Thursday, February 17, 2011

Red Riding Hood (the book based on a screenplay)

I will be writing a couple of posts here about movies based on books or, more rare and intriguing, the opposite, as is the case with Red Riding Hood. More on that in a minute.

I am excited to see I Am Number Four, released in theaters tomorrow, because I read the advance reader's copy last year. Last year. Wow. They made that one into a movie fast! It's interesting how excited I am to see this movie when I wasn't particularly thrilled with the book. It was a good enough book, don't get me wrong, but it must not have made a big impact on me because in looking through old reviews, which I wrote before I started this blog, I Am Number Four, by Pittacus Lore, didn't have one. Sad. Now I will have to see the movie in the hopes that it triggers memories of how I felt about the book. But I am excited to see the movie partly because my memory is foggy and I have hopes that I have forgotten enough of the book to make any adaptations and changes less agonizing and partly because the previews are looking fantastic. I love previews. But enough on that movie/book for now because I will be coming back to it, and on to the book Red Riding Hood, by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright.

Red Riding Hood is a movie, set to release on March 11. Speaking of previews, when I first saw the preview for this one, I was fascinated. It had the feel of M. Night's The Village and the atmosphere and beauty of a Catherine Hardwicke film. (Whatever you think of Twilight, book or movie, Hardwicke made it a lush, beautiful work of cinematography.) In addition to its look, the movie intrigued me for its story; I love fairytale adaptations. So, I marked my calendar with the release date (yes, I do that) and mostly forgot about it.


Until I found the book at Barnes & Noble (where I browsed and then called Summer to have her order the book from her own store for me). I was surprised to see the book there and then sort of disappointed and excited at the same time. Disappointed that, seemingly, yet another movie adaptation of a book was being created. Can't people come up with original screenplays anymore? Excited that now I would be able to delve more fully into the world I'd caught only mysterious, intriguing glimpses of. I didn't look much at the cover or inside. I was getting the book, no matter what. That's how deep a preview can get its hook into me.

When I finally had my own copy in my hand, I noticed again how the author's name wasn't even on the front cover, just on the binding. Actually, the front cover contained Catherine Hardwicke's name in a little blurb saying she'd written an introduction to the book. I'd found it odd at the time but hadn't given it much thought. Come to find out...this novel is based on the screenplay by David Leslie Johnson, an original screenplay! Well, original enough, since it's a complete re-imagining of the classic fairytale. So, this original screenplay popped up on Hardwicke's desk, and she loved it and decided to give it to a recently graduated, up-and-coming writer friend of hers to transform and flesh out into a more complex story than two hours in the theater can give. So, this is not just a novel copy of the movie, reliving each movie scene, but a separate entity, a story of its own, a rare thing: a book based on a screenplay.

I was torn about whether I should read it before I saw the movie because, really, the movie is the original. If you should read an original book before seeing its movie adaptation, shouldn't you do the opposite if the situation is reversed? But I couldn't wait, so I dove in, and here's my overarching view on this phenomenon: I hope the movie is better. The book was okay, more interesting toward the latter half, but in some ways, it was slow. Movies aren't meant to be slow, and I have high expectations that the movie will move at a better pace because, after all, the movie script was written first, and the author of that didn't have to try to squeeze in a novel's full details. In the end, I might have to say, watch the movie first, and if you are still intrigued, read the book to flesh out the characters. I'm excited to see this movie because I have no fears that it will disappoint. It was created to stand alone, which makes a big difference from book-to-movie adaptations.

Now, if the movie disappoints, it will be because of a lack in the original story itself, and on that, I'm not sure what to expect. I would hate to give away spoilers on this movie, which will be suspenseful and mysterious. Spoilers would ruin the movie-watching experience. But I have to review the book.

So, I will make a concession and review the book as much as possible without spoilers and then revisit the book review in March after I've seen the movie.

Red Riding Hood, as a book, is the story of Valerie, a woodcutter's daughter who lives in a village of fear. It's a small village full of old tradition and law, where women and men's lives intermingle little, where a girl can be promised to a man by her parents, where the Church holds the law, and where an animal sacrifice is made monthly to appease the Werewolf. The people live in stilted homes where they lift the ladders at night and never feel quite safe during the day.

Valerie feels like a stranger in her village of Daggorhorn, even though she's lived there all her life. Her father is the town drunk, but there's more to her feelings of unbelonging. She longs to see the world outside, to live a life without fear, to climb the tallest trees, to be someone special. In short, she feels what many a teenager has felt, stifled, needing to stretch and become someone. But no other teenager in her village seems to feel the way she does. And then Peter returns.

Peter was her childhood friend, until the town ran him and his father off after the death of Henry's mom. And Henry is Valerie's arranged future husband. Henry is sweet and attentive, rich, a prize catch for any girl in the town. But Peter is passionate, and the outsider in him calls to the outsider in Valerie. Typical teenage angst here. 

Honestly, the beginning of the book had me a little bored, not bored enough to quit reading, but disappointed. The writing was a little stilted. Certain phrasing by itself was poetic but was not always put together in a lyrical way. Sometimes it was wordy. Sometimes it wasn't subtle enough, not trusting the reader's ability to put the puzzle pieces together.

But it really picked up toward the middle of the book, which I finished in just two days (and that was only during my son's naps and after he went to bed). You can really begin to see how this story was made to be a movie when you get to the point of nonstop action. I'm thrilled to see these scenes translate to the screen. It definitely has that feeling of M. Night's The Village, and I suspect it will be edge-of-your-seat suspenseful as the murders pile up and the identity of the Wolf is revealed to be a villager, but whom, nobody knows. The end of the book has a very Gothic feel. It's deliciously dark and creepy, mysterious to the final words.

But the very last pages of the book disappointed me again. I have a feeling I know what the author was trying to do, but I hope the movie conveys the idea better. We'll have to see, and I can't say much more without spoiling it for you. Just this, a moral issue, because that's what I deal with primarily on this blog: I was unhappy with the moral ambiguity. I think it adds a haunting feeling to the story, and I can appreciate that. But I thought Valerie's actions and thoughts in the final pages of the book were inconsistent. Expect to hear more on this when I've seen the movie. That review will definitely have spoilers!

In the meantime, enjoy my upcoming review of I Am Number Four as I try to remember the book and compare tellings. I should be seeing it within the next week.

1 comment:

  1. I book based on screenplay! crazy. Anywho, I hope the movie does have M. Night's The Village feel. I'm disappointed about the book though. Maybe I won't read it and just see the movie.


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