Now a Major Motion Picture

Salt Lake City Weekly | August 25, 2006
Everyone always says, “Yeah, but the book was better.� But how do you know if they’re just trying to pretend they actually read? Here’s a handy guide for some of this fall’s literary adaptations, based on a look at the source material. Maybe you, too, could pretend you actually read. (Release dates subject to change.)

Source Material: Little Children, by Tom Perrotta

Book Overview: In a small New England town, the residents are more concerned about the arrival of a convicted child sex offender than with their own crumbling marriages. Perrotta is unnecessarily literal about his title’s subtext—the adults also let others direct their lives unquestioningly—but he deftly avoids most of the pitfalls of satirizing suburban ennui. Funny, and at times fiercely perceptive about what sours relationships.

Book Grade: B+

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Director Todd Field deftly explored a crumbling marriage in the Oscar-nominated In the Bedroom.

Reason for Adaptation Concern: The book is about what takes place in the characters’ heads—remove the psychology and it could be trite infidelity drama.

Film Scheduled Release Date: Oct. 6

The Movie Pitch: “American Beauty meets The Woodsman.�

Source Material: Running With Scissors, by Augusten Burroughs

Book Overview: Burroughs’ memoir describes his adolescence as the child of a bipolar would-be poet who turns him over to her psychiatrist and his freaky family. True though it may be, the story overflows with so much eccentricity that it becomes oppressive. Only Burroughs’ unflinchingly wry delivery keeps it from turning into Wacky-Yet-Horrifying Misadventures: The Autobiography.

Book Grade: B-

Reason for Adaptation Concern: It’s easy to see the quirky characters and non-stop chaos becoming too much to take in film form.

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: A great cast (Annette Bening, Brian Cox, Gwyneth Paltrow, Evan Rachel Wood); if anyone knows how to make edgy weirdness work, it should be Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy.

Film Scheduled Release Date: Oct. 11

The Movie Pitch: “Mommy Dearest meets Little Miss Sunshine.�

Source Material: A Good Year, by Peter Mayle

Book Overview: A British banker, after a career downturn, relocates to an inherited vineyard in Provence. Mayle overstuffs his light-hearted comic plot somewhat—an international wine-trade conspiracy eventually makes an appearance—but he shows a nice touch for both the pleasures and the foibles of his adopted Provençal home. Lively characters and warm atmosphere add up to an undemanding but endearing beach read.

Book Grade: B

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: Director Ridley Scott gets a thanks in the foreword, a good sign that the adaptation will be faithful.

Reason for Adaptation Concern: “Russell Crowe� and “light-hearted comedy� do not instinctively feel like a match made in heaven.

Film Scheduled Release Date: Nov. 10

The Movie Pitch: “Sideways meets Under the Tuscan Sun.�

Source Material: The Good German, by Joseph Kanon

Book Overview: In 1945 Berlin, an American reporter searches for the lover he left behind, while investigating the murder of an American soldier. Kanon creates a fascinating look at devastated post-war Germany and the tentacles of corruption that make it virtually impossible for anyone to emerge guiltless. Creepy echoes of contemporary morality-blind policy in an occupied country only make the twisty mystery more engrossing.

Book Grade: A

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: It’s a black-and-white period piece, which worked for the movie’s star, George Clooney, in Good Night, and Good Luck.

Reason for Adaptation Concern: The last time director Steven Soderbergh and Clooney got serious, the result was Solaris.

Film Scheduled Release Date: Dec. 8

The Movie Pitch: “Chinatown meets The Third Man.�

Source Material: The Black Dahlia, by James Ellroy

Book Overview: Taking off from an unsolved 1940s true crime, Ellroy follows two L.A.P.D. cops who become obsessed with the case of a beautiful woman found murdered and mutilated. The rich, densely-plotted story explores the same corrupt underbelly of Los Angeles as his L.A. Confidential, with even more compelling results. Complex characterizations and grim, gritty atmosphere combine for a terrific literary noir.

Book Grade: A-

Reason for Adaptation Concern: Ellroy’s dense plot wouldn’t seem to lend itself well to a condensed screenplay.

Reason for Adaptation Optimism: That’s what everyone said about L.A. Confidential, which didn’t turn out too badly; Brian DePalma’s films are many things, but never boring.

Film Scheduled Release Date: Sept. 15

The Movie Pitch: “L.A. Confidential meets … er, L.A. Confidential.�

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