Wednesday, September 7, 2016

It Was the Best...It Was the Worst

 By Tracy Kiely

Oh, gosh. This is a hard question. It’s like having to choose just one ice cream flavor. Or one pair of shoes.  Or one Hitchcock movie.
(As a side note: There may be some truth to certain critics in my family who say I have trouble making decisions.)
But, I will do my best to answer.
Of all the book-to-movie options, I would have to say Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird made the most successful transition from page to screen. I remember reading that book as a kid and falling in love with everything about it. Harper Lee’s tale of the evil of racism as seen through a child’s eye is beautifully told. I can never reread that book and not be jealous of the way Lee wrote. The following line particularly stuck with me:
“Ladies bathed before noon, after their three-o'clock naps, and by nightfall were like soft teacakes with frostings of sweat and sweet talcum."
Or course, Scout herself was given some great lines herself. During the never ending battle to make Scout more “lady-like,” she uttered as: 

“Pass the damn ham, please.”

“I was born good but had progressively grown worse each year.”

Some of the inhabitants of Maycomb, such as Tom Robinson, Boo Radley, Jem Dill, and Atticus were the kind of unforgettable characters that made you want to revisit them again and again. So I did. I think I’ve read the book close to twenty times.  I have to admit that when I first read it, Jem was one of my favorite characters. As an only child, I’d always longed for an older brother. (Clearly, my sense of biology and reproduction were shaky at best.) To me Jem was the perfect embodiment of such a creature.

I saw the movie soon after finishing the book and I loved it just as much as the book. I don’t think there was a single misstep in that entire movie. The script, the music, and the casting were all perfect. Sometimes you read a book and then find yourself watching the movie adaptation and thinking to yourself, “Did they read the same book I did?”  That wasn’t the case for this film. Gregory Peck WAS Atticus Finch. Brook Peters’ portrayal of Tom Robinson was gut wrenching. I think I wept harder when Tom’s death is revealed in the movie than I did in the book. Robert Duvall’s depiction of Boo Radley was so touching and sweet it still gets to me when I watch it. Mary Badham seemed born to play the feisty Scout. And as for Jem, well, I will admit to having a slight crush on Phillip Alford.
Um...did I miss a chapter?
            As for the worst adaptation – well, I think I’d have to say The Scarlett Letter with Gary Oldman and Demi Moore. Normally I love Gary Oldman, but even he can’t save this movie. There are so many things wrong with it, not the least of which is Demi Moore’s horrible English accent and penchant for taking baths. Lots and lots of baths. I’m not sure if the director was going for a theme of “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” or “Demi has a not body so let’s use it” but it is jarringly wrong. Oh, and while we’re at it – here’s a tip for future adaptations of classics- do not, I repeat, do NOT change the damn plot! It’s a classic for a reason. Hester Prynne is not saved from the gallows by an Indian raid (yes, you read that correctly. Indians attack the town. I guess since the director couldn’t figure out how to include a car chase, he opted for Indians on horses.) 
            Anyway. Those are my picks. What are some of yours?


Art Taylor said...

I'll agree on the brilliance of TKAM, but I haven't seen that Scarlet Letter adaptation... though all those baths do sound intriguing....

Unknown said...

Now I too want to reread To Kill a Mockingbird! Thank you for the recommendation and review.

Susan C Shea said...

I just re-watched TKAM after a long hiatus and liked it a lot, although the child actors were a little hokey, reflecting movie making at that time. But I agree that it represents the novel beautifully. As for The Scarlet Letter with (!) Demi Moore, I'd never heard of the movie and now I understand why. Thanks for the tip-off!

Unknown said...

You picked one of my all-time favorite movies, and I agree with every point you made. As for The Scarlet Letter, loved the book - don't recall seeing the movie. I like others want to read and watch To Kill a Mockingbird all over again. Thanks for sharing. @sheilamgood at Cow Pasture Chronicles