I saw Love in the Time of Cholera last night, and while I won't launch into a movie review here - you'll have to wait for Friday for that - it did get me thinking about film adaptations of great books. (As did that unfortunate post about The English Patient being horrible, but I'm trying to put that behind me.) Why is it some adaptations work so spectacularly, and others don't? It can't merely be a matter of the screenplay; obviously changes are needed when you're jumping from one medium to another. The English Patient deviated from the book because it had to. The Harry Potter movies instantly improved when the screenwriters stopped trying to cram every single page of the books into the movies.
Some films deviate less successfully. I understand why Tom Perrotta changed the ending of his Little Children for the screen, but I didn't much like it, as it skewed the entire satiric point of the book.
And some adaptations are simply so breathtaking that you're dazzled all over again. I was shaken by Mira Nair's The Namesake in a way I was not moved by Jhumpa Lahiri's fine novel, though I did like the book quite a bit. But seeing those characters and feeling a part of their lives, especially through Nair's wonderfully vivid lens, was more powerful than reading about them in the first place.
Unfortunately that's not an experience that happens often. Gabriel Garcia Marquez's story of Florentino Ariza's eternal devotion for Fermina Daza (who is, let's face it, something of a bitch) feels more like telenovela than the grand love story it is. Javier Bardem is terrific, as always, but something's missing, and it's hard to say what it is.