June 4th, 2012


Monday Movies: Book Adaptations

I suspect this is going to be one of those days when I have to resist napping with every fiber of my being and force myself to get stuff done. That's rather a challenge when there's no immediate crisis in the stuff that needs to get done and when I can rationalize that I need to be well-rested before next week, when I'll be spending a week traveling with teenagers. We had the pre-trip meeting yesterday afternoon, and after seeing the packing list, it looks like I have some shopping to do. I can see why they were twisting my arm to get me to come on the trip because there were only two chaperones other than the choir director and the youth director. They needed another adult. Fortunately, one of the other chaperones is a doctor and there will also be a few college students coming along to serve as helpers/"camp counselors." I won't be taking my computer, but I will see if I can get Facebook to work on my phone and maybe post some updates along the way (I'm easy enough to find on Facebook and I make just about everything I post public, so even if I don't get around to accepting friends requests while I'm on the road, you can still track me and see my pleas for rescue).

I didn't get around to posting about movies last Monday because it was a holiday, so here's a delayed Movie Monday post. The previous weekend, I finally saw the recent Alice in Wonderland, and I'm glad I didn't see it in a theater because it was kind of boring. I read through a lot of it. Sometimes I want to tell Tim Burton and Johnny Depp that they might be more effective if they dialed it back a notch. Weird stuff has more of an impact when you can contrast it against the "normal." When everything is so over-the-top weird, it loses the weirdness. I also think Johnny Depp needs to step away from the white pancake makeup. It's becoming cliched. There were some stunning visuals and some lovely moments, but in general, that movie was a bit of a mess. In good Tim Burton movies, I find myself thinking, "I'll have what he's having." In this one, I was thinking, "Maybe he should have a little less of what he's having."

Then I finally saw the most recent remake of Jane Eyre, and again, I'm glad I didn't see this at the theater. There was a lot that was right about it. The settings and casting were excellent and the performances were also wonderful. I loved Judi Dench as the housekeeper. That role is usually a non-entity or made ominous, but she radiated a goodhearted warmth. However, the script was something of a hot mess. I have to admit that I'm the kind of person who loves that book enough that nothing other than a miniseries is going to satisfy me because a two-hour movie will require cutting elements that I think are important. To me, the "definitive" version is the most recent BBC/Masterpiece Theatre miniseries, which I was able to watch soon after re-reading the book and still not hate. But this one made some really questionable choices.

For one thing, it starts at one of the least interesting parts of the book and tells the rest of the story in flashback. I've never been a fan of the interlude where Jane has fled Thornfield and is hiding out with the Rivers family, and that's where this movie focuses, with the rest of the story up to that point told in flashback while she's there. Her childhood and time at school are shown only in very brief flashes of fever dream, and then we get into her taking on the school in that village before she recalls going to Thornfield and meeting Rochester. The movie mostly stops jumping around at that point, but it still seems to cut out most of the relationship development between Jane and Rochester, with him jumping very quickly to confessing his love for her. Then when the flashbacks catch up to where the movie started, we see the same scenes all over again.

In all the ways I've imagined how to make a movie from that book, I never would have considered grounding it in the time when she's hiding out in the village and teaching at the village school after running away from the discovery of the mad wife in the attic. That's the part I tend to skim over. If it were a less familiar story, then I could see starting with something that's going to make viewers wonder why she's on the run, but I doubt there are many people going to see this kind of movie who aren't familiar with the story. Plus, TV has really burned me on the structure of starting with an exciting moment from near the story's climax and then flashing back to some time earlier to show how they got to that point. It's become something of a cliche that to me is starting to read like shorthand for "we couldn't think of an exciting opening scene, so we'll just start with this really cool scene from later in the story and then go back."

No movies this weekend, since I've been marathoning the entire season of Grimm from start to finish while they still have all the episodes available OnDemand. I'm about halfway through.