Tag Archives: movie adaptations

Review: Gone Girl (2014 film)

Gone Girl (2014)

Screenplay by Gillian Flynn, based on her 2012 novel.
Directed by David Fincher.
Produced by Leslie Dixon, Bruna Papandrea, Reese Witherspoon and Ceán Chaffin.
Cinematography: Jeff Cronenweth.
Edited by Kirk Baxter.
Music by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
Distributed by 20th Century Fox.
Budget: $61 mn. U.S. (made $368 mn., international)
MPAA Rating: R (language, some bloody violence and strong sexual content/nudity)
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Carrie Coon, Tyler Perry, and Neil Patrick Harris

Some movies are just damn creepy.  Yet this one was actually pretty mild in my view, relatively speaking.  (It’s a soft-to-moderate ‘R’.)  Flynn’s screen adaptation is very close to the original novel, so you can read my review on that for the synopsis.

The movie starts off much the same as the novel.  It cuts to the chase, and intercuts between the main-character points of view, all the way to the big twist.

Having read the book, I can say that most of the novel is intact here.  This is one of those rare cases that the script matches so closely the intent of the original, that it should go on record how great a writer Gillian Flynn is, as well as David Fincher, in bringing it to life, the way he did.  In an interview with The Kansas City Star, the Kansas-reared Flynn was on the record, stating, he “really liked the book, and didn’t want to turn it into something other than what it already was. … He wanted a faithful screen adaptation, not a whole new thing.”

The acting, I found was grade-A, for the most part.  I wasn’t too enthused with Ben Afleck’s performances, but it was still one his best to date.  Overall, the film elevated its players, especially Rosamund Pike, who plays “Amy Dunne.”  Those that haven’t seen Pike act on screen can see what she’s capable of, and those that have seen her may see a different side of her altogether.  The first shot of her in the movie, as she turns her head, kind of defines the meaning of ‘creepy.’

Unfortunately, like most screen adaptations, a visible amount of the novel’s depth was lost in scriptwriting process.  Whole scenes and characters were cut for time.  Worse, the execution “dialed back” on potential strengths.  Some of the music was redundant of Reznor/Ross.  And some of the editing, with quick fades, made the movie look like a two-hour trailer.  But even then, you could call it a superb two-hour trailer, that the film in whole still manages to stand out so well.

Though the film adaptation is not perfect and can’t really replace the novel, I found myself able to watch it more than once without getting tired.  Who can say that of most films?  Grade: A-.

Review: The Fault In Our Stars (film)

The Fault In Our Stars ©2014 Twentieth Century Fox
Based on the 2012 novel by John Green
Genre: teen romance, mortality; young adult
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Screenplay: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Director: Josh Boone
Running Time: two hours
Producers: Wyck Godrey p.g.a, Marty Bowen p.g.a
Exec. Producers: Michele Imperato Stabile, Isaac Klausner
Director of Photography: Ben Richardson
Film Editor: Rob Sullivan
Music: Mike Mogis, Nathaniel Wolcott
Stars: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern (Frannie, H.’s mother), Sam Trammell (Michael, H.’s father), Nat Wolff, Wilem Dafoe, Mike Birbiglia (Patrick, group head), and Lotte Verbeek

The producers would like to thank the Anne Franke House, the Pittsburg University Medical Center (UPMC), and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

The Diary of a Young Girl, is courtesy, Random House: Original Material; controlled by The Anne Franke Fonds

Synopsis

Hazel Grace (Woodley), a 16-year-old college student with metastasized cancer, is reluctant to attend cancer support group.  But there, she befriends Augustus Waters (Elgort), a boy two years her senior.  He attempts to bring her out of her terminal illness mentality, while Isaac (Wolff) deals with his breakup with a girlfriend that echoed but failed to promise the “Always,” to Always love each other.  (Aah, kids.)

Hazel still wants to know what happened to the characters for An Imperial Affliction, her favorite book and a work terminated mid-sentence, so Gus tries and manages to contact its author, Peter Van Houten (Dafoe), through his assistant, Lidewij (Verbeek).

Not take her illness well, Hazel considers herself a “grenade”—someone who can ‘only hurt the ones around her’ if she were to open and build relationship(s), but Gus convinces her otherwise.  As result, he shows her a new world, a new love, enough that she eventually cries at his eulogy rehearsal—one he attends.

Take

Neustadter and Weber manage to bring the story to the screen almost word-for-word.  Unfortunately, the screenplay’s rendering (directing), for “accessibility,” made much of the film cute and unconvincing, and unintentionally funny in one scene.  There were critical moments left soft and safe, as opposed to real and consequential.  An episode of House is more convincing than the cancer elements in this film.  And while the screenplay left alone most of the plot and dialogue (the as-is dialogue was in need of improvement), everything else lacked boldness; nothing else stood out.

As far as the acting goes, the whole film, taken from the novel in first-person POV, in its entirety rested on Woodley (who cried rather well).  And for some of the film, Isaac (Wolff) stood out where others probably should have.  Elgort’s acting was one of the worst parts of the film; he brought to life a theatrical reading of lines, fun but understated but unreal.  He appeared, perhaps, cocky when he should’ve appeared something of an ordinary teen.

For time compression (and safety), Van Houten’s scenes were reduced in count and time, and the story toward the end was altered significantly: instead of Hazel searching for a piece of paper that Gus had written, Van Houten gave it directly to her; there was no scene where Lidewij ran out on Van Houten; there was no time for clarification on Van Houten’s part as to why he wrote and failed to finish An Imperial Affliction; reasoning was thrown out somewhere.  And, needless to say, Dafoe wasn’t the fat slob of a drunk described in the book, just a drunk that didn’t even appear drunk in the movie!

Fortunately, the critical “some infinities are larger than other infinities” message was left in, as well as the “virgins with one leg” diagrams, and Van Houten in the side mirror taking a swig from his alcoholic’s canteen, as Hazel drove away.

What I got out of the novel was bittersweet; what I got out of the film was easy—too easy to watch.  While it sufficiently captured the plot, it had nothing else to offer.  Worse, it put too much focus on its often-simplified characters, and as result removed much of the book’s implicit atmosphere; we didn’t even get to see out of the window of the plane!

Everything was pronounced; there was no time to explore.  So many opportunities to make a better movie were overlooked and lost.  There may be a fan base, but I am certainly not a fan of this straight-forward but lackluster adaptation.  Without being too harsh, this movie failed to surpass expectations.  Grade: B+