When the Movie is Better Than the Book

It doesn’t happen often, but now and then a movie is released with the side-note: based on the acclaimed novel. That’s generally not a good thing. However, there are exceptions. The films Fight Club, Atonement, The Lovely Bones, and possibly the Harry Potter series live up to their paperback predecessors, in my humble opinion. As of Friday, The Perks of Being a Wallflower was added to that list.

I first read the book in 1999 when it was first released, and reread it again last year. Though many of the topics went over my head as a kid, I really connected with the story–that feeling of never fitting in, and then finding a group of people with whom you can be yourself, and those experiences in which you feel infinite and alive.

The film version of the story features Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, and Ezra Miller. Now, thirteen years after publication of the book, its author, Stephen Chbosky, has helped his vision come full circle. Chbosky took the liberty of writing the screenplay, choosing the cast, and directing the movie himself. Since he had full control, Chbosky was able to create a mirror image, moving picture of his novel. The scenes, details, and emotions were all spot on, which made the story even more powerful.

I’ll eagerly read a book if the movie has a stellar plot, but I have hard time seeing movies based on books. I loved The Hunger Games series, and though my sister owns the movie, I haven’t watched it, as I’m worried the movie will ruin the story. Just seeing the trailer triggered thoughts like, “That is not at all how I envisioned it…”

Though I was wary of the movie featuring such well-known actors, at a local book signing Chbosky made an interesting point. Logan Lerman and Emma Watson were both child actor–their lives have been filled with the same socially awkward, don’t quite fit in sentiments as the characters in the book. Thus, it was easy for them to take on the roles of those teenage misfits. For nearly two hours, I forgot that they were famous. They were just Charlie, Sam, and Patrick.

If you happened to have read and enjoyed the book, I would highly recommend the movie. If not, perhaps check out the plot and reviews and then pick up the book in honor of National Banned Books Week or check out the movie some evening when indecision and boredom kick in.

What is your opinion of movies based on books? Do any stand out in your mind as prime examples of either engenderment or butchering of the story?

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6 thoughts on “When the Movie is Better Than the Book

  1. The first time I saw The Hunger Games I was so disappointed because of things left out that I thought were hugely significant. But the second time I watched it (not at midnight on opening day) I liked it more. 🙂

  2. The Golden Compass is an example of a book that was not portrayed as well as it could have been. His Dark Materials is a beautiful story and the film just did not do it justice. I for one was so happy that the trilogy did not continue on film and was left to the joy of books. But that is not to say film can’t get it right…the 1993 version of A Secret Garden is by far my favourite film adaption of a much cherished book. I guess it depends on the director and how much creative licence they have or how much they want to indulge in certain story lines to the extent of missing other ones.

  3. I think the task of taking a medium that can be inside the mind, take as long as need be to describe each scene or mannerism, and allow someone hours and hours to let their heart attach to the characters and cramming it all into a two hour movie for broad audiences is near impossible so when it is done even remotely well I have respect for those involved. It’s like asking a freshman to take a Shakespeare sonnet and present it to his girlfriend in the form of “Roses are red, violets are blue…”

  4. Hey Erin! I agree with you – that movies often never compare to the books. But Perks is one of my favorite books, and I’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for the movie version to come out, but have also been debating whether or not to see it too. But after I read this, I am definitely going to have to go see it! 🙂

  5. The sequel to the Davinci Code – I can’t remember what it was called – had a completely different ending! I am afraid to watch Love in the Time of Cholera because I donkt want to wreck it!

  6. I think a plot-driven book translates quite nicely into a movie; however, novels that just have that thing you can’t quite put your finger on, those nuances, translate poorly. A prime example of that being Murakami’s Norwegian Wood: terrific book, but a disjointed and ultimately disappointing flick.

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