These Books Are Must-Reads Before Seeing the Movies in Theaters
Some of us feel there is no difference between reading a book and seeing its movie in theaters. For others, though, it’s a big deal. When translating the written page into a screenplay, locations often change and single characters can morph into mash-ups. (Sometimes they even disappear completely on the big screen.)
Here are a few suggestions for must-reads before they become must-sees.
The Leisure Seeker is a comedy/romance novel written by Michael Zadoorian, published in 2009.
It tells the story of octogenarian couple John and Ella Robina, who have been married for over 50 years. Each ill and acutely aware of the inevitable, the self-proclaimed “down-on-their-luck geezers” kidnap themselves from their adult children and doctors — who seem to run their lives — and take a final road trip along Route 66 to Disneyland.
The novel was adapted into a film of the same name, starring Donald Sutherland and Helen Mirren, which premiered at the 74th Venice International Film Festival in 2017. The script was adapted by Francesca Archibugi, Francesco Piccolo, Stephen Amidon, and director Paolo Virzi. Virzi was making his English-language debut.
The major difference is the film wasn’t shot along the book’s beloved Route 66. Instead, Mirren and Sutherland set off in an RV from Boston to Key West, Florida. Oddly, the location change backfired as the vintage vehicle had a tendency to break down.
“We literally went on an adventure down to Key West together, driving an RV that had no steering and brakes, no gears. It was a genuine old RV antique, so it was quite a hair-raising adventure with my mad friend Donald at the wheel. He did all his own driving. It was also very hot and humid in the middle of the summer in the south, and of course the air conditioning couldn’t work so we were genuinely sweaty!” Mirren told an audience of SAG members in Los Angeles.
Annihilation (The Southern Reach Trilogy) by Jeff VanderMeer was published in 2014. It is the first in a series of three books called the Southern Reach Trilogy. The book follows four women — a biologist, an anthropologist, a psychologist, and a surveyor — who set out into an abandoned area known as Area X. Cut off from the rest of civilization, they attempt to uncover the mystery behind previous disappearances, suicides, aggressive cancers, and mental trauma.
The inspiration for the novel was VanderMeer’s 14-mile hike through St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in northwestern Florida. Many of the animals and vegetation that he saw on the hikes over the past 17 years appear in the novel.
The book won two prizes for the best novel in 2014: the Nebula Award for Best Novel, voted on by members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, and the 2014 Shirley Jackson Award, named for the author of The Haunting of Hill House.
The film — coming out in February — of the same name was adapted for the screen by director Alex Garland. It stars Natalie Portman as the biologist, Jennifer Jason Leigh as the psychologist, and Tessa Thompson as the surveyor.
What seems to be missing in the film is the anthropologist, so you may want to read the book first for that character’s story.
Another first in a trilogy is Red Sparrow (2013), written by former CIA operative Jason Matthews. That little ditty should peak your interest, not to mention the timeliness of Russian and American espionage.
The story unfolds as Dominika Egorova, aka “Red Sparrow,” is forced by her uncle to leave her ballerina studies and undergo “sexpionage” training — to seduce the enemy — at the Sparrow School. Other central characters are Marble, a Russian double agent who provides intelligence to the CIA, and young CIA officer Nate Nash. Egorova is assigned to operate against Nash, who handles the agency’s most important Russian mole.
The upcoming film – due out in March – stars Jennifer Lawrence as Red Sparrow. Justin Haythe (A Cure for Wellness) wrote the screenplay. Haythe has taken some dramatic license, calling General Vladimir Andreievich Korchnoi (Jeremy Irons). Opposite Lawrence is Joel Edgarton, who plays CIA operative Nash.
In the book, Egorova has synesthesia, a condition which blends two or more of a person’s senses. In her case, her synesthesia allows her to see a person’s emotions through color. It will be interesting to see how that imaginative vision in the book plays out visually in the film.
Bestseller A Wrinkle in Time was penned by Madeline L’Engle in 1960, and first published in 1962. This science fantasy novel is the first of five, and it won the 1963 Newbery Medal, a literary award given by the Association for Library Service to Children. The novel was an instant hit with readers all around the world.
The story follows the Murry and O’Keefe families. Meg Murry is a gangly adolescent who travels across dimensions to rescue her scientist father. She is guided by a trio of guardian angels collectively called “the Mrs.”
Based on her own life, L’Engle wrote of her family adventures,”We drove through a world of deserts and buttes and leafless mountains, wholly new and alien to me. And suddenly into my mind came the names Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, Mrs Which.” She also proclaimed that she is the “outrageously plain” protagonist, Meg Murry .
Filmmakers saw its potential, adapting it for the small screen in 2003. Producer Catherine Hand swept up the rights, hiring Frozen writer Jennifer Lee to adapt it. Award-winning director Ava DuVernay helmed the film, which is coming out in March. Oprah Winfrey, who loves her books, was chosen to star as Mrs Which. Reese Witherspoon plays Mrs Whatsit and Mindy Kaling takes on the role of Mrs Who.
One wonders whether the films will be as good as the books they are based on. That remains to be seen.