Movies for Book Lovers

Do you get excited when a book you love is made into a movie? Sometimes I’m tempted to, but I usually manage to curb my enthusiasm. In fact, I’ve come to the point where I don’t even want to see the movies based on my favorite books. The Lord of the Rings movies stand out in my mind as failures in turning books into movies (I realize that many people think those movies are the bomb—they may be, but I can’t enjoy them because they didn’t come close to portraying the characters or settings in the way I imagined them as I read those books in my early teens). On rare occasions, the movie is good enough to stand alone as a great movie, but it just doesn’t compare to the experience of reading the book. Of course, there are exceptions. Little Women has been made into some great movies. I’m particularly fond of the 1994 version starring Winona Ryder. But as a general rule, I stay away from movies based on books I love. I do, however, enjoy movies that involve books in the plot. Here are the ones I like the best:

Despite the fact that Will Ferrell is the lead role in Stranger Than Fiction, it’s not technically a comedy (though there many humorous parts, which I guess makes it a dramedy). Ferrell plays a rather stale IRS agent whose completely predictable life takes a crazy turn when he starts hearing a narrator inside his head. His search to discover who the narrator is and why he is the subject of the narration leads him into a whole new life he never expected. Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, and Maggie Gyllenhaal are excellent supporting actors in this quirky movie about a writer and books that truly come to life.

The hugely popular duo of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan makes You’ve Got Mail the classic romantic comedy it has become, but many of the lines stay in my memory on their own merit. Meg Ryan’s character, Kathleen Kelly, says,

“Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

That line must resonate with book lovers. If I tried to track how many times per day something in my life reminds me of a book, I might go crazy. That line, and many others, makes me love You’ve Got Mail as more than just a chick flick.  It probably helps that the bookstore “The Shop Around the Corner” looks like the most perfect workplace on earth. All that’s missing is an ocean breeze and the aroma of fresh baked cookies.

Miss Potter is the quaint tale of Peter Rabbit’s creator, Beatrix Potter. The acting is stellar, the setting is beautiful, and the history and struggle of Beatrix Potter to be a published author is enthralling and informative in a historical way. I was captivated by the way Miss Potter’s characters were so alive to her, following her around each day and endearing themselves to her. I have this idea that when I finally hit on a good book idea, the characters in my mind will become alive to me as I’m writing about them. Maybe this doesn’t happen until you write and write–it sure hasn’t yet–but that’s the standard that always stays in the back of my mind.

 Finding Neverland is a beautiful film, from the scenery to the music to the really adorable children. Based on Finding Neverland (2004) PosterJ.M Barrie’s life, it follows his friendship with a fatherless family and how they inspired Peter Pan. The acting in the movie is phenomenal. There’s probably some actor somewhere with whom Kate Winslet can’t create chemistry, but I haven’t seen her fail yet (Exhibit A: her relationship with Jack Black, of all people, in The Holiday). I don’t know how historically accurate the movie is, but I love it still. You must watch it. If you don’t smile and cry at the same time while you watch it…well, we can still be friends. But I bet you will shed a tear or two!

I suppose an honorable mention should go Becoming Jane, though I really didn’t enjoy it. I couldn’t reconcile the witty, humorous novelist Jane Austen was with the tragic portrayal Anne Hathaway gave in the movie. Knowing Hathaway is a fantastic actress and does her homework thoroughly, I can’t argue with the historical accuracy. Still, I can’t help hoping that Austen in real life smiled a little more. Also, if you haven’t seen Dead Poets Society, I’d recommend it.

So what bookish movies do you like?