Friday, August 12, 2011

Why I see the movie first


I recently went to see The Help on opening night.  It was very crowded, and I was all by myself, so I ended up taking an empty seat between two women, one of which was the female half of an elderly couple.  We struck up a conversation about the movie we were about to see, and the first thing she said was, "Of course you've read the book--" when I interrupted her with a firm, "Actually, not yet."

Just now, I had this Twitter exchange with the lovely and adorable Bon Bon, who had very likely just seen the same film:

I have a very strict policy when it comes to movies made from books:  see the movie first.  I realize that a lot of people think this is very strange but, to me, it makes perfect sense. 

I look at movies and books as partnerships, rather than rivals.  By using them in conjunction with one another, you get the most out of the story and, in my opinion, the best way to do that is to see the movie first.  Here's why:

1. I don't go in with any preconceived notions about how the characters should look.  If I read the book and picture Kathy Bates in my head, I'll be super-annoyed if the role goes to Julia Roberts.  If I wait to read the book after the film, I just ignore the author's description of a character and picture whoever played the part in the film.  Problem solved.

2.  Reading the book second fills in plot holes from the movie.  For instance, in The Help, Hilly has a cold sore in a few scenes at the end of the the movie.  It led to a few laughs, but I'm guessing that there will be more explanation for that when I read the book.  If I read the book first and that was one of my favorite parts, I would have been really annoyed that it was left out.  Right now, though, I just have a mild curiosity about the whole thing.

3.  It takes less time to see a movie than it takes to read a book.  Sometimes you just want to find out what all the hype is about and be done with it.

4.  You get to find out how the book ends before you even start it!  This is a big one for me.  I don't really like surprises, and I peek at the last page of a book well before I get to the halfway point.  I like to prepare myself, especially if it's going to be sad.

5.  I don't go in with any expectations.  If I'd read the book before entering the theater, I would be looking forward to all kinds of scenes being played out on the screen that the writer may or may not have included in the screenplay.  It's a known fact that the movie is almost never as good as the book.  Seeing the weaker of the two first sets me up to enjoy both equally.

6.  If I don't like the main plot of the movie, I know that I won't like the book.  My time and money is precious to me.  Chances are, if I'm not at least mildly entertained by the screen adaptation, I won't waste time reading the novel.   It's like a little preview.

See what I mean?  My way is clearly superior. 

The only problem with my method is that it means I don't read a lot of popular books until years after their release.  In fact, aside from biographies and classics, I pretty much only read books that have already been adapted for the screen.  If I end up reading a book that later becomes a movie, chances are that I won't see it (My Sister's Keeper, anyone?).  Is that harsh?  Yeah, but I've got principles.  And I stick to 'em, dang it.

If you've never tried my method, give it a whirl.  You won't be disappointed.*

*If you find yourself disappointed by this method of film viewing/book reading, just go back to the old way.  Whatever.  I'm just a blogger, not a guru.

*The Help was a really good movie, by the way.  I'll be reading the book.

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