I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been disappointed by a movie based on a book. Two words: BARNEY’s VERSION. I mean “A” for effort, but the movie doesn’t even come close to Mordecai Richler’s witty and touching voice. I liked that book way too much, and I set my expectations too high.
This all got me thinking: Can a movie ever do justice to a book? Can the pictures and voices on screen ever live up to to the book’s imprint in our heads? Answer: Yes!
Here is my completely subjective list:
1- Gone With the Wind. Author: Margaret Mitchell Director: Victor Fleming, 1939.
“Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” It’s actually in the book! (Minus “frankly.”) The movie is so faithful to the book, and it’s pure deja-vu pleasure to see those characters and scenes come to life. I could watch this again and again.
2- Oliver! Author: Charles Dickens Director: Carol Reed, 1968
Even though this musical is at times loosely based on the novel, it captures the characters and spirit of the book to a tee. Who can forget Fagin singing, “I am reviewing the situation,” or “You’ve got to pick a pocket or two?” This is a great family movie, but be warned that there are a few scenes of violence with Bill Sykes. You may have to fast-forward.
3- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Author: Roald Dahl Director: Tim Burton, 2005
Despite Johnny Depp channeling a little too much Michael Jackson in his portrayal of Mr. Wonka, the recreation of scenes from the book is phenomenal. The sinister qualities of the candidates and their parents were perfect material for Tim Burton, and he doesn’t leave out a single detail. The best parts? The Oompa Loompas and Violet turning into a giant gum ball. A family favourite!
4- The Godfather. Author: Mario Puzo Director: Francis Ford Coppola, 1972. A rare instance where the movie may be better than the book. The film is so powerful, and the casting is perfection. I felt that some of the characters’ subtleties were captured better on film . p.s. This is not a movie for very young kids!
5- Remains of the Day. Author: Kazuo Ishiguro Director: James Ivory, 1993.
Another instance where the movie may be better than the book. Hmmm. Maybe not as rare as I thought! Anthony Hopkins plays an exceedingly reserved butler in World War II England. He is in love with Miss Kenton, played by Emma Thompson, but cannot express his emotions. Actors Hopkins and Thompson need no words, and actually some of the most poignant moments in the film are silent. I also enjoyed the book, but for me the film is more memorable.
Now, you are either shaking your head at my subjective list or nodding in agreement. Which is it? Bring on your opinions and recommendations! I need some suggestions for this weekend.