Film Friday: The Book was Better...

It's become almost a cliche - a movie comes out, and someone inevitably says "the book was better".  People scowl, and make faces.  And the speaker carries on, listing all the reasons why the book was infinitely better - until someone hits her with a hammer. 

(I saw a scene like that in a movie once.  Someone told me the scene came from a book, and it was better done there.  So I hit her with a hammer.  But I digress.)\

The thing is, though, I'm not sure I buy that line of reasoning.  I can think of quite a few movies that were better than the book.  Fight Club, for example, is infinitely better - even the author says so.  Philip K. Dick, while never getting the chance to see the final version of Blade Runner, was incredibly excited by the book, actually saying the makers had produced something that Dick had been unable to after decades of writing.  And let's not even talk about Jurassic Park, The Princess Bride, or The Lord of the Rings (cue nerd rage in 3.... 2.... 1....)

I bring this up because I just finished reading Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down.  Hornby, for those that don't know, wrote High Fidelity and About a Boy, among other greats.  And those two books were made into two brilliant films - High Fidelity is, in fact, one of my top three movies of all time

Both of those films, by the way, slightly beat out the book - High Fidelity just has some great poetic additions in the film (particularly the part where Rob starts talking about what he loves about Laura - watch that frigging scene!), whereas About a Boy's film ending costs a bit more for the character than in the book (Will remains a witness to events in the book, with his profound change being entirely internal, as opposed to Will having to make an effort to help someone else in the film). 

But after reading A Long Way Down, I knew that it would be a bad movie.  Why?  I'm not entirely sure.  I think it may have to do that there's really not much that happens in the story - it mostly consists of four people wondering about their lives in a sort of depressing manner.

See, the plot is basically as follows:  four strangers converge upon a rooftop known as a suicide point on New Year's Eve, each wanting to end their life.  Because they're all there, the "moment is gone", so instead they hang out.  And they start to look out for each other, talking each other out of ending it all - and start to put together why life is worth living.  It's a downer book, but also hilarious - it has some of the funniest scenes I've ever read.  Such as:
...I split thursday afternoons with a man called DJ GoodNews, who speaks to the dead, usually on behalf of the receptionist, the window cleaner, the minicab driver booked to take him home, or anyone else who happens to be passing through:  "Does the letter 'A' mean anything to you, Asif?" and so on.  The other afternoons are taken up by tapes of old dog races from the U.S. - once upon a time the intention was to offer the viewers the chance to bet, but nothing ever came of it, and in my opinion, if you can't bet, then dog racing, especially old dog racing, loses some of its appeal.  During the evening, two women sit talking to each other, in and usually about their underwear, while viewers text them lewd messages, which they ignore.  And that's more or less it.  Declan runs the station on behald of a mysterious Asian businessman, and those of us who work for FeetUp!TV can only presume that somehow, in ways too obtuse and sophisticated for us to decipher, we are somehow involved in the trafficking of class A drugs and child pornography.  One theory is that the dogs in the races are sending out encoded messages to the traffickers:  If, say, the dog in the outside lane wins, then that is a message to the Thai contact that he should send a couple of kilos of heroin and four thirteen-year-olds first thing in the morning.  Something like that anyway. 
While crude, it is the funniest thing I've read in years.  And would that ever translate well into a film?  I can't really see it - it would lose its appeal. And without the humour, it's just a book about four people talking about suicide, without ever actually doing it (see, it's kind of uplifting while also being a huge downer...) Some movies, I guess, should never be made into books.  Unfortunately, they often are.

Just look at the PostmanChildren of the CornThe Stand I Am Legend Starship Troopers

In those cases, yeah, the book was better. 

Please don't hit me with a hammer. 

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