January 5, 2007

Hollywood Had Better Not Ruin This

I love to read. I read while I eat, while I blowdry my hair, before I go to sleep at night. If I was stuck on a desert island without any books, I would be bereft.
That being said, Hollywood has a terrible history with ruining any screen adaptation of a good book. Many times after seeing a screen adaptation of a favorite novel, I wish I had seen the movie prior to reading the book - - after wishing I could sear my eyeballs out with a hot poker, that is.
Last month I finally read The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory. I have never been a huge fan of historical fiction, but this book had me riveted and enthralled. I don’t understand the gripers who claimed that Ms. Gregory didn’t do her research, or the story wasn’t 100% factually correct. No kidding! It’s called fiction and it’s called creative license. It’s entertainment and I was vastly entertained for the two weeks it took me to read it. Hearing that Hollywood is currently filming The Other Boleyn Girl makes me feel excited and dreadful at the same time. While I think the casting sounds spot on, with Natalie Portman as bitchy and self-promoting Anne Boleyn (as written) and Scarlett Johansen as the sweet and much maligned Mary Boleyn (as written), I worry that Hollywood will get all high and mighty and try to ruin a perfectly good thing.
Case in point. Flowers in the Attic. I was devoted to this book, to this series and to author V.C. Andrews back in the early '80s. The Flowers series were certainly no Jane Austen or Shakespeare. In fact, reading it today, the writing was fairly shaky. But the story was great and the characters sympathetic and addictive. I recall waiting at B. Dalton with anticipation for the newest Andrews book to come out, and upon hearing that a movie version of Flowers was planned, imaging in my mind what the characters I had read about for so long would look like on celluloid. Was I ever disappointed! To be fair, I guess it wasn’t wholly Hollywood’s fault. Flowers at the time spanned over the course of three books (and would eventually swallow up five), providing more than enough material for two movies, much less one. So massive editing would have taken place regardless. And one of the key points of the book was the storyline involving the incestuous love between the two main characters. Incestuous love doesn’t exactly scream box office. Not today and certainly not in 1987. So that seemingly minor portion of the story was abandoned in the movie, causing the movie to be unfocused and lacking the heart that the book did. Without a heart, and with the rewriting of the end of the movie to neatly wrap things up (which did not happen in the book), the movie died a painful and mercifully quick death at the box office.
I hope the same fate will not befall Boleyn. The book does span some 20 years, and many, many things happen. However, Boleyn does have the added advantage to a larger budget than the poor Flowers, and with two established stars to boot.
Here’s hoping Boleyn does not go the way of Mission Impossible:3 (i.e., long awaited film, at least according to press standards, with empty theaters).

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