Best Movie Adaptations of a Book

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To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird

Author Harper Lee

Okay I know this is just an easy sop but it’s true: Richard Mulligan’s 1962 movie of this iconic book is just perfect. The casting of Mary Badham as Scout and Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch is so exact that I cannot re-read this book without seeing and hearing both of them. Brock Peters as Tom Robinson actually surpassed the character development in the book and watching his reaction to the verdict, fills me with an impotent desire to do something to get him out of jail, out of the South in the 30s and out of his fate.  I challenge anyone not to choke up when Atticus leaves the empty courtroom and the African Americans in the gallery tell Scout to “stand up your father is passing.” Our book club recently re-read To Kill A Mockingbird and it is as powerful and compelling today as it was 50+ years ago. Every time the movie is on TV: I stop and watch it.

 

 

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High Fidelity

High Fidelity and About A Boy

Author Nick Hornsby

I love pretty much everything Nick Hornsby writes. I included both of these two book adaptations although they were directed by different people. Let’s take these in order: High Fidelity was directed in 2000 by Stephen Frears and starred John Cusack, little-known actor Jack Black, Iben Hjejle in the main roles but Todd Louiso, Tim Robbins, Joan Cusack, Catherine Zeta Jones and Sara Gilbert are well developed secondary roles. The book takes place in England while the movie takes place in Chicago (Has John Cusack ever been in movie that didn’t take place in his home town of Chicago?)

The main character Rob owns a failing record store and has an intense case of arrested development. His longtime girlfriend leaves him and Rob self narrates a journey on why is always being dumped and why his life isn’t panning out. The movie dialog is lifted almost word for word from the book. Rob’s narrative to the reader or the viewer is just dead clever and you are pulling for this guy even though he is such an uninvolved loser. His epiphany that he’s been following his gut for years and he’s now discovered his guts “have shit for brains” is the perfect goofy way for this character to grow up.  The book is funny, the movie is funnier.

About A Boy came out in 2002 and stars Hugh Grant, Toni Colette, Nicholas Hoult and Rachel Weisz and was directed by brothers Chris and Paul Weitz. Hugh Grant plays Will, a well-off immature man who’s never cared about anything or anyone in his life. He joins a single-parent support group hoping to get laid (pretending to be a single dad himself) and ends up forming a bond with a bullied, nerdy 13-year-old played by Nicholas Hoult. Hoult’s younger self is unrecognizable from the hunky actor in X-Men today. Hornsby’s gift is taking what could be really unlikeable characters and making them so self-aware and clever that you forgive them and root for them to do better. And they always do. About A Boy has some dark themes that speak to real and serious unhappiness. The movie doesn’t make light of this theme and once again the intelligent dialogue from the book is lifted directly into the movie. The main character agains talks directly to the readers and viewers and makes us part of his redemption. This may be my favorite Hugh Grant movie…even over Notting Hill.

 

Marlee J Ehrenfeld

Founder, Black Badger Book Club Blog

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