Posts Tagged ‘Literary adaptation’

Waiting for Bojangles (2021)

Dir: Regis Roinsard | Cast: Romain Duris, Virginie Efira, Gregory Gadebois, Solan Machado Graner | France, Comedy, 124′

Regis Roinsard brings none of the joie de vivre or steamy sensuality of the page to his lavish big screen version of En Attendant Bojangles co-scripted by Olivier Bourdeaut from his own bestseller. Instead we see two selfish, rather silly people pretending to love each other while intoxicated by their own narcissistic dreams.  

What starts as a frothy Côte d’Azur set ‘coup de foudre’ for Georges (Duris whose talents are once again wasted) and his self-seeking bride Camille (Efira) soon deteriorates into an over the top battle of wits while they tirelessly paint the town red, pooh-poohing reality to the astonishment of everyone in their wake, including their good friend Charles (Gadebois).

Meanwhile their spirited little love child Gary (Machado Graner) is left bewildered on the sidelines, his mother even taking an angry pot-shot at his much-loved pet peahen. Wo betide anyone attempting to burst this couple’s bubble of endless fun; reality is simply brushed under the carpet until they eventually run out of steam: Virginie Efira swinging between vicious virago and tedious drama queen in an un-involving ‘folie a deux’ which swerves into tragedy after over two hours. 

Top marks to Guillaume Schiffman and Sylvie Olive for making it all look so nice, but don’t expect any laughs in this depressing start to 2022. 


Lullaby (Chanson Douce) ****

Lucie Borleteau; Cast: Karin Viard, Leïla Bekhti, Antoine Reinartz, Assya Da Silva, Rehad Mehal; France 2019, 120 min.

Lucie Borleteau follows her accomplished 2014 drama Fidelio:Alice’s Odyssey with another journey into troubled waters, this time adapting Leïla Slimani’s Goncourt winning novel Chanson Douce in an arthouse style nanny thriller.

Borleteau sets herself a tall order. Chanson Douce was one of the best novels of the last decade – but her film certainly passes muster, staying faithful to the page and keeping the keys ideas intact. Slimani uses Brecht’s trick of revealing the story’s tragic outcome in a few lines at the beginning of her novel allowing us to reflect on the detail leading up to tragic ending. Borleteau opts for a more conventional linear structure but there no is chance of this having a happy ending as doubt soon begins to cloud over the upbeat sunny beginning.

In Paris lawyer Myriam (Bekhti) and her husband Paul are delighted when they find the perfect nanny for their two kids. Much older Louise (Viard) has an old-fashioned, subservient attitude to her employers. She is more than happy to play the role of cleaner and cook, as well as taking care of the children: five-year old Mila (Da Silva) and toddler Adam. But it never dawns on Myriam and Paul why Louise is so dedicated, working all hours so the couple can re-kindle their social and even sex life – even taking the kids out in the evenings. The reason for the inter-dependency is perfectly clear as far as Louise is concerned: she is a lonely widow living in social housing, and has a troubled history of drug abuse. She sees this as a job for life. But things start to fall apart after a holiday on Formentera, where Paul and Myriam are forced to look after their kids on the beach because Louise is unable to swim. Back in Paris, Paul and Myriam get a letter from the authorities about the nanny’s delayed tax payments, and it soon becomes clear that Louise’s life fell apart after the death of her husband. Paul then returns home one day to find his daughter covered in make-up and threatens to dismiss the nanny, who is also wearing face paint

The resonance with previous nanny-themed psychodramas such as The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and Saawan Kumar’s Khal-Naaikaa are clear. A woman invests emotionally in a family, hoping to reap the rewards of becoming part of the fold. And Louise cannot imagine a life without them – at least not without the children. There is something deeply strange about her behaviour (and there are some awkward scenes here). Her borderline personality disorder sees her stepping into Myriam’s life and even her bed at one point. Suddenly her life becomes unconscionable without Mila and Adam.

DoP Alexis Kavyrchine’s muted images are suggestive of the psychological meltdown that slowly unfolds, night merging into day. Karin Viard’s Louise is convincing as the quirky but homely nanny, her casting was Slimani’s idea. Lullaby is a nightmarish journey through a labyrinth of emotions – weird and worrying and without an Ariadne thread. AS


Pet Sematary (2019) Netflix

Dir.: Kevin Kölsch/Denis Widmayer; Cast: Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, Jete Laurence, Hugo and Lucas Lavoie, John Lithgow; USA 2019, 101 min.

Stephen King’s Pet Sematary is not by his most enduring novel by chance: Even 36 years after publication it is still quietly overpowering. Directors Kölsch and Widmayer have triumphed (with writer Jeff Buhler) where Mary Lambert’s 1989 film version failed. They have taken out the cheese, included some wry humour and concentrated on the overlaying guilt and redemption theme. Apart from a ten-minute hiatus of near parody at the end, this would have been a neo classic.

Dr Louis Creed (Clarke) and his wife Rachel (Seimetz) move away from their hectic life in Boston to a rural home in Maine. Their two children Ellie (Laurence) and Gage (H. and L. Lavoie) just as enchanted as their parents with the rural idyll. Louis even jokes that it beats the graveyard shift at Boston General – but soon the graveyard for pets,  in the grounds of their 50-acre property, takes over their lives. Having watched a procession of children bury their pets, the Creed’s cat Church (short for Churchill) is run over by a speeding truck, and Rachel, still traumatised by the death of her sister Zelda from spinal meningitis, tells her daughter their feline friend simply ran away.

After Church’s burial, the purring pussy comes back as an aggressive predator. And their neighbour Jud is reminded that the native Americans deserted the area because the reincarnations of their own dead. But tragedy strikes again on Ellie’s birthday when she is run over by a petrol tanker. Once again, Louis buries her in the cemetery, ignoring what happening to Church. Ten minutes of spectacular schlocky bad taste nearly ruin this stylish arthouse horror, before the closing shot resets the tone and saves the day.

British DoP Laurie Rose works magic with his overhead shots to produce intense images of the woods, conjuring up terrifyingly claustrophobic shots of the Creeds’ house. Particularly gruesome are the scenes with Rachel’s sister Zelda, who gets stuck in a food lift. Rachel is somehow the main protagonist and catalyst, guilt makes her overprotective of her daughter and drives the action on into the past. Somehow, the American dream family comes unstuck, as it often does with Stephen King. John Lithgow again convinces with a truly frightening performance, with solid support from the others. AS 



Pet Sematary – the novel and the film versions

Stephen King’s terrifying novel, Pet Sematary was written back in 1983 and King then collaborated on the script with Mary Lambert directing a big screen adaptation in 1989. To celebrate the 30th anniversary release of the original Pet Sematary (1989) film, we’re looking into the key differences between the novel and the movie adaptations. With the latest film version out on March 29th  – how do they differ, and which is better?

Ellie or Gage Creed

In Stephen King’s terrifying novel and the 1989 version of Pet Sematary, the youngest Creed, Gage, is killed by a monster truck. This is a crucial element to the narrative as the loss of their son is the catalyst for the haunting events that unfold later. However, in Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer’s 2019 version of Pet Sematary, Gage’s older sister Ellie is the one to be hit by the truck. 

In many ways this has a marked effect on the storyline, as Dennis Widmyer explained in a recent interview: changing the death to be that of the older child adds more psychological layers to the narrative. Ellie Creed understands what she becomes whereas Gage in the novel and the 1989 version is unaware, making it more unsettling and haunting. 

Zelda, Rachel Creed’s Sister 

Rachel Creed’s sister is a significant and haunting character in all versions of the Pet Sematary story, yet she is portrayed in different ways. In both Stephen King’s novel and the upcoming film adaptation, Zelda is described and portrayed as a 10-year-old girl with spinal meningitis. However in the 1989 version, Zelda is played by an adult male actor, which is debatably one of the most hair-raising elements in the film. Either way, Zelda’s horrific deterioration and lonely death is one of the most terrifying elements of the story.


Timmy Baterman is a 17-year-old boy killed during World War II and then affected by the curse of the Micmac burial after his father laid him there. Timmy appeared ‘normal’ at first, but then we soon find out that Timmy didn’t return from the dead with a soul. Timmy’s tale is only alluded to in the novel and the 1989 adaptation, although it’s not mentioned in the upcoming adaptation. Instead we get to know the protagonists a little better.

Regional Accents 

A smaller yet crucial difference in terms of being true to the novel is the loss of the Maine accent. Stephen King clearly details in the novel that the Creed’s neighbour and keeper of the Micmac burial ground, Jud Crandall, has a very heavy Maine accent.  However, in the 2019 version, Oscar-nominated actor John Lithgow (Jud) whom does not take on the Maine accent. He recently stated in an interview that he believes Jud has evolved into “a more serious character” since the novel, casting a distinct slur on regional accents.  



Tulip Fever (2017)

Dir.: Justin Chadwick; Cast: Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz, Dane de Haan, Judi Dench, Holliday Granger, Tom Hollander; USA/UK 2015, 110 min.

Based on the novel of the same name by Deborah Moggach and written by Tom Stoppard, Tulip Fever is a story of a loveless marriage and a disillusioned romantic set against the tulip mania that raged in the first half of the 17th century. Moggach was inspired by the Dutch paintings of the Golden Age, and the film evokes their opulent yet lugubrious surroundings.

The background to this intimate drama is the speculative madness of “tulip fever”: rare bulbs are bought and sold in frenzied bidding, their value often exceeding gold.

A fascinating film could be made this Seventeenth Century Amsterdam’s equivalent of the South Sea Bubble and the Wall Street Crash, but this isn’t it.

The troubled production was charted in the press like that of Cleopatra’ over half a century earlier and, rather like that, the end result is good-looking (the tulips standing out from the general murk as little splashes of colour like the fish in ‘Rumble Fish’) but garrulous and uninvolving; but mercifully a lot shorter.

Being a twenty-first century historical film it contains plenty of unsexy sex and vertiginous steadicam photography; and as in ‘Cleopatra’s day a big historical epic wasn’t complete without a cameo by Finlay Currie, so the cast today inevitably includes Judi Dench.

The camera hovers moodily over the dark interiors, the narrow alleyways and canals seem to be all like traps, it is never really light, the weather seems to be foul all the time – creating a mood of morbidity, in spite of the wealth displayed. Vikander is brilliant in her mood changes, her intimate scenes contrast vividly with manic plotting; in the end, when cornered, she runs wild like a woman possessed.


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