This weekend, I watched Speak, a movie based on my favorite Laurie Halse Anderson book. I enjoyed every minute the way I used to enjoy Saturday morning cartoons. As I get older, enrapture is harder to come by, so when it happens, I dwell, trying to figure out the mysterious formula that makes movies/books/songs un-look-away-able.
One of the best parts of Anderson’s books is her craft with language, pushing words together, changing words to reveal a teen’s pronunciation and thereby exposing some hidden meaning. There’s no way to translate that to film, but Speak seemed sort of poetic. Other book-based films I'd describe as poetic: Ghost World, Jesus' Son, Into the Wild, and The Sweet Hereafter.
First thing I noticed about the DVD case was that DB Sweeney was in the movie. Immediately I started guessing who he could be. I cast him as Mr. Neck, but the guy who played Mr. Neck was someone else who was PERFECT as Mr. Neck. When DB showed up as Melinda’s dad, I smiled. And that’s when I decided that watching a movie based on a book you love is a little like watching a movie about your life.
People who read the book know so much more about the story than the average movie watcher, so they can’t help but want to explain everything, to wish for more depth, to feel every part of the story, even the ones not shown.
Movies based on books are a literary conversation. With every choice, the director says: this is my take on the story. Each actor says: this is my take on the character. Sometimes they nail it and sometimes they don’t. Either way, I relish their attempts.
My favorite part of book-based movies are the little surprises they leave for readers. I love how all of the billboards in the background of Romeo + Juliet are commercialized lines from Shakespeare's plays. I love author cameos and scripts that incorporate actual dialogue from the book.
Speak did a great job with this awesome line from the book:
I cut class, you cut class, he, she, it cuts class.
I grinned as if hearing/reading it for the first time.
Movie movies are great, but book movies are always better. Case in point: I really want to see I Love You, Beth Cooper. Seriously.
Any book-based movies you love or hate? Any insight into why I love literary movies so much?