Movies That Do A Book Justice

When a movie comes out and it looks interesting, I try to find out if it was based on a novel. If it was, I make it a point to read the book before seeing the movie. Currently, I am racing through Dennis Lehane’s Shutter Island. The writing is inspired, the characters interesting, and the story captivating. This is a fantastic book and I can only hope that the movie does it justice. There are few movies adapted from books that cause me to pause for a moment when asked the question: Which was better, the book or the movie? Following are two books adapted to the screen that cause me to wrestle with that question:
1. No Country for Old Men– It is no secret how much I love Cormac McCarthy’s writing style and also no surprise that I admire and respect the work of the Coen brothers. So when the two came together I thought I had died and gone to some kind of literary/cinematic heaven. The book is so powerful and contains the only bad guy in literature that has ever visited me in my sleep, the dead-in-the-eyes killing machine, Chigurh. The prose is beautful, the characters (at least the “good guys”) relatable. Seeing the Coen brothers craft the story on screen was amazing. The casting alone let me know that this was going to be an epic film worthy of the novel. Tommy Lee Jones IS Sheriff Bell. Hearing his voice as the internal monologue of the sheriff affected me deeply and really captured the tone of the novel right from the start. To this day when I read this novel out loud with my students, I hear his voice in my head. Javier Bardem and his 70’s Amish-inspired haircut and a-quarter-is-an- instrument-of-fate, friendo intensity fits pefectly the image that haunted me after reading the book. Josh Brolin as Llewelyn Moss gave an excellent representation of the bold everyman caught in a tough situation when all he wanted to do was better his life. Carla Jean, artfully played by Kelly Macdonald in the film, is a character in the book you connect with instantly. And, of course, Woody Harrelson as Carson Wells was pure genius. When a great novel, talented cast, and brilliant directors come together it satisfies just as much as when chocolate and peanut butter first bumped into one another and created the blessed Peanut Butter Cup. Obviously, I can’t say enough about this novel-to-film adaptation.
2. The Silence of the Lambs– Thomas Harris’ novel was one of the first books I read more than once. I actually saw the movie first before reading the book and was impressed by both. The book itself is one of the best examples of how to properly pace a novel, especially a suspense-thriller. The movie matched it beat for beat. Jodi Foster as smart, driven Clarice Starling made me want to run out and join the FBI right away. Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter…well, that has become the stuff of pop culture iconography. And, quite frankly, I enjoy showing the more modern version of the film Moby Dick to watch my students’ eyebrows furrow and skin crawl when they realize Starbuck is played by the same guy who was Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs, Ted Levine. I kind of wish I would have read the book first, but I don’t think the images I conjured in my head would have been much different from the way this movie played out on screen. More to follow next time…

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About M. Jaynes

A female educator with anger-management issues, M. Jaynes is causing change in the world by inspiring (some may say forcing) young minds to think for themselves and question everything.


  1. Eric Bahle says

    Agree with both. What about movies that manage to be better than the book? Maybe next post…?