An odd threesome...
Recently, I've watched three movies - O, The Bourne Identity, and The Shipping News. Not thematically related, these movies have made me think about the screenplay. Taking an idea inherited from someone else and transferring it to film.
The Shipping News seems to be an exercise in reductionism. The book is dense with many layers. Not just full of lusty adjectives like a romance novel and not obsessively ornate like something from Umberto Ecco. But there are nice passages hinting at questionable family histories and the fear of loneliness. By coincidence, I also picked up an abridged copy of the novel on audio CD. I guess the child in me still likes to be read to. I enjoy listening to novels. Maybe its simpler. I don't have to find the author's voice, someone else has already made that decision. But the abridged version makes interesting choices. What is excessive to the story?
Now, I finally get to watch the movie. And for the second time, the question seems to get asked. What is excessive to the story? Except this time, it seems that the source material is not the original novel, but the abridged version of the novel. In watching the movie, I guess the parts that were left out began to bother me. I'm also not sure if I understand the casting compared to the novel's characters. Books have an advantage, a well done story can sell enough copies to do just fine. But a movie without some star power probably doesn't make it out of the neighborhood art house. So a compormise is made, instead of the large, double chinned Quolye of the novel, we get Kevin Spacey. The other characters are really well cast. Aunt, Petal, Bunny and the rest are very fitting.
As for the rest of the movie, it's sort of charming, but not in the same way the book is. The lows and highs of the novel are chopped out so that the director doesn't have to reach for his audience. They can come on board anytime and feel empathy for Quoyle. Again, it's not a bad movie, just an interesting set of choices that are made in the screenplay.
Full profile for The Shipping News
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