I love books. Whatever I can get my hands on, I will read it – novels, history books, science books, crime stories. Many of my most favourite books have been turned into movies. Some were more successful than others. I remember reading “The Devil Wears Prada” during a very boring internship in a customer service centre when I was 17. It lead me escape from the dull office into New York’s bustling fashion scene. I also really liked the movie with Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway three years after the book release. Similarly, I binge-read all three “Crazy Rich Asians” books by Kevin Kwan and I think the movie did a really good job of “shrinking” the book into movie-length. (Even though I still think that they could have mentioned Charlie Wu and cast someone different for Astrid…)
There are other books-turned-movies which left me a bit conflicted. Last weekend, I watched “House of Gucci”, a movie which I have been waiting for all year. I read Sara Gay Forden’s book with the same title five years ago and I absolutely loved it. (You can read my review here.) It gave a really interesting insight into the company’s history – from Guccio Gucci’s start as a doorman in London who sold unqiue leather goods from Tuscany, to the global expansion and the decline of the brand, until today. The drama between Maurizio Gucci and his wife Patrizia was an important part of the book (in the end, Patrizia had him assassinated) but it was rather a red thread through the book than a soap opera. The book showed the different perspectives of the family members involved in the brand and the difficulty of family businesses, the different business strategies and their success or failure and what it means to take on outsiders as investors.
I enjoyed watching the movie, but I did not enjoy it as much as the book. Of course, it is impossible to squeeze almost 150 years and multiple generations into a movie. Nevertheless, “House of Gucci” takes about three hours and it mainly focuses on the drama between Maurizio and Patrizia. I understand that it is easier to please a heterogenous audience with a love drama, but knowing the book, I think the movie was quite different. (I am planning to write a detailed review this week and also another fashion article about the outfits – these were truly amazing.)
I think my issue with books being turned into movies is that my imagination will be proven wrong during the movie. When I read a book, I imagine each location and character – what do they look like, how are they dressed, how do they speak? Naturally, I imagine them differently than in the motion picture. The best example was Astrid, in the above-mentioned “Crazy Rich Asians”. I imagined a petite woman with a bob, exciting and unique outfits and a very strong character – a woman who will turn heads on the streets, not because she is a beauty queen but because she is so special. While I do think that the directors and Kevin Kwan, who was involved in the movie himself, tried to achieve that, their Astrid is not a special character to remember. Her outfits are expensive but easily forgotten and apart from the last scene, she comes across as weak.
Book adaptations, most likely, try to bridge the gap between the fans of the books and those who have not read them. I still prefer reading the book. It actually feels like a movie, one which I direct myself. Sometimes, I enjoy seeing the screen adaption and try to see it through the eyes of someone who has not read the book. But there is nothing better than escaping to a different world, a world I imagine entirely on my own.
What about you? Do you prefer to read the book or the movie adaption?