Whether in fear or anticipation, book lovers await the day when the novels they’ve read finally hit the big screen.
“The book was better,” is an idea that readers have embraced for decades, but a new era of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games – which have made just as big a splash in film as they did in the book world – have proven that the old adage might need a rewrite. When done well, films can maintain the artistic vision of the original book to become smash successes.
But what books have been left behind by the silver screen?
I believe I speak for Oprah Book Club followers and myself when I say that Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom is a worthy candidate for a movie adaptation, and screenwriters are missing an opportunity to transform this bestseller to blockbuster.
Movie adaptations that fail fall into common pitfalls: they often bungle the original story lines (The Scarlet Letter), retool the story for the present day (Gulliver’s Travels), and sometimes, actors fail to convey characters the way the imagination can (I’ll toss out the controversial Twilight here.)
But books that translate successfully into film do so for one reason: they maintain the integrity of the story.
Out of all the novels I’ve read recently, Freedom possesses one of the most captivating narratives set in contemporary America. The details are so vivid, the characterizations so rich, that reading the book itself almost played out as a movie in my head.
It was so easy to visualize the Midwestern setting and the relationships between a modern nuclear family in a way that lends itself perfectly cinematic interpretation.
Part of what makes Freedom such a wonderful novel is its poignant realism, digging into multi-generational issues that give the book, and I imagine a movie version, mass appeal.
Like any great family saga, it traces the lives from past to present, from parent to child, and taps into universal family fissures and heartbreaking cultural truisms that resonate with the audience in a way great books have a tendency to do. And unlike most of Franzen’s other works, this one actually leaves you feeling hopeful—and who doesn’t love a movie with a happy ending?
But aside from the melodrama and literary voracity of Freedom, all things considered, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies would be pretty good, too.
What book would you like to see translated into a film?