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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Saving Mr. Banks: Movies About Writers

A few months back, my wife and I used date night to see the movie Saving Mr. Banks on the big screen. It was a decent flick, full of twists and turns – some I saw coming, some I didn't – and we've certainly wasted out hard earned morning on lesser productions.

For those of you who don't know, the film is based on meetings between Walt Disney and P.L. Travers (the author of Mary Poppins). It seems that Old Walt spent twenty years of his life attempting to convince Travers to allow her beloved book to be made into a movie. Finally, only during a period of extreme financial distress does Travers entertains Walt's plan.

I don't believe in spoilers, thus I won't say much more about the plot or the film. But I will tell you this much, Travers drives a hard bargain with Mr. 1960s Entertainment himself. She doesn't want to see her hard work, and special tale, trivialized by Mr. Disney. Now that's a story that's been repeated often.

I've read many a story about authors and their willingness, and extreme unwillingness, when it comes to releasing the screen rights to movie folks. These authors think of their books as their babies. Their beloved, their precious. In no way do they wish to see their hard work destroyed by some Hollywood producer, making it "bigger, better."

Personally, at the stage I'm at in my writing career, I have no opinion on the process. Pay me thousands of dollars, take my masterpiece and do with it what you please. I'm afraid if I ever get the the point where I find myself even mildly successful, I may change my tune. Until then, I remain open minded.

Here's the thing, a lot of movies now are based on novels. Hunger Games, True Grit, The Host, World War Z, Ender's Game, to list just a few. And so many times we find ourselves comparing the books to the movies. Rightly so I suppose. More often than not, the book is better than the movie. But sometimes it's the other way around.

To this point, on our most recent date night I came up with a plan to attend a recent release that looked to be the epitome of romance. It was a no lose deal. Dinner first at a place she had just mentioned. And then a short drive to a theatre in the country. Dinner was great. The movie, well, let's just say it was okay.

I can only hope the book was better than the big screen production. Don't get me wrong, I'd probably waver between two and three stars for the flick. But the first half was slow; dreadfully slow. I saw the twist coming, my wife ... not so much. Both her and I agreed the book had to be better. Though neither of us have put it on our reading list just yet.

Here's a quick list of movies based on authors for you. I'm sure you can add to it with a little thought. Give it a try:

The Player
The Hours
Sunset Boulevard

Read a good book lately? Post it below.  Thanks and keep reading.