By Diana Cheng
The harvest of films releasing in the latter part of the year for me is the compensation for fallen leaves and chilly weather. Indeed, movies coming out in the fall and winter are usually indication of their award aspirations come early next year when the Awards Season begins. For booklovers, it is gratifying to know many of these productions have their source in books and literature. While there are those who avoid film adaptations thinking the book is always better, I tend to view the two as totally different art forms, with the film offering an entertaining visual interpretation of the literary, imagination realized in sight and sound. No matter how one looks at it, book into film can be a lively topic of discussion in book groups.
Here is a list of some movie adaptations currently released or coming out in the next few months. You may like to add them to your reading list before heading out to the big screen:
For those who worry about the film being unfaithful to the book, rest assured. Author Gillian Flynn writes the screenplay herself. Faithful to the source or not, it is all her doing. The movie version of this wildly popular mystery novel is helmed by David Fincher, the two-time Oscar nominated director of The Social Network (2010) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008). Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike star as the troubled couple, husband being the prime suspect when wife gone missing. It will be interesting to see how Fincher handles the twists and turns as the story unfolds. But of course, the key is how he manages the suspense for those who have already read the book. This very directorial task is exactly why I am so intrigued by books being turned into films.
Fresh out of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) winning its highest honor, the People’s Choice Award, this movie is gathering buzz for its likely trajectory all the way to the Oscars like previous TIFF winners 12 Years A Slave (2013) and The King’s Speech (2010). The source material is the book Alan Turing: The Enigma by Andrew Hodges about the British mathematician and computer pioneer whose code breaking methods at Bletchley Park turned the tides of WWII for the Allies. The current rave is all about the star of the movie Benedict Cumberbatch likely getting an Oscar nomination come Awards Season.
Gustave Flaubert’s debut novel (1856) has received numerous adaptations from opera to graphic novel, TV mini-series to full-length features. This newest cinematic rendition stars Mia Wasikowska, who has made a turn around from Jane Eyre (2011) to Emma Bovary. The young and prolific Australian actress Wasikowska has taken up major roles in several book to film features in the past few years and is currently filming Alice In Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass, a sequel to her previous Alice role, which begs the question: Can she be a convincing Emma Bovary?
I watched this film at TIFF in September. Author Lisa Genova went on stage with the director and producer for a Q & A session after. She felt the adaptation was in good hands albeit she did not write the screenplay. Julianne Moore could well be on her way to another Oscar nomination for her apt and nuanced performance as a Columbia University linguistic professor afflicted with early onset Alzheimer’s. Again, for those who fear incongruence between the film and the book need not worry.
Multi-tasking to the extreme as a writer, painter, actor (in movies and on Broadway), director, producer, PhD candidate at Yale, instructor at Columbia, looks like the renaissance man—as some admirably call him—James Franco still has time to direct and star in yet another adaptation from the work of his literary hero William Faulkner. Last year, he wrote the screenplay and directed As I Lay Dying. This year, he brings us The Sound and the Fury. To complete the iconoclastic venture, he casts himself as the developmentally challenged Benjy Compson.
The Theory of Everything
This is another British buzz at TIFF this September. The acclaimed director James Marsh (Oscar winning Man On Wire, 2008) brings us a biopic of the iconic theoretical physicist and Cambridge professor Stephen Hawking, based on the book by his wife Jane Hawking, Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen. The role as the brilliant scientist is mastered by the British rising star Eddie Redmayne whose performance is gathering Oscar buzz. Redmayne first showed his edge in My Week With Marilyn (2011) then Birdsong (TV, 2011) and later mesmerized us with his singing in Les Misérables (2012), all productions based on books and literature.
Angelina Jolie directs this chronicle of the resilient athlete and survivor, Louis Zamperini, a U.S. long-distance runner at the 1936 Berlin Olympics watched by Hitler, later Japanese prisoner of war in the Pacific theatre, and still later in his life, inspirational speaker. Bestselling author Laura Hillenbrand’s book is, interestingly, adapted into screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen, the multiple Oscar-winning brothers. Jolie had deep admiration for Zamperini and later discovered he lived near her home. The two quickly became friends. Zamperini died in July this year, a few months short of the film’s scheduled release on Christmas Day. He was 97.
Nick Hornby turned Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild: From Lost To Found on the Pacific Crest Trail into screenplay, directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, 2013). Following the death of her mother, Strayed, played by Reese Witherspoon, divorced, devastated, drugged, went on a 1,100 mile hike alone on the Pacific Crest Trail. So we see the word ‘wild’ carries a double meaning: the nature trail and the gal hiking on it. The journey could well be redemptive and perilous at the same time. The books in Strayed’s backpack included Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor.
Diana reviews books and movies. She may be better known as Arti of Ripple Effects in the blogosphere and on Twitter @Arti_Ripples.