So this week, I've been talking about books that take me to places other than where I am (the sofa). Monday to France with Peter Mayle's A Good Year. Tuesday was Tuscany with Frances Mayes Under the Tuscan Sun. Wednesday was Savannah, Georgia with John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. And audiobook Thursday took us to London via Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones' Diary. And one thing that all these books have in common is that they were all made into movies. And one thing that three of them is have in common is that the movies aren't all that good.
First, A Good Year. This was made into a movie a few years ago, staring Russell Crowe as Max Skinner. It was watchable and (if I remember correctly) stayed fairly true to the plot. And Albert Finney as Max's uncle is fantastic. But even with costars like Archie Panjabi (who can do no wrong, as far as I can see), Tom Hollander, Abbie Cornish, and Richard Coyle (fan of Britain's Coupling? The scene where Jeff gets caught in the copy machine had me in tears the first time I saw it!), the movie ends up being watered down and fairly meh. One of the best things about Peter Mayle's writing is his sumptuous descriptions of Provence, and while the cinematography in this film is beautiful, it can never measure up to the words. If you want to see the movie, see it, but don't judge the book by this watered-down version.
Next, Under the Tuscan Sun. This is a rom com staple, the story of an independent (but broken-hearted woman) who visits Italy and decides to buy a house and stay. Diane Lane shines as the lead character who takes all this on and makes herself a new home, repairs all the broken pieces of her spirit, and finds love again. It's a lovely story, a beautiful movie, and a fun flick to watch with your girlfriends on a weekend. But it's not the book. They took a couple of facts from early in the book and built a movie around them. But it's not Frances Mayes' story of Tuscany, and if this is all you know of her book, then you took the trip to Tuscany and never left the hotel. Yes, she does visit Italy and end up buying a house after her divorce. But she's not alone. And yes, they do fix the place up with lots of challenges due to cultural differences. But it's early in the book that they house is again livable, and then she's traveling through the countryside, describing the most delectable foods, and meeting fascinating characters for hundreds more pages. Again, see the movie if you want to, but don't for a second confuse it with the book, which has so much more to offer you.
And then, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I can't begin to tell you how much I was looking forward to the release of this film. Directed by Clint Eastwood, starring Kevin Spacey and John Cusack, and the trailers for it looked phenomenal. But the movie is vastly underwhelming. You do get to see some of Savannah's culture in person, most notably the entertainer The Lady Chablis, who seems to take over the movie. But the murder is made the centerpiece of the movie, and the story suffers for it. Add in a lackluster romance thread (which is not in the book), and it seems like all the life an spirit of the book are drained from the storytelling on the screen. Seriously, don't even bother with this movie. Just read this book and let your imagination create Savannah for you.
And last, but never least, is Bridget Jones and her fabulous diary. I will admit, I am a huge fan of this movie. I can't begin to tell you how many times I've seen it, and I will watch it a hundred more times. Renee Zellweger brought this character to life is a way that adds so much spunk and depth to Bridget. Actually, the whole cast is pitch perfect. Her parents, her friends, her coworkers, and of course, Hugh Grant as bad boy Daniel Cleaver and Colin Firth as Jane Austen's perfect Mark Darcy. I love everything about Bridget Jones. Love the book, love the audiobook, love the movie. In fact, I love everything that Helen Fielding touches. Read all her books, listen to all of her audiobooks, watch all of her movies (speaking of which, why is Olivia Joules not a movie yet? I love her!).
Sadly my vacation week is coming to an end. Next week, it's back to work here with all new books! But that's good. I've got some really good ones to talk about, and I can't wait to share them!