Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bookish Movies

This week, I watched several movies which were adaptions of books I have read (maybe that explains why I've been behind on my reading). They were varying degrees of good and since I love comparing and contemplating these things, I thought I'd summarize them here.

Masterpiece Theater just finished airing its new adaption of Jane Austen's Emma here in the U.S. and, while I did enjoy it, the four-hour long program wasn't without its faults. Romola Garai is a cute Emma, but comes off as a bit too whiny and spoiled for my taste. Of course, I might just be biased, since my favorite portrayal of Emma is Alicia Silverstone's in Clueless. Maybe Jane Austen is right that Emma is "a heroine whom no-one but [the author] will much like." Maybe that's the problem and maybe it is simply a very difficult thing to pull off one screen. Still it's Austen, which always brings me joy. Rating: B

This book was good, but the movie was just confusing. I think they retained some of the themes, but in the end it just seems more preachy and simplistic than the very well done novel. As beautiful as the scenes of Susie in the "in between" were, they just don't fit with the tone of the book as I imagined it. While the novel made me want to keep reading, the movie almost bored me to sleep. That said, Stanley Tucci was very good and very terrifying as Mr. Harvey. He deserved that Oscar nomination. Rating: C-

I remember seeing this back when it first came out (I must have been like 13 or so) and liking it. Even after recently reading the book, which I loved, I still enjoyed the movie even though Coppola has changed a lot of the characters' back stories. Dare I say that I loved the increased sexiness (which is lying beneath of the surface of the text the whole time). Also, the love story between Mina and Dracula might be an improvement over the novel, if only because it explains why Dracula might have wanted to go to London in the first place and why he sought out Lucy and Mina. Of course, the whole Mina loving Dracula back thing wanders a little too far from the original Stoker. Our pure, Victorian heroine would have never intentionally helped such a vial fiend! The end was a bit confusing, too. Mina forsakes Johnathan for Dracula? And what does she do after he dies? Waste away in Castle Dracula? Weird. Good movie though. Visually stunning with lots of interesting twists and updates on its source material. Rating: B

This re-aired on Sunday night, so, of course, I watched it yet again (I own it on DVD, too). Here, I think the actress who plays our heroine does an excellent job of portraying someone who might come off as a bit stupid, but makes her seem endearing and deserving of the knowledgeable, sophisticated hero. Since there are only two films adaptations of this book and the other is an abomination, I am inclined to love this one for the simple fact that it is not horrible. But, in the capable hands of Andrew Davies, the screenplay sticks more closely to the tone and message of the book. Plus, Northanger Abbey is my second favorite Austen novel and Catherine is probably the heroine who most resembles myself (in my younger years, of course. I've become a bit more like Elizabeth Bennett or Elinor Dashwood in my old age), so I have to love this film version. Rating: A

Very funny. Very British. The opening number "So Long and Thanks for All the Fish" is to die for. I kind of liked that it was different than the book and had a more "movie-ish" vibe. The casting is great. However, I'm not a huge Hitchhiker's fan, so I can't gush over this one too much. Rating: B+

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