Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Characters on Film

There's been a distinct cinematic connection to much of my reading over the past few weeks. What's more is that the films in question have actually enhanced the reading experience for me, breaking with the notion that the book is always superior to the movie.

First, I finally got around to watching last year's film adaptation of Julia Strachey's Cheerful Weather for the Wedding. After watching the beautifully shot film, I immediately picked up the novella to reread the story of moody young bride Dolly as she prepares for her wedding day by brooding upstairs over a hidden bottle of rum while her wedding guests gather downstairs. On its own, the book is amusing but somewhat difficult to wholeheartedly like since none of its characters are particularly likable. The movie tries to elicit more sympathy for Dolly through flashbacks to an earlier romance. I felt neutral about these not entirely necessary additional scenes, but what I really loved was the way the movie brought to life the cast of minor characters that make up Dolly's eccentric family and friends. With a newly vivid picture of them in my mind, it was these characters who stood out for me during my second reading of Strachey's book.

Another novel that was enhanced by a film counterpart was Helen Fielding's latest installment in the Bridget Jones saga, Mad About the Boy. I could actually be a bit harsher here and say that the memory of the earlier films was the only thing that saved the current book. There were spoilers all over the internet when Mad About the Boy was first released, so I won't repeat them here other than to say that the book picks up with Bridget as a fifty-year-old mother of two. In the first Bridget Jones novel, her diary cheekily tracked her smoking and dieting habits, among other things. This time around, two of its major focuses are Bridget's Twitter followers and texting habits. What might have been a cute joke if left at one or two mentions is tediously drawn out through the entire book. When she's not texting or tweeting, Bridget's up to some of her same old antics, only they don't translate as well as they used to. For much of this book, I could only find Bridget's character remotely appealing if I pictured Renee Zellweger's charming portrayal. On the whole, I think I'd say that the Bridget Jones films have definitely eclipsed the books.

And finally, proving that good things come to those who leave half-written blog posts sitting in the draft folder for a week, on Sunday night I stumbled onto The Making of a Lady on PBS, the film version of Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Making of a Marchioness. The novel was the very first Persephone classic that I read and while I enjoyed it, it was subsequently eclipsed in my mind by other Persephone novels. Seeing the movie version reminded me of how much I enjoyed the story. It was a perfect blend of the romance and the creepiness that make up the two halves of Burnett's work. I know what I'll be picking up to reread next.

Do you have any favorite film adaptations that you think are as good as, or even better than, the books they're based on?


  1. Hmmm...that is a good question! I really do like the Merchant & Ivory A Room With a View as much as I like the book.
    I recorded The Making of a Lady and hope to watch it this weekend - I'm glad to hear it's worth a watch.

  2. I don't think I can say it's better than the book, but Pride and Prejudice is the beginning and the end for me when it comes to books on film. Both the mini series with Colin Firth and the movie with Keira Knightley are awesome, and mainly because of Mr. Darcy.

  3. I also enjoyed The Making of a Lady. I had never read the book and was fascinated by the story, which became surprisingly like a gothic horror tale. My favorite film based on a book is Howards End which I have watched many times. That book is one of my all-time favorites and I am so happy that the Merchant Ivory team made such an excellent film!



Related Posts with Thumbnails