Film and Lit: Adjust your expectations

The feelings of disappointment, heartache, and anger.

Too often, these are the feelings which accompany an exit from any movie theater where we have just seen a favorite book of ours on the big screen. We have so many expectations. It better be exactly like the book.

But are we being even remotely fair and charitable?

When we examine any movie based on a book, the key word we ought to notice first before making any sweeping judgments is that it is based on the book. The movie is meant to function as a separate entity; were it not to function this way, commercials would then include a disclaimer like “only a companion piece to the best-selling novel” we so love.

With this in mind, the details of a novel or any lengthy work, even less lengthy novellas or short stories, could not possibly all be put onto the big screen. If every line were on the screen, movies would just then be visual audiobooks. This already establishes a level of subjectivity to our disliking of literature adaptions: it needs to have all the parts each of us thinks is important.

Characters are highly subjective as well. The dreamy, flirty girl sixteen-year-old me dreamt about that is Alaska from John Green’s Looking for Alaska is likely a cynical, misleading, deranged and off-the-rails some-choice-word to another reader.

Simply put, a director cannot portray the character we each say. So that’s another unreasonable demand.

There is a certain level of expectation we can have with respect to these films, though.

We ought to expect a certain level of accuracy to the spirit of the work. A dystopian, sarcastic post-Modern work should not end up a slapstick Rom-Com. While theme and spirit are equally if not more subjective than the aforementioned aspects, there are usually at least a few options directors realistically have when shaping a film.

The film should honor characters’ roles through appropriate casting. The weak kid should not be played by Channing Tatum because it will make money, for example.

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