#BookishBloggersUnite is a weekly hashtag that a group of bookish friends participate in to talk about books. This week’s host is … me! Check below for links to the other blog posts once they are available.
“The book is better.”
We’ve all heard this. Many of us have said it, myself included. And that’s because most of the time, it’s true. Adaptation really is an art form in and of itself and so frequently, it just doesn’t live up to the original.
But today, in case the title didn’t give it away, we’re not talking about those adaptations. This post is about five adaptations that I think not only live up to the original book but sometimes actually surpass it. They are rare things and deserve to be celebrated, particularly right now when (spoilers) one of them is currently the top movie at the North American box office.
Not a very original pick at the moment, I know, but Crazy Rich Asians is just such a good adaptation that I couldn’t leave it out. And this isn’t because it’s 100% faithful – there is plenty that is changed or added or deleted. But it’s faithful to the spirit of the book and the changes make sense for the medium. So while I wouldn’t quite say it’s better than the book, this movie is definitely close.
Also, for those who have seen it already, here is a great blog post about one of the best movie-only moments, the mahjong scene: What was really happening in Crazy Rich Asians’ pivotal mahjong scene.
Pride and Prejudice has been adapted about a million times. I have seen most of these (though I do admit that I haven’t sat down and watched the Colin Firth version yet). However, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is always going to have a special place in my heart because 1) it’s AMAZING and 2) I watched it while it was being released (and let me tell you, Mondays and Thursdays were not the same after it stopped).
This webseries is in ways the most faithful and least faithful adaptation, because it has the time to go on all the twists and turns of P&P but also is a modernization that goes unexpected places. For example, turning Mr Bingley into Bing Lee. Or making Kitty Bennet an actual cat.
Even if you haven’t read P&P, I recommend this series because it’s just so enjoyable – and it’s available free on YouTube, so you have no excuses not to check it out.
This is another less original choice but it’s also the only one on this list that I think is substantially better than the source material. The Devil Wears Prada book is a revenge fantasy, while the movie manages to be a much more balanced perspective of women in power and what it takes to stay there. Of course, having Meryl Streep around doesn’t hurt things.
The odd thing with this story is that the more I watch it, the less I sympathize with Andy and the more I see Miranda’s side of things. And the more annoyed I get with Andy’s friends and their complete lack of support. So if you haven’t watched this movie for awhile, check it out again and see if you have a different take on it now that you are older and (maybe?) wiser.
I love The Last Unicorn movie. It was one of my favourites growing up and is still a favourite today, even while I cringe at the idea of my younger self watching some of the darker moments (aka the harpy).
I actually didn’t realize for a long time that it was an adaptation but once I payed attention to the credits, I knew I had to go out and read the book. And the book is brilliant too – very similar, though that is to be expected when you have the author of the book writing the screenplay.
And yes, I even love the songs … at least, most of them.
Julie & Julia is an odd beast because it’s actually an adaptation of two books: Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen by Julie Powell and My Life in France by Julia Child. I think the decision to combine the two books is particularly brilliant. And again, having Meryl Streep around is always a plus.
I will say that I think the Julie storyline probably strays farther from the book than I would have liked – I’ve read the book several times and I don’t feel like film!Julie is really the same person as book!Julie. But it’s the combination of both of them that makes this a great movie and one I’ll happily watch any day.
And it’s also the reason I own Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
Before I finish, a few honourable mentions that almost made this list:
- The Princess Bride: I decided to put Last Unicorn on the list instead of Princess Bride because its not as widely known and loved. But it’s another great adaptation with screenplay written by the author.
- V for Vendetta/Watchmen: Controversial opinion time now, I prefer both of these movies more than the original comics. I think the adaptation choices that modernized the stories were great and count both movies in my top 20 favourite films. Though I will say that it’s the ultimate cut of Watchmen that I prefer, with the Black Freight included in the narrative as well as the deleted scenes.
- The Lord of the Rings: These movies are wonderful and got me to actually read the books, since in my first attempt I was bored to tears by Tom Bombadil (best decision ever was cutting him, don’t @ me).
What are your favourite adaptations? Let me know in the comments.