. Some of these do take inspiration from the book, for example the caretaker that killed his family had two daughters and the elevators were a major aspect of the haunting. Also the book featured topiary hedges in animal shapes instead of the maze. I assume the limitation of the time kept them from featuring these creatures come to life as they do in the book. For those that pay attention there are also very small details, for example the scrapbook that has a major role in the book does at least make an appearance in the movie.

So now I’ve read the book and really liked it. Still love the movie though. I can’t really say I think either is better. Yes the movie deviates from the book, a lot. But in my opinion many of the changes were due to the change of media. The movie was good because of the visual elements while the book was much more focused on the characters. I’m not sure the movie would have been as good if they tried to stick closer to the novel.

Book vs Movie: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

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I have to admit I wasn’t too thrilled with either the book or movie adaptation of Fahrenheit 451. Mostly I’ve heard of it referenced in relation to other similar dystopian future novels featuring an authoritative government and a controlled passive citizenry. I never really saw the appeal, although I did recently read 1984 and liked it. In Fahrenheit 451, the story is centered on Montag, who’s job as a fireman is to burn books. Inevitably, conflicted about his work, he steals and hides books from the homes he’s sent to. I liked the story, it was okay and the ending was really good. But as Montag begins to read through the books he’s hidden, much of the text ends up being quotes from classic works of literature. Not only does it pull away from the story it started to feel like a chore to read.

On this rare occasion I actually preferred the movie to the book. Except for the one major issue. The movie really emphasizes the lack of text and reading in this world and maybe takes it a little too far. Their newspapers are depicted as pages of pictures only and even work personnel files are simply pictures of the worker at different angles. So how in this world where there’s no way to encounter words does Montag, of all people a fireman, even know how to read. The book doesn’t portray the world as completely lacking the written word, just no books. That makes it much more believable than the movie where there is literally not one written word in this society.

Ignoring that it was a good movie. I enjoyed watching it more than I enjoyed reading the book. Best scene had to be the guys flying around on jetpacks. The movie was made in 1966, so their idea of what the future would look like and the effects to create it are pretty damn funny. They made some minor changes to the story, and the ending was slightly different but it was a pretty good adaptation of the book.

 

Book vs. Movie: The Girl On The Train

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I’d like to say that I went into this with a fresh unbiased perception, but the idea to even read the book and watch the movie was because of what I’d heard about them. While I’d only heard good things about the book, the movie was often criticized. It’s pretty common for readers to dislike and slam movie adaptations. In some cases the criticism is well deserved but many times it’s simply because of deviations from the source material. There’s also the simple truth that it’s pretty much impossible to encompass a novel into a feature length film.

In this case I think the biggest problem is that the story isn’t as exciting or interesting if you already know the ending. The book was suspenseful because it centered around a murder mystery. Personally, I loved the book. It’s a little bit of a slow start but once I got started I finished it in a matter of days. It was structured perfectly to build up to the climax. The changing point of view and back and forth through the timeline helped build the suspense.  The reader is kept in anticipation, while slowly unraveling the chain of events that led to Megan’s murder. It’s told at an excellent pace, revealing just enough to keep you interested while still leading to unexpected twists.

As for the movie, after reading the book the whole mystery aspect is lost making it harder to capture my attention and the suspense of the story. However, I do think the movie could have been better. It didn’t really maximize on the suspense aspect of the story. In the opening scene we already know most of the details of Rachel’s past. In the movie the story seems to go too fast. I also think the structure of the story didn’t translate well on the screen. The nonlinear structure and changes in point of view worked well in the book, it lent to the mystery, dropping clues here and there. In the movie it just didn’t have the same effect. I think one of the biggest problems came at the climax of the story. In the movie it was very abrupt and I didn’t see as much of the foreshadowing we got in the book. I suspect if hadn’t read the book first I might have enjoyed the movie a bit more. Attempting to put my bias aside, I still have to say that the movie could have been better.