I am excited about the upcoming release of feathers and pearls fest The Great Gatsby, and hope Hollywood continues to plunder more books for box office revenue.
The idea of Baz Luhrmann taking on such a respected piece of work in the literary cannon thrills me.
Admittedly The Great Gatsby is a difficult book to bring to the screen, (as the appalling 1974 version attests) but even if his version is not wholly successful, it is still guaranteed to be a sumptuous feast for the eyes. We are all guaranteed a lovely melodramatic time. The tilt of Carey Mulligans nose will be perfect. Topshop will bring out a clothesline influenced by the film. The soundtrack will be inappropriate to the time period, but boy, will it add weight to the events unfolding on screen.
It will be a signature take on a well-loved and treasured novel, which will yield interesting results, and it will be anything but dull and obvious.
Some of the most successful book to film adaptations come from directors like Luhrman, not the most apparent choice for such an undertaking, but often able to bring something fresh to it.
All the Joe Wright's (pre-Hanna), Jane Campions and Terence Davies' of this world can do a very fine job on a classical novel or period piece, but they are unlikely to bring us something we did not expect.
After all it was Ang Lee, guided by the skillfully adapted screenplay of Emma Thompson, who made one of the most successful and poignant period dramas of the last twenty years.
Sense and Sensibility romps along with unbounded glee, and Kate Winslet is simply marvelous in it. Previous to that Lee had cut his chops on films like Eat Drink Man Woman, showing he could direct sisterly bonds, but would not have been the first name to leap to mind when it came to directing one of Austen's most beloved novels.
Normally you have to have directed at least five episodes of Casualty or Holby City, and played Jenga with Judi Dench every Wednesday to earn that privilege.
However Luhrman and Lee do the advantage of great source material, but innovative director's out of their comfort zone are also more able to breathe life into the most flimsily written books.
Now I am going to use examples of Bad Books that have been made into Good Films.
I personally have enjoyed these books, understanding they have not positioned themselves as Dante’s Inferno or War and Peace, but as simple and lovely escapism. I have also found that the many people who dislike these books think Harry Potter is well written.
So bad books:
The Twilight film, Eclipse, was undertaken by the Hard Candy directory David Slade, and it remains the best in the franchise.
He came off the back of a cat and mouse paedophile thriller to add an element of balance to a critical scorned series of films. He didn’t need to make the film watchable, or even add high stakes and believability to the characters, but he attempted to, even altering a part of the original book to make Bella seem less pathetic.
The main protagonist in The Hunger Games comes across as an indecisive unknowable cold fish in the novels, yet is turned into an empathetic and strong central character in the films in part due to Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, but also due to Gary Ross’s direction. His previous work includes Pleasantville and Seabiscuit.
Both these directors seem odd choices for such a weighty franchise, being high risk rather then pedestrian, but bringing credible directors in to direct uncredible and often looked down on books, can make them far more then the sum of their parts. Especially as it isn’t even necessary in Hollywood, as the box office success of a billion selling book franchise is pretty much guaranteed.
I am just asking for diversity Hollywood.
Thrills and spills in my literary adaptations.
Or someone who can really master the characters, but not present us with something we have seen time and time again. Did we really need another paint by numbers version of Pride and Prejudice by Joe Wright?
Could he not have presented a more interesting version if he had chosen to undertake it after the unfairly dismissed Hanna?
He came off the back of a BBC adaptation of Charles II, so he could fit comfortably into the Austen stable, but if the tale is as old as time and everyone knows what is going to happen then shouldn't the director attempt to find some way to create stakes?
I appreciate that its hard to make events sizzle on screen if most of the population knows what is going to happen, but if the director uses some of the artistic license they garnered from past projects then who knows what could happen. Imagine if Paul Thomas Anderson had directed Charlie and Chocolate Factory? Or if Quentin Tarantino tackled 50 Shades of Grey? Or if Bobcat Goldthwait tried his hand at The Unbearable Lightness of Being?
But then again do we really need another Scorsese doing The Age of Innocence.
Love Ellen x