Making the world safe for filmgoers since 2002.
Translating a book or a play to the screen requires taking the source material apart and then putting it together in a different way to take advantage of the medium. Think of a filmed play. What is dynamic in the effervescent world of stagecraft is never quite the same on film. This year, we were blessed with several brilliant, even radical, adaptations that showed as much imagination and creativity as the originals on which they were based.
Take THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER, and you certainly should. Stephen Chbosky, in another sort of radical move, turned down considerable sums when his book was first published in 1999 so that he himself could do the adaptation and then direct it. It was a bold decision. He had made no films, and written no scripts at the time, and had to wait for those opportunities to come to him. They did, and eventually he was able to make the film that his book, and its passionate following deserved. He talks about that with me here.
Joe Wright’s version of ANNA KARENINA knocked many for a loop. He and screenwriter Tom Stoppard didn’t just adapt Tolstoy’s classic, they extracted
the essence of the book in a way that has never been done on screen before. Stylized, deliberately artificial in execution (servants literally dance attendance on their betters), this is pure Tolstoy in all his ferocious glory. Joe Wright explains his thinking, and what he thought Tolstoy got wrong here.
The usual, and tired, way of describing a play successfully turned into a movie is to say that it has been “opened up” for the big screen. KILLER JOE, adapted by its playwright, Tracy Letts, and directed by William Friedkin, doesn’t fall into that trap. Sure, characters are seen walking down streets and driving in cars, but the core of the story is still told in those terrifying clashes between the skewed but inflexible moral compass of the eponymous character, a Dallas cop with a lucrative side business as a hitman, the bungling half-wits who hire him, and the pure innocence of an angel in their midst. She’s played by Juno Temple in a performance that will take your breath away, as will Matthew McConaughey as the title character, who is every bit a match for the demon in Friedkin’s THE EXORCIST. Friedkin discusses both of them, and why he is delighted with the film’s NC-17 rating here.