My sister has been ill all week, struck down with the lurgy, and I have had a few plan-less evenings in a row so we’ve had a bit of a movie fest at our house. Last night one of the films we watched was The Informers, directed by Gregor Jordan and based on the book by Bret Easton Ellis.
Movies based on books are tricky things. It can often be necessary to leave out a lot of the book due to time constraints and this is at the discretion of the writer and director. Sometimes an entire subplot can be lost in the final script and the mood the original writer so painstakingly created can be destroyed.
My first experience of this was when I was about six years old with the movie Annie. I had read the book several times and was horrified when the ending of the movie was substantially different to the book. Tugging at my Dad’s sleeve in the cinema, I expressed my dismay at this turn of events and he tried to explain that sometimes they change things in the movies. I asked then and I ask now, WHY? When a perfectly good book has all the elements you need to make a great film – good plot, well drawn characters, emotional involvement – then why mess with it?
Since then I have had experiences both good and bad with movie adaptations. One of the worst adaptations is Bonfire of the Vanities, based on the novel by Tom Wolfe. The novel is phenomenal, a tour de force and in my opinion, the best thing Tom Wolfe has ever written. The movie is excruciatingly bad, and the casting director was clearly having a laugh. The Great Gatsby is a faithful interpretation of the classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Robert Redford is perfect for the role of Jay, but I reckon the movie is completely ruined by the performance of Mia Farrow who should never have played Daisy.
Perfume is a book that was considered unfilmable due to the fact that its main theme is scent, however the film adaptation is surprisingly wonderful. The Virgin Suicides is one of my favourite books and I was so glad that Sofia Coppola did such a marvellous job with the movie. And of course one of the best adaptations of a novel, in my opinion, is the incredible 1985 production of Brideshead Revisited starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews.
So back to The Informers. It perfectly captured the spirit of excess, vapidity and isolation in 1980s Los Angeles, which lead many reviewers to believe that the film was a vacuous waste of time, however I think they missed the point somewhat. Perhaps another director could have handled the material more skillfully, but overall it was a faithful adaptation of Ellis’s novel. Why? Because Ellis wrote the screenplay. This, I think, is crucial to a successful adaptation as the original author is the best choice to adapt their work. The trailer for The Informers is below:
To be honest, if I truly love a book, I will be very hesitatant to see a screen adaptation. As as an avid reader, a devourer of books, what’s the adaptation I most want to see? My own book of course! I can but hope…