Usually it works the other way around, but here are some films that left me thinking, “man, I bet the book was good.” Maybe only a librarian would ever think that.
Ryan Gosling in that satin scorpion jacket is the sexiest thing I’ve seen since… well, maybe it is the sexiest thing I have ever seen. Tension sears between golden boy (Gosling) and pretty girl’s husband (Oscar Isaac), between frenemy mob boss 1 (Albert Brooks) and frenemy mob boss 2 (Ron Perlman), and between golden boy and the born to lose mechanic (Bryan Cranston) that gets him gummed up with frenemy mob bosses to begin with. Christina Hendricks is in it too. That’s cast magic and pretty much the film’s appeal. High-on-sincerity-low-on-realism sultry silent type takes on mob for sake of pretty girl is territory we have all explored before. Nicolas Winding Refn’s style is all about absence and what’s left unsaid. It’s kind of like Hal Hartley (remember him?) directed a crime movie. What gets abstracted into silence on screen is more often than not potent interiority on the page – the kind of stuff that won’t translate without resorting to regrettable voice over. I desperately want to get inside James Sallis’ novel. There is always the possibility that Sallis’ prose are as stripped and spare as the script and the film is a worthy adaptation. I still want to read the book. Every time golden boy doesn’t say anything I’ll get to imagine Ryan Gosling standing there in that jacket.
It would be hard to get more sexual but less sexy than Nicole Kidman in The Paperboy. With big hair, a bigger libido, and a fetish for prison inmates, her character Charlotte seems transplanted from a John Waters movie. Kudos to Kidman for not shying away from extreme roles in recent years; e.g., Rabbit Hole, Stoker. Though Charlotte is a car crash that is hard to ignore, I’m more fascinated by Ward (Matthew McConaughey) the “paperboy” in question. He’s a big city newspaper writer who comes back to his small town to break the story of a lifetime. In tow is his “associate” Yardley (David Oyelowo). Their relationship has sinister undertones. This backstory feels de-emphasized in favor of Charlotte’s Jerry Springer antics. Maybe their story is fleshed out more in Pete Dexter’s novel? I hope so. From a producer’s point of view I can see how Kidman going bimbo cougar is money in the bank but perhaps they should have heeded the words of Morrissey, “stop me, stop me, stop me, if you think you’ve heard this one before.” Oh yeah, what happens? All these people have weird Southern Gothic obsessions and everything blows up in their faces. I bet the book is great.
Just kidding. I read this a hundred times before I reluctantly saw the movie. Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the Lord of the Rings trilogy transcended everyone’s expectations but if for some unknowable, inexcusable reason you have not read J.R.R. Tolkien’s world changing fantasy classic you’ll get to experience the devilish wonderment that is meeting Tom Bombadil for the first time. Take a beloved character and cut them from the movie! Go Hollywood! Besides, this excellent book will take the bad Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey taste out of your mouth.
Have you ever watched a movie that made you want to read the book it was based on?