Will you still love me?
The book was better.
That’s the cliche, right? But why is it true so often, even when the author adapts his or her own book into a screenplay? In most cases the answer is pretty straightforward: it takes hours upon hours to read a novel and that’s usually split up over several days or even weeks. During that time, we the readers can allow the narrative to marinate. By comparison, even a movie done well – or well done, if we’re going to continue the analogy – can taste like the details were slathered on and the story was tossed in the oven. I can only think of two examples to the contrary.
In the case of Cormac McCarthy’s Western thriller “No Country for Old Men,” I read the book first and thought the Coen brothers’ big screen adaptation absolutely did it justice. I worship at the altars of McCarthy and Coen, so that came as no surprise. The movie was such a successful follow-up because it followed the book so closely, right down to the dialogue. Bereft of any background music whatsoever, the film developed the same high tension the book did without sacrificing anything in the way of character development. I call that shootout a draw.
My other example involves one of my all-time favorite movies, not to mention one that I saw countless times before reading the book. Experiencing the cinematic then print versions of “Fight Club” in that order no doubt colored my opinion of both pieces of art. I won’t deny the genius of the author Chuck Palahniuk, and I thoroughly enjoyed the insanity of “Rant.” That being said, I fell in love with director David Fincher’s vision of the book come to life years before reading the original, and I actually liked the changes made to the story. With no disrespect intended, I must declare Fincher the winner of that heavyweight bout.
All this brings me to my next review, but I’m burying the lead here. The real story is that I’m a straight, single man in his early 30s who, of his own volition, just read his first out-and-out romance novel and went to see the movie adaptation by himself. Before anyone checks on my emotional state, I’ve always been a sucker for chick flicks thanks to my older sisters, and I love going to the movies by myself. (We’re not supposed to talk during the damn things, anyway, right?). It was the first of my two days off from work, and the next day I went with a friend to see the Texas Rangers beat the Houston Astros, so don’t pull my man card just yet.
As for what I thought of the movie? The book was better, but that’s because it was a damn good book. I’m talking about “Me Before You,” Jojo Moyes’ best-selling story of a man, Will Traynor, paralyzed in a freak accident during the prime of his life and the spunky, boldly dressed Louisa Clark, who agrees to a six-month contract to be Will’s caretaker. Even though you can probably guess that romance ensues, the story shows surprising depth with the difficult questions it asks. Can we expect someone to continue living a psychically limited life after knowing only a world without boundaries? Is love enough to make that diminished existence worth pursuing? Is suicide selfish when a person suffers through unimaginable physical pain as well as loss of dignity? Or are the loved ones being selfish for wanting to keep someone alive who doesn’t want to live?
All this because of an X Ambassadors song.
I’m a huge fan of the alternative rock band from Ithica, and when I heard a remix of their hit “Unsteady,” I had to stop and watch the movie commercial they landed. So I blame them for piquing my interest in a chick flick and the chick lit that came before it. I blame them for the tears I shed reading the story in private and the ones I couldn’t hold back watching the movie in public. And I blame them for the the time I’ve spent today listening to the killer soundtrack that accompanied that song. The book was better, but that’s because Moyes faced the problem in adapting her own book to a screenplay that fellow author and screenwriter Dennis Lehane likened to “performing surgery on his own children.” Too much had to be cut out and a lot of what remained felt rushed or underdeveloped, but the heart of the story was still there. The leads, Sam Claflin as Will and Emilia Clarke as Lou, absolutely crushed their roles and my heart along the way.
The movie reminded me of another cliche in the form of a question couples have been asking each other for years: “Would you still love me if I became a quadriplegic?” There’s a less extreme and more likely scenario at the heart of that question, “Will you still love me when I’m not who I once was?” In the case of my first romance novel and the chick flick it became, my answer is yes.
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