Over Compensation and Adaptations

Oh, dear Anne Hathaway.  Try as you might (and TRY you did – to the point of collective wincing among my Oscar-viewing gang), all of the perkiness in the world couldn’t make up for the tux-adorned personality-void standing next to you on the Kodak Theatre stage.  James Franco, what happened?  Where did all of that natural charm and sexiness go?

I thought the show got off to a strong start with the opening skit that had Anne and James showing up in this year’s nominated films – and all framed by the idea that they were in the Inception-esque dreams of Alec Baldwin as narrated by Morgan Freeman?  Hilarious!  But then the enthusiasm settled into a generous serving of “meh.”  Of course it didn’t help that there weren’t any surprise winners during the ceremony. (And, oh, was I holding out hope that Hailee Steinfeld would provide the evening’s upset over Melissa Leo.  Even moreso after Leo’s tacky “performance” of a speech – UGH!)  However, I still throroughly enjoyed myself – fun friends and delicious drinky-drinks continue to make the whole evening bearable. (P.S. Loved Sandra Bullock’s dress!  She’s the poster lady for “You go, Girl!”)

Looking good *is* the best revenge!

So now we count down until next year…

I promised a post on books-to-film since I’ve seen a couple of recent adaptations: Never Let Me Go and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.  I always find it interesting to see how a screenwriter handles what must be the daunting task of shaping a literary world into a cinematic one.  How do you do capture a character’s inner life without relying on the crutch of narration throughout?  How do you condense the detail of a 400-page novel into a 120-page screenplay?  How do you satisfy the rabid book-loving fans who are devout in their dedication to the written word?  Suddenly, making up your own stuff doesn’t seem so bad.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo gets a solid A from me on all counts.  Based on the wildly popular novel by Swedish author Steig Larsson, the film does an excellent job of streamlining the storytelling and focusing on those elements that move the mystery-solving forward.  Screenwriters Nikolaj Arcel and Rasmus Heisterberg choose to give a couple of relationships less attention (in order to keep up the momentum, I imagine), but never to the detriment of what’s important to the story.  On the flip side, they boldly portray some of the darker moments in the novel, putting all of that discomfort experienced on the page right in front of our eyes.  Plus, it helps that Noomi Rapace, the actress cast in the titular role of Lisbeth Salander, is positively perfect in it.  She inhabits the character’s fierce complexity with precision.  Rooney Mara has some big shoes to fill when she stars in David Fincher’s version.  Come to think of it, so does Fincher.

LISBETH vs. LISBETH

Alas, the film version of Never Let Me Go did not live up to its literary parent.  I was particularly disappointed because it was directed by the exceptionally talented Mark Romanek. (How has this brilliant filmmaker only made three movies?!?)  The novel was written by Kazuo Ishiguro (of Remains of the Day fame) and it is a beautiful, sad, highly unusual coming-of-age story.  To read it is to experience a series of impressions and I think Romanek deftly brings the appropriate dream-like quality to his cinematic storytelling.  Alas, the script is almost too efficient.  Despite a lovely cast (Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightly), character motivations are stripped of their subtlety in favor of behavior that’s more direct and on-the-nose, as if we movie-goers couldn’t figure out the esoteric interplay at work.  I doubt screenwriter Alex Garland underestimated the patience of his audience; rather, I imagine other voices worried that the film was already pushing the limits at 103 minutes (oh, the horror!), so simplifying some key moments was the choice that was made.  The unfortunate result is that the emotional power of the novel is never fully realized on the screen.

Ah well…perhaps comfort is to be found in a “Director’s Cut” that will emerge some day?

I'd like to see *your* version, Mark!

NEXT UP: The Relocation of Deliberate Productions

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