Anyone who loves a book and watches it be adapted into a movie will tell you the same thing: the book was better.
It's a truth we've learned the hard way--by sitting through countless bad adaptations of amazing books. Even good adaptations almost always fail to live up to the books they are based on. Though, that is just a side effect of the change in medium. A movie has to cut things out because few people have the time and bladder to sit through a twelve-hour, verbatim retelling of every scene, line of dialogue, and description in the book. It's a necessary evil.
However, sometimes you watch a movie, unaware (or unconcerned) that it was based on a book. You enjoy the movie because you have nothing to compare it to. You don't know what the original source material was like. You don't know which scenes were left out or which were added in. It's a freeing feeling for sure, but it's based on a lie. It's like eating muffins for your birthday and not knowing that cupcakes exist. You think the muffins are as good as they could be. You can't think of a single way to improve upon the muffin. Then, you realize there is a whole new world of desserts out there. A dazzling place of whipped sugar topping you never knew. And you're scared. What if after eating a cupcake, you can never enjoy the muffin again?
Well, in honor of that fear, here is my list of five movies I watched without reading the book first. You may notice that most of these movies are from the 1990s, and that's because 1) I love movies from the 90s. Maybe it's the nostalgia, but they always seem to strike a chord with me; 2) I was too young at the time to be interested in reading the book before watching the movie, as I am now; and 3) my mom subjected me to an astounding amount of movies in my childhood, for which I am forever grateful. I think she inspired my love of movies, even if she isn't aware of it.
I sincerely hope to one day read the books that inspired my favorite movies, but I make no promises. These movies are all pretty close to my heart and I don't know if I'm ready to swap my muffin for a cupcake just yet.
1) Mermaids (1990)
Aside from Heathers, this is one of my favorite Winona Ryder movies. Winona plays Charlotte Flax, a fifteen-year-old girl who, jaded by her mother's (played by Cher) tumultuous love life, wants to become a nun. Christina Ricci plays the younger sister Charlotte, a nine-year-old obsessed with mermaids and swimming. The family relocates to New England and is forced to deal with their dysfunctionality head on. It is funny and smart and heartwarming and everything you could ever want in a movie. I watched it with my mom when I was too naïve to understand all of the sexual tension, but was old enough to understand a good movie when I saw it.
The book of the same name was written by Patty Dann and published in 1986.
2) The Shining (1980)
I never intended to watch this movie in the first place. It was late, I was maybe twelve-years-old, and my mom was watching it on TV. Next thing I know, I am horrified and unable to move from my position on the couch. It wasn't until several years later that I learned Stephen King wrote the book. However, I had and continue to have zero interest in ever reading his book. Why? Because The Shining is freaking scary. It's super scary and I have no interest in subjecting myself to hours and hours of the same scariness by reading the book. I respect Stephen King as a writer, but I am not willing to subject myself to sleepless night and horrible nightmares.
3) Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
I can't begin to tell you how many times I've seen this movie. It never gets old. My mom and I seemed to watch it every time it was on TV. Kathy Bates is a middle aged housewife who befriends a woman, Ninny, in a nursing home and is enthralled by the tales she tells. Ninny shares the story of Ruth and Idgie, two friends who lived during the Depression and led quite exceptional lives. Run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan, a murder, and a lot of BBQ are only a few of the highlights.
The book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café is written by Fannie Flagg. Somehow, I have TWO copies of this book, yet I still haven't read it. I do plan to rectify this eventually.
4) Misery (1990)
Misery is another Stephen King movie experience I can blame on my mom. Holy smokes this movie was creepy. An author of Victorian-era romance novels gets into a car crash and is rescued by a fan of his novels. However, the fan, after learning what he did to the main character in his latest book, proceeds to lock him up and torture him into changing the story's ending. (It's a miracle I still decided to become an author!) Kathy Bates plays the crazy fan, and she is a LONG ways away from the dissatisfied house-wife she played in Fried Green Tomatoes.
I've brought this movie up in several conversations only to discover that many people I know haven't seen it yet. So, if that's the case, WATCH THIS MOVIE! It's so creepy, but oh so good. However, I have to admit that I again have no current plans to read this book. Stephen King is a bit too scary for me. I've only managed to finish two of his books--one of which was his non-fiction memoir. I always get too scared to continue. So, if you're hoping for abook review of Misery, don't hold your breath.
5) What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993)
Starring Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio, can you really blame me for skipping the book and going straight for the movie? Johnny Depp plays Gilbert, a young man who, after the death of his father, has to care for his mentally disabled brother (DiCaprio) and morbidly obese mother. Though, his life is turned upside down when love walks into his life. This movie is amazing. There isn't anything else to say about. The performances are great, the story is touching, and there is NOTHING bad about a young Johnny Depp (yowza!).
The book of the same name was written by Peter Hedges and published in 1991. This is a book I definitely plan to read.
-Jumanji (1995) - based on the fantasy children's book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg
-Simon Birch (1998) - loosely based on the novel A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
-Big Fish (2003) - based on the book Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions by Daniel Wallace
Have your read any of these books? Have you seen any of these movies? Let me know in the comments! Also, what movies based on books have you seen, but never read?
Happy Reading (or Watching),