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Been quite some time between Book vs Movie posts, but I had to squeeze The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in for SciFi September. I’m starting to realized that I don’t read many funny books, like straight up comedy or even mixed genres like comedic horror or this silly scifi novel. I watched the movie at some point but never picked up the book. I’ll have to work at that, especially considering how much enjoyed this.
The book’s introduction tells us it’s the story of a “terrible, stupid catastrophe and some of it’s consequences.” It also tell us its the story of the fictional book titled, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but it’s not really. Its mentioned a lot and is useful tool for exposition and random tangents but that’s it. The story is about Arthur Dent, an earthman thrown in the weird and wonderful world of space travel. Thanks to his alien friend, Ford Prefect, he hitches a ride on a Vogon ship and survives the earth being demolished to build a hyperspatial express route. From there he embarks on a fantastically improbable adventure.
While the movie keeps a lot of the major elements of the book, it also changes a lot. The sequence of events were switched around, or happen off screen and the basic plot is very different. It seems like most of the changes were to play up the absurd comedic elements. I guess it works, it’s a pretty funny movie. But it lacks that special something the book has. One major loss was the strong role chance and coincidence played in the events. Everything in the novel, while being ridiculous still seemed natural and inevitable. But in the movie it felt forced.
I have to give this one to the book. The movie felt like it was trying way too hard. Without reading the book, you wouldn’t know and might enjoy it. But, I just felt this nagging sensation throughout the movie. I can’t explain it completely. Part of it was that it seemed like they were just trying to make it as ridiculous as possible for no good reason.
So far I haven’t been too disappointed with the movie 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.