Hi! You talk quite a bit about adaptations, could you give your thoughts on some adaptations of other classic novels, ones you particularly like or hate?
Well, let me think. I’ll give you the rundown on literary adaptations I like or love, as it’s getting late in the evening here and a bout of solid rage isn’t going to send me off to sleep so much as bring on a bout of indigestion. Also I went to review my DVD collection and for obvious reasons I don’t own many DVDs of things that I loathed. (I do recall nearly bursting into tears after a matinee viewing of I Capture the Castle because I felt the movie ended on such a bittersweet note that I was not prepared to walk out of a darkened cinema into a sunny day with birds singing while I was still Feeling a Lot of Unhappy Things, and so I felt like I hated that movie for a long time because of the sheer mood whiplash of it all. Also I wish I’d read the book first. The book is lovely, and I think I’d’ve stomached the film better, had I gone through the book first.)
Oh! I just remembered The Wings of the Dove (1997). I should have loved it, it had a lot going for it, buuuut fuck that movie and everyone involved in it, it just fell flat, for me. I don’t even care how critically-acclaimed it was, all the characters are The Worst and I never have a moment’s sympathy enough to care what happens to any of them. I hate even thinking about this movie and it is largely responsible for how much I despise Helena Bonham-Carter to this very day. Her and Jeremy Irons (who I admit I have many more personal issues with ‘cause he’s a silver-spoon gross-ass fuckshit.) A movie has got to be pretty damn brilliant on several other points for me to get past the knee-jerk rage I feel whenever either of them appear on-screen.
Also The Portrait of a Lady was terrible and riddled with pointless alterations and please just read The Making of a Marchioness, instead. Maybe I should add Linus Roache to my shitlist as he’s in this one, as well as The Wings of the Dove.
And now for adaptations I liked:
Wives and Daughters (1999) is quite good, in my view, and the ending they added to Gaskell’s unfinished work is quite satisfying, I think. (I don’t know about realistic, but it was sweet and simple and I dug it.)
Orlando (1992) Beautifully done. (Billy Zane! I love him in everything and I literally don’t even know why.)
Little Women (1994) is a classic, but I’m also very excited to see what Heidi Thomas and Vanessa Caswill do with the new miniseries from the BBC and PBS next year.
Daniel Deronda (2002) It’s prettyyyyyy. And so is Jodhi Maaaay. <3 (Also some powerful performances, like, damn.)
Washington Square (1997) has a beautiful soundtrack, solid direction, and a stellar cast.
Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003) had some great cinematography and a good cast.
Dangerous Liasons (1988) I have such mixed feelings about Malkovich in this one but Glenn Close, holy shit she’s good.
Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) A TRUE CLASSIC LITERARY ADAPTATION I WILL FIGHT EVERYONE. THEN PAY FOR THE RUINED GREEK RESTAURANT.
The Remains of the Day (1993) A somewhat underrated classic that I think perhaps unfairly sits in the shadow of Howard’s End a lot of the time, what with the comparisons of the Thompson-Hopkins casting in a Merchant-Ivory film. (I do like Howard’s End, but, again, Helena Bonham-Carter, and I just connect a lot more with The Remains of the Day, as a story.)
Wide Sargasso Sea (2006) I don’t recall unabashedly loving this one, but I own it, so I feel like I must’ve liked it well enough. Then again, I also just found a copy of Sweeney Todd still in its plastic-wrap that I don’t know how I came by, I don’t even like the concept enough to want to watch it in the first place. Also, Helena Bonham-Carter is in it. And Johnny Depp. Why the fuck do I even own Sweeney Todd? Anyway, Wide Sargasso Sea is alright, though I feel like I preferred Karina Lombard’s Antoinette to Rebecca Hall’s.
The Scarlet Pimpernel (1982) I’m pretty sure this is where Jane Seymour and Anthony Andrews made me bi and SIR IAN MCKELLEN HOW DO YOU DO?
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) HOW DO YOU FILM SMELLS? LIKE THIS. MY GOD. (Also please read the book.)
Dracula (1992) I mean, the cast swings between pretty good and absolutely wooden, but from a literary standpoint this is one of the more faithful adaptations of Stoker’s novel out there–though this movie is by no means The Best Anyone Could Do. There’s a lot wrong with it. But then Coppola didn’t need to include the blue fire thing, but he did, and I appreciate that.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) is worth it for Robert de Niro, alone; and maybe a handful of really, really good shots. Otherwise there’s too much Helena Bonham-Carter and also Ken Branagh just recently hauled himself onto my shitlist but GOOD NEWS the character of Victor Frankenstein was always an annoying fucko and that’s canon, so feel free to hate him throughout, anyhow.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1996) Does not get enough love. A good antidote to Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights for anyone who sat there thinking Rochester and Heathcliff were BIG PILES OF RED FLAGS. Wildfell is a cautionary tale, but actually ends reasonably happily (and more believably happily, IMO, than Jane Eyre.)
The Secret Garden (1993) Pure nostalgia for this one, excellent casting, and the same director as Washington Square.
Ivanhoe (1982) Sam Neill has no business making a villain that compelling. (I know, I know, Bois-Gilbert’s characterization is softened a lot in this adaptation.) And this time I’m bi for Neill and Olivia Hussey. Sorry, Anthony Andrews, you drop to second-slot in this love-fest. Also Rowena ruins everything but that’s canon, so what can you do?
Maurice (1987) Who doesn’t love a fluffy gay gamekeeper?
Cousin Bette (1998) Changes stuff from the book, and on the whole the story can be a bit rocky, especially in the second half or so, but it’s worth seeing for Jessica Lange, alone, I think, as well as some broadly comic notes from side-characters in Hugh Laurie and Bob Hoskins.
Possession (2002) Ignore Gwyneth Paltrow as best you can and otherwise enjoy the literary mystery unfolding in between some amazing flashbacks. Most of the good actors are crammed into the flashback bits, but at least there’s some snarky Tom Hollander and dastardly-but-personally-I-think-he’s-in-love-with-Roland Toby Stephens in the modern-day sections to give us some fun.
Twelfth Night (1996) Again, ignoring Helena Bonham-Carter, this one’s got a lot going for it. Trevor Nunn directing, Toby Stephens managing to be damn fine and somehow I don’t entirely mind that Orsino’s kind of a douchebag, Imogen Stubbs being cute as fuck, and stellar supporting actors.
The Inheritance (1997) Look, this is a little-known Louisa May Alcott thing, and I’ll be honest, it’s not Groundbreaking Television. As far as direction and score and acting and script goes, there is no danger of anyone ever losing sight of the fact that it’s a made-for-TV-movie from 1997 and Meredith Baxter was probably the biggest name they could get for it at the time. Anyway, there’s a reason I own it, and that reason is that watching it is the equivalent of a big mug of hot chocolate after a terrible day. It is pretty and sweet and funny and the villains and heroes are clearly marked from the moment they appear on-screen, and is it perhaps a bit too sweet? Yes. Embrace the sugar-shock.
Titus (1999) Goes on a little long, perhaps, but you can’t look away. Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange go toe to toe and it’s a thing of horrific beauty. Shhh don’t question the batshit bloodbath, just let Julie Taymor do her thing.
Enchanted April (1991) Run away to Italy with your girlfriends. Just do it.
The Princess Diaries (2001) A modern masterpiece. GET OFF THE GRASS.
Bleak House (2005) Oh my God, this cast??? Is so magnificent?
Persepolis (2007) One of those films that are so good you need to lie down afterwards. Again, please also read the graphic novels.
Any Agatha Christie adaptation, ever–I am HERE FOR IT.
I know I’m forgetting one I thought of earlier, but oh well.