Big Fish (2003), dir. Tim Burton, based on the 1998 novel of the same name by Daniel Wallace
Synopsis: Edward Bloom is a man with a gift for storytelling. On his deathbed, Edward is visited by his estranged son William. Throughout William’s life, Edward has shared tales of his past as a traveling salesman and the adventures of his early life. William has often disregarded this stories, regarding his father as a liar and inadequate husband/father. William attempts to understand his father, keeping in mind both his own memories and his dad’s somewhat outlandish stories, in order come to terms with the reality of Edward’s past before he dies. The novel is told through a series of tales, originally told by Edward but retold to the reader by William.
Best casting decision: Ewan McGregor and Alison Lohman as young Ed and Sandra. They brought a whole new life to these characters and made them more important than they were in the book, which in my opinion focuses more on the strained relationship between Ed and his son.
Which is better – book or film?: It’s a tie. I love them both, for different reasons. The film is visually stunning and captures the spirit of Ed and his stories perfectly, while the book is a bit more somber and as a result must be processed differently.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961), dir. Blake Edwards, based on the 1958 novella of the same name by Truman Capote
Synopsis: New York City in the 1940s (or early 1960s, if you’re watching the film). The unnamed narrator has met and befriended Holly Golightly, his neighbor. Holly is from a small town but has become fully absorbed in the New York lifestyle, holding frequent parties and socializing with rich men rather than finding a job for herself. Holly nicknames the narrator “Fred” after her brother, and as the story progresses she slowly reveals her innermost self to him.
Best casting decision: Most people would jump at the chance to praise Audrey for what has become her most well-remembered role, but I have a soft spot for Buddy Ebsen as Doc.
Which is better – book or film?: The film is only loosely based on the novella, so it’s easy to think of them as two separate works. But while I do love them both, I have to side with the book. The fact that the film is so over-hyped and that most people don’t realize there’s a phenomenal Capote work behind it makes me appreciate the tiny novel very much. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a great film! – but I feel that it lacks some of the oomph that you get from the story on paper (which is probably partially due to some of the changes made, to shift the story into a hit romantic comedy), and I do wish that Audrey was remembered more for great roles such as that in The Children’s Hour.
Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980), dir. Michael Apted, based on Loretta Lynn’s autobiography
Synopsis: The synopsis for this book and film are quite simple: to tell the story of Loretta Lynn’s life. From growing up in a big, poverty-stricken family in Butcher Hollow – to marrying Doo as a teenager – to finding success as a country music singer – to the loss of hero, mentor and friend Patsy Cline, Loretta’s life story is told just as she wanted it to be. Loretta personally selected Sissy Spacek to portray her in the film.
Best casting decision: Sissy Spacek, hands down. She’s phenomenal in this film. I almost can’t picture Loretta Lynn without picturing her as well because she’s so convincing as Loretta.
Worst casting decision: This is the only film in this three-part list in which I’ll mention a worst choice, but I just can’t stand Beverly D’Angelo as Patsy Cline. I have nothing against her as an actress and I’m sure she tried very hard to carry out the role successfully, but I just couldn’t buy it. This is the film’s one weak point, in my opinion.
Which is better – book or film?: I enjoy the film more. I love reading autobiographies and you do get a lot of detail in the book that wasn’t included in the film, but I’ve only read Lynn’s book once and I never get tired of watching the film. I do plan on giving the book another read soon for better comparison since it’s been years, but for now, the film is the favorite!