In a world where novels are constantly being made into films, I often think about what would happen if some of my favorite films were actually adaptions instead of original films. I thought of five off of the top of my head, and I know there would be better options, but these are the ones that instantly came to mind.
- American Beauty – Alan Ball’s script tackles multiple themes rather poignantly. Critics have been split on how to interpret the work, leading many to argue if it’s about finding yourself, the meaning of life, or an existentialist view towards humanity. Just think about what the passage describing the floating plastic bag could read like. Mmm. Intersting note: the film was released in 1999, which was the same year as novel-turned-film Fight Club; just saying.
- Inception – Christopher Nolan’s launch to super-director came with 2000’s Memento, which incedentally was an adaptaion of a short story. The reason I think this would have been a fabulous novel is because of the simple fact that most people complain that the novel to film conversion leaves out the meat of a story. I just feel that the world Nolan created could have been explored with so much more depth if it was fleshed out in a novel. Think about how interesting it would have been to see Cobb’s and Arthur’s relationship, or the development of Ariadne’s skills. Of course the abrupt ending would be hard to depict on page.
- The Royal Tenenbaums – I’ve always said that Wes Anderson was the JD Salinger of film. In fact the Tenenbaums were greatly influenced by Salinger’s Glass family. The film itself uses a novel narrative format, which could easily have lent the film to a great story. The relationships that Anderson created with the immediate and extended family could have easily been expanded. Perhaps the most interesting aspect I would have enjoyed to have read was the disbursement of flashbacks. Structually the novel could have been set up in a way where it told two stories a la “Grapes of Wrath.”
- The Usual Suspects – The epitome of an unreliable narrator. But would have been interesting is that it would be an unreliable narrator of a story-within-a-story. Screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie wrote an amazing cast of usual suspects and lets those characters drive the story. The most frustrating thing about the film is many feel the ending comes out of nowhere. Perhaps that was McQuarrie’s intention, but I feel that subtle clues in a longer novel would make this story that much better.
- (500) Days of Summer – The fact that the writing duo (Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber) started the story off with an author’s note made me laugh. “AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any persons living or dead is purely coincidental. /// Especially you Jenny Beckman. /// Bitch.” I just think it sets up the humor that goes along with the story. Even the structure of this film could have been easily translated as a novel. Each day is a chapter. I mean, during the first time I watched this film I was thinking, “Damn, this is just like a story I’m writing.” It’s a classic tale with a modern twist.