When a movie comes out that was a book I want to read, I always read the book first. Interview with the Vampire was the first one; it killed me to wait to see it, but I didn’t want the movie to ruin the ending of the book since I love to read so much.
Everybody knows the book is always better than the movie. I’ve known this since Gone With The Wind. I devoured the book in three days as we drove home from vacation in the summer of 1989, and later couldn’t believe how much they left out of the movie. Yes, a four-hour movie and important things are missing like the fact that Scarlett has two other children.
I was reminded of this again last week when I watched Twilight. I suppose it would have been four hours long, too, if they included everything, or used the right timeline. (The meadow scene was a special date, and does not occur right after Bella accuses Edward of being a vampire.) It was mildly annoying because I kept comparing the two, but I did enjoy the movie.
Not so for Revolutionary Road. It seemed phony right from the beginning, like they were still acting in the play they were arguing about. The book was hard to get through with all the thinking and postulating and descriptions, but that is what makes the story, and it did not come across at all. Maybe I was expecting too much from the movie version. The basic events were the same, but the feeling/mood of the book did not translate. Maybe it would have been better if it had voice-overs to tell what Frank was thinking. This was part of the problem with Twilight, too: so much of the book is going on in the characters’ heads – how do you convey that on screen?
By not showing all this thinking and description, the movie-goer misses out on quite a lot. Frank just looks like a jerk instead of this philosopher who is known for his art of bullshitting. April’s cold behavior is not explained, nor do you fully realize that she’s going through what inspired Betty Friedan to write The Feminine Mystique. Nor does Mrs. Givings’ obsession with the Wheeler’s and her son get properly explained. Knowing all this made the movie seem sorely lacking in character development.
If you haven’t read or seen Revolutionary Road, stop reading here because I’m going to give away the ending.
And then they left out the most touching scene in the whole book, when Shep calls Frank and picks him up at the train station to get to the hospital. Frank doesn’t tell Shep right away that April “did it to herself”; he waits a while til they’re out drinking and it just comes out. Maybe I’m being nitpicky, but I thought these were two important events that should have been portrayed correctly.
At first I said I would see the movie versions first since it’s almost always a let-down. Then when I started writing this, I remembered I didn’t like the movie spoiling the end of the book. So maybe what I’ll do is this: if it’s an action movie, like The DaVinci Code, I’ll read the book first. If it’s a drama like Revolutionary Road, I’ll see the movie first – or not at all.