LE DIVORCE – The Merchant Ivory film is faithful to Johnson’s 1997 tale of two California sisters in Paris, omitting only the silliest of subplots (one involves the theft of a soup tureen). Still, the movie commits a major faux pas: casting the 50ish Thierry Lhermitte as Oncle Edgar, the septuagenarian Casanova. THE LAST WORD – Kate Hudson is ”charmante” but no match for the book’s Isabel, whose droll observations on French – American culture clashes would make Tocqueville grin.
SEABISCUIT – While the 2001 best-seller gallops with exhilarating detail through the history of the titular horse, Gary Ross’ adaptation stumbles, inventing filler characters (William H. Macy’s radio announcer Tick Tock McGlaughlin) and erasing important ones(owner Charles Howard’s eldest sons, Lin and Charles Jr.). Ross’ version also skips over dark topics like jockey Red Pollard’s lifelong struggle with alcoholism. THE LAST WORD – The book is the champ in this race. By about a mile.
WHALE RIDER – Though still recounting a young Maori girl’s triumph over tradition, the 1987 novella differs dramatically from Niki Caro’s big-screen alterna-hit – most notably, the book is narrated by the girl’s uncle Rawiri, a minor character in the movie. THE LAST WORD – Fans of the film may long for a closer connection with the fearless heroine (here called Kahu), but Rawiri’s tender respect for his niece and rich insight into Maori culture make the book equally moving.