One of life’s great tragedies occurs in a movie theater. Go with me. You’ve read a book. You love the book. The book is made into a movie. They get a great cast. The preview looks decent.You get your tickets early, buy your popcorn, and watch as your loved one gets slaughtered on screen. Will you ever be able to enjoy that story again? Probably not. Percy Jackson, One For The Money, and Cat In The Hat, you are dead to me. However, there is hope. Sometimes the movie people get it right, and even more rare, they make something much better than the source material. It’s shocking and wonderful and it makes you want to just kiss the director. Okay, maybe not that far, but the point is a movie that is better than the book is like a dinner that’s better than dessert or a dentist’s visit that’s better than a doctor appointment, it just doesn’t happen that often. Let’s celebrate those movie anomalies; the ones I think are better than their original books, the ones that give us hope in the dark and vast world of adaptation.
The Devil Wears Prada // It’s a guarantee that throwing Meryl Streep, aka “The Streeper,” into anything will make it better. I venture to guess that if Meryl put a pinky in my dad’s turkey soup, it would morph into Julia Child’s bisque. However, The Devil Wears Prada, even without Meryl, is just a good film. Where Lauren Weisberger’s book consists of Andy whining at us for three hundred pages, the film creates a three-dimensional protagonist and her struggle to reach her dream. The only thing the book may even touch on the film is Andy’s explicit exit from her job, but let’s be honest, put Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep in a car and you don’t need harsh (or any) words.
Love Story // Erich Segal cheated with this novel; it was written after (and published before) the film. Devious. While the novel is a short, quick read, it barely touches on the level of love and sadness between Ollie and Jenny captured in the film. Sure the book gives us the rundown of their story, but the movie makes us feel it. There are moments of pure falling-in-the-snow bliss that can’t be captured without a cinematic experience, award-winning soundtrack included, of course. While I would not classify the book as “bad,” the film is just so much better.
Austenland // Here’s a case of a cute, shallow book making a super cute, enjoyable film. Both tell a light-hearted story about a Jane Austen-obsessed woman attempting to find the line between reality and fantasy. We’ve all been there. In this haziness between what’s real and what’s manufactured, the movie makes what matters most, the feelings of Jane (the main character), the crux of the story. Jane can get the guy, but only in the sense that he represents something Jane needs or should get from her inner change, whereas in Shannon Hale’s book, the fantasy “Mr. Darcy” is the end-all, be-all for Jane. In other words, the film pumped up the feminism punch. Plus, Jennifer Coolidge is freaking hilarious, and I have major Keri Russell hair envy, even in that silly bun.
Holes // Okay, don’t hurt me. Louis Sachar is and will always be one of my favorite authors, and since he wrote the script, I don’t feel bad saying that this was an excellent book made into an excellent movie. Stanley Yelnats’s journey is absolutely incredible in both. Sigourney Weaver brings a chilliness that can only be rivaled by the Streeper, and the visuals are superb throughout the film. Ultimately, this is an odd case where something wonderful on the page translates into something wonderful on screen. See? I didn’t take down the novel. Settle down.
The First Wives Club // Before “I beat Meryl” became Jennifer Lawrence’s misunderstood tag or Bette Midler’s punch line, Olivia Goldsmith’s The First Wives Club told the story of three friends getting even when their husbands leave. You know the parts of this film where we get a little depressed and saddened and we just want the temperamental scaffold and goofy singing to come back? Well, that’s sort of what the book feels like, the entire book. I’d rather watch Goldie’s giant lips and Bette’s snide remarks, as the threesome gets goofy, please and thank you.
Hilary Miller is currently an MFA student in Screenwriting at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. When not not watching, writing, or talking about movies and television shows, she can usually be found making crock-pot creations, laughing, talking too loud, running, devouring a good book, eating, racking up cellular bills chatting with her bomb family, sticking her toes in the sand, or wishing she were Hermione Granger, sometimes all at once. And while part of her heart is still in Indiana, the rest of it belongs to her puppy, Estelle Getty.