Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the tag “adaptations”

Bard Bits: Somewhat Leary About that King

Bardinator that I am, I must admit I do not adore all of Shakespeare’s plays. I’m not keen on those featuring unsavory meat pies, tedious histories past of glory, or barely sensical plots with twin trouble (although some of his twin twist plays are delightful).

I tend to stick to the basic, well-known canon of favorites except for the Scottish play and the grumpy king–I am definitely leery of Lear. Shakespeare never intended his plays to be read and studied–they were entertainment. They were also political statements.

However, Shakespeare’s intent and critical analysis shall be saved for a future post. Today’s post is celebrating the creativity of clever adaptation.

The basic plot of King Lear is to take one egotistical, autocratic king who decides to play games with his three daughters and their love for him. He loses the game. In a big way.

Maybe that’s oversimplifying it, but it works, especially in Patrick Stewart’s version.

This image may contain Patrick Stewart Clothing Apparel Human Person Furniture and Chair
Not this one…
King of Texas - Wikipedia
This one

Yes, that is Patrick Stewart in western garb. He does a passable Texas drawl and he plays the stubborn patriarch with aplomb. He is as approachable as a cactus and as charming as a scorpion. All the parts of Shakespeare’s play are transferred well. The fool is played by a black slave named Rip, who doles out the appropriate sass and wisdom to his boss, John Lear. The daughters are now Susannah, Rebecca, and Claudia. Gloucester is played as a neighboring horse rancher–kudos to Roy Scheider.

It’s all there: the dividing of the Lear’s ranch, the tempest and loss and reinstatement of sanity, the good, bad, and ugly of progeny, and the ever so sad ending when realization comes far too late what love and loyalty really mean.

If you are looking for alternative Shakespeare, yet delivered with the performance of a Shakespearean trained actor, then King of Texas is the version to seek out and view. I’m no longer leery of Lear, and I look forward in watching how Anthony Hopkins approached the part in the newest version that came out recently.

The Book Is Better (maybe)

I’m in the “Book First, Book Better” camp when it comes to film adaptations. Of course, whenever we are adamant about something our paradigm gets firmly nudged to reevaluate our ideas. This happened not only once, but twice this month.

The first book was North and South by Gaskell. She’s been compared to Austen, but I would say she is a bit more outspoken and verbose in her approach to the romantic historical. Having watched the BBC miniseries when it first came out in 2004, I decided I had to read the book. I finally got around to doing so this year. Then I watched the series again. Yup, the film adap is better.

Actors: Richard Armitage is John Thornton, just as Colin Firth defined Darcy. The balance of brooding strength and vulnerability made each scene with Armitage riveting. This wasn’t as apparent in the book simply because Armitage made Thornton so vibrant.

Setting: the grime, noise, and poverty of a mill town is evident and doesn’t need pages of constant reminder of the deplorable conditions. A scene can speak pages of description.

Dross: all that extra writing emphasizing beliefs is neatly trimmed into edited significant scenes. More meat, less gravy.

Ending: much more satisfying than the book and much more telling than that would rate a spoiler alert.

The second book is a more recent connection. As a Sherlock fan, Doyle and Jeremy Brett (BBC series), I was curious of the chatter about Mitch Cullin’s A Slight Trick of the Mind, especially when I learned Sir Ian would play an aging Sherlock. I can imagine him channeling his Gandalf into the role. Devoured the book, mesmerized by the movie. The book is excellent, yes, you should read it. Yet, the adap, which is not 100% faithful to the text, is actually a stand   alone. It’s Cullin’s outline, his premise, of an aging Sherlock, but the story on screen is so poignant, the interpersonal interactions so much deeper, I’m going to reread the book and see if I missed it all the first time.

Characters: all the actors are steller and they play off one another in such a way that awards are surely going to be handed out. Sir Ian proves once again his depth and versatility. The young actor who is Roger holds his own–I’m hoping great acting parts for him.

Setting: England after two wars–Holmes would have been old enough to see both at 93. There is still the sense of loss, yet a rekindling of hope as life goes on. Brits are a tough lot. Never give up, never surrender. This Sherlock captures his country’s motto in his fight against dementia.

Ending: a radical change from the book, but it was so perfect, that even an absolutist like myself, who dislikes mucking about with the text when it comes to transferring the text to screen, left the theatre oh so satisfied.

I am thinking I should ease up on my penchant for purity of transfer and sit back and enjoy the show. The  book doesn’t have to be the movie–pardon me, that noise was my paradigm shifting.

Button, Button

My usual adage of “The original source is always better” went out the window after watching The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
When the movie came out in 2008, I promptly avoided it. I thought the premise strange, that a baby would experience life backwards–going from old and decrepit to incapacitated infant. It especially seemed odd, even a bit creepy, since a romance was part of the plot.

Aging backwards. Not a new concept, apparently backwards aging is not a truly new trope. After all, Shakespeare hinted at our returning to our infancy state in his “Seven Ages” poem.

I also was a bit leery of Brad Pitt at the time. Fight Club isn’t exactly my type of genre. The male progeny tried to interest me (who can resist bonding with their sons via a movie?) but after a few minutes of gruesome artsy cinema, I deferred. However, since Fight Club Pitt has appeared in movies I do like, such as the Oceans triple, and Mr and Mrs Smith. Into the library basket went Benjamin Button as I gathered movies for the week. I didn’t realize I was committing to two and a half hours.

A sick day, and no energy for reading and in popped the movie. I sat spellbound. I even cried at the end. And was a bit indignant that Brad Pitt got passed over for an Academy Award. This trailer captures the heart of the movie well:

The most interesting part for me is that the movie is based on a F. Scott Fitzgerald short story. The fantasy genre intrigued me because I didn’t peg FSF for writing anything but brooding rebellious characters from the Roaring Twenties. The story’s biting satirical tone is very much Twain, and I learned that Fitz was indeed influenced by MT, who had made a comment about what a shame we don’t experience the best years, our older years, first. Interestingly enough, the only thing the movie and short story have in common is the title and premise. Here is the story link:


Any of you been surprised by the film being actually better than the written work?

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: