8 December, 2021

LitStaff Pick: Film Adaptations We Love and Those We Hate


How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Bad)
Pride and Prejudice (Good)pride and p

I don’t think I’d get too much push back in saying that that Ron Howard’s adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” was an unredeemable travesty.  I’m not sure which was worse:  the bloated, contrived bull-hockey that ran roughshod over Theodor Geisel’s simple and delightful story, or Jim Carey’s narcissistic buffoonery that may have been funny in “The Mask” but has been nothing but abominable and sad since then.

However, my pick for a good movie adaption of a beloved book would get me politely shown out the door in certain circles:  Joe Wright’s 2005 adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”, starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen.  Yes, I know it’s not the most faithful of the many adaptations of the novel, and yes, I can see why some Janeites consider it anathema.  But for me, a successful  adaptation of a literary work does not just measure how true the movie is to the events of the book, but how true it is to the spirit of the book.  For me, this movie hands down captures the carefully constrained yet fervently felt passion that lies at the core of Jane Austen’s work.

With exquisite cinematography and wonderfully rendered performances, this movie swept me along from the opening scene to the final credits.  Whether it is the depiction of the Bennet’s lovingly chaotic family life, to Charlotte crying out, “Don’t you judge me, Lizzie!” when breaking the news of her engagement to ridiculous Mr. Collins, to the horrifying duplicity of Mr. Wickham, to Mr. Darcy’s anguished declaration of love (which I still thrill to even after repeated viewings), but with nary a wayward touch or a single kiss until the final scene (when all are properly married), this movie captures the beauty and vitality of a time that otherwise has been portrayed as delicately and carefully (and just as coolly) as a porcelain trinket.  While the omissions from the original text may be glaring to some, I will ardently declare that it has bewitched me body and soul, and I love, I love, I love this movie.

-Sharon Browning

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