Movies of books have a way of retro-actively hijacking the memory, or sealed conception, of a book in one’s mind. If fiction’s merit is the ability to collaborate with the imaginations of its readers, then film productions of movies ruin it.
Though I have not seen Revolutionary Road (forthcoming, 2009), Leonardo DiCaprio will forever replace the image I had in my head of Frank Wheeler. I had imagined him as a dour-faced bearded Richard Yates type of man, and yet I will most likely see the movie—in some sick masochistic way to brine in my own indignation. I guarantee you the movie will focus on infidelity (with bonus tit scene(s) of Wheeler’s secretary/mistress), and less (if any) on what the book seemed for me to be about, namely, Frank’s irrevocable self-loathing and self-pity.
John Krasinski (of The Office fame) has written a screenplay for Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (in post-production), the late D.F. Wallace’s exploration into crass sexually-driven male vernacular, sorta like lowbrow stream o’ consciousness via a plumber or taxi driver. Here’s the catch: instead of conveying the fragmented way each ‘entry’ was written—and its existential narrative ‘incompleteness,’ Krasinski provides us a plot arc: a female graduate student, recently broken-up with her boyfriend, interviews men in order to understand their behavior. Now, I wasn’t looking for an epiphany—but Jesus—does everything have to be about a man/woman?
In porn, there are many categories: man/woman; man/man; woman/woman; woman/horse; woman/dog; man/car exhaust pipe; cartoon character/‘furry’; etc. (for the records, I only enjoy the first category). The film industry would do good to learn from porn. Don’t worry about love, just try to make it interesting, even if it involves a gallon of horse emission.
There ought to be a White List of books that it is illegal to adapt into film, because I’m so afraid one day I’m going to see Holden Caulfield on the big screen, hanging out with his girlfriend in Central Park.