This week I went to the cinema to see Crazy Rich Asians. I really wanted to see it because I’d read the book and wanted to actually SEE it. By that I mean, I wanted to see how the filmmakers had interpreted the words I’d read. Now, Crazy Rich Asians is not a high brow film or book. The story as far as I’m concerned is Pretty in Pink set in Singapore. But the book talks about extreme richness. Houses so exclusive they are off grid, satnavs can’t find them. Families who experience rudeness in extreme high end hotels and thus buy the hotel to make a point. It’s about beautiful women buying jewellery discounted to several million quid. Who wouldn’t want to see what that looked like?
And it was gorgeous. I loved the film. What was better, book or film? I’d say film. And in this instance it made me think about relationships between books and films. The standard wisdom is that the book is always better, but is it? Always? Here is a little run down of some books of films of books and my verdict on what I needed in my life: BOOK ONLY. FILM ONLY. BOTH.
- We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Schriver
Oh golly, this is the single book that made the most profound impact on my life. I often describe it as a series of slaps across the cheek that sort of increase in frequency to a crescendo where someone is just slapping you so hard you’re dizzy. I think, whilst no reflection on the quality of the film, however good the film could’ve been, there’s no further power that could be added.
VERDICT: Book only
- ROOM by Emma Donahue
This book was another one that made a big mark on me. If ever I pass an ominous looking barn I think of it and shiver. The book was written though in a really special way, the narrative by the son of the imprisoned mother who’d had him in the barn/cell and who’d never been outside of it. That delivery took a while to get used to but was infinitely powerful in delivering the horror of that story. The film was good but as above gave me nothing more.
VERDICT: Book only
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Again this was a book written with an unusual narrative. I’d say it’s a concept/story that packs a punch. In the film however, the performances in my opinion were so, so good. Emma Stone, Viola Davis ALL the girls in that film, they were just awesome, so watchable, so convincing. Because I read the book and watched the film in that order, it’s hard to say what one added to the other but I think on net reflection I’m glad I experienced both.
VERDICT: Book and film
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
This was a story with an incredibly thought provoking premise – euthanasia for a man made quadriplegic in an accident. His life before was so thoroughly grounded in action and physicality that he simply couldn’t see his new life as life. Could love conquer all? It’s a weepy for sure. I don’t know many girls who haven’t read this book. I don’t think it especially needed a film but I really enjoyed sobbing my way through it. Sometimes you just need to sob. The film alone did not deliver the depth of message you got from the book though. The descriptions of sheer and complete incapacitation, 100% dependency; imagery and dialogue couldn’t express that the way the book did.
VERDICT: Book & film, but latter only for sob therapy, not for poignancy of moral dilemma.
- The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I read this (the trilogy) because someone told my YA for A’s was cool and I had FOMO. The book however was again like a punch in the face. You what? Kids – fighting to the death so only 1 survives? That’s REALLY ridiculously barbaric! Shouldn’t we just be talking to YAs about not to bully and to be nice? This book for me was bleak, really, really bleak but also something I’m glad I read. The film, whilst retaining that bleak premise, sort of undid the punch for me. I think in this instance my imagination made more appropriate horror of this idea.
VERDICT: Book only (I read all books, only watched 1 film).
- 1984 by George Orwell
I watched this film ages ago because of the Eurythmics song (ye gods I was 13!). All I could remember was the rat and Big Brother’s face. I read the book about a year ago and re-watched the film because of the book. In this instance I think the film does the bleak better than I did. When I read the book I had images already in my mind and a trillion things to ponder because of the book. I think I could watch and read these over and over for a long time and continue to get stuff out of it.
VERDICT: Book and Film, book and film, book and… repeat to fade
- Gone Girl and Girl on a Train by Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins
I’m putting these together because my thoughts on them are pretty much the same. I read both because of FOMO and thoroughly enjoyed both in a pure entertainment, got to know what happens next sense, but both were the book equivalent of a refined carb hit. I watched the films for similar reasons and thoroughly enjoyed both in the same way. I don’t really think the books gave me much the film didn’t other than passing time pleasurably, thus I reckon I could have cumulatively saved about 10 hours of life by just doing the films.
VERDICT: Film only
- American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis
I saw this film first, much later read the book. Then I re-watched the film. The book is WAY worse… WAY WAY worse in terms of pure horror and unspeakable violence. I hope there is never a day when showing some of what goes on in the book could ever be shown (Rat, once again, is all.). Christian Bale is pretty mesmerising in the film, but effectively the scenes are just Hollywood slasher. That book is horror, sheer, don’t look, can’t un-read, macabre horror. Both however deliver the best ambiguous, subjective ending ever though.
VERDICT: All depends on your stomach for horror, if you don’t have one, DON’T READ THAT BOOK
- Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Here I read it, saw it, read it again. This was another layering one for me. There’s more emotional background in the book but the film is visually spectacular and the use of El Condor Pasa as soundtrack so well chosen. I loved every minute reading and watching this.
VERDICT: Book, film, book, film.
- Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding
I think in this instance the film and book are 2 separate things. On the surface the book is frothy chick lit but it stimulated a trillion conversations and the mood of the moment for girls. It was a fresh tone of voice, several whole pages of new colloquial vocabulary all combined with a good old-fashioned love story. The film was a jolly jape – go on give us a bit of Huge Grant and Colin Firth and a snow scene in London – it’s a Richard Curtis
VERDICT: Book and film. Mutually exclusively.
I have loved considering these. I also know that rarely would there be a book I’d read that I wouldn’t want to see a film of. And to close this off, here are 10 books I’d like to see the film of:
- Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (oh PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE)
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- All Marian Keyes and Cecelia Aherne’s books
- Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
- Station 11 by Emily St John Mandel
- The Power by Naomi Aldridge
- The Rosie Project & Effect by Graeme Simsion
- Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
- Eleonor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman
- Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder