Book Article

Reel Lit: See the Movies or Hit the Books?

EW grades four recent film adaptations -- We tell you whether ''Jarhead,'' ''Bee Season,'' ''Shopgirl,'' and ''Derailed,'' are better as books or movies

EW grades four recent film adaptations

JARHEAD
Anthony Swofford (Pocket, $7.99)
While screenwriter William Broyles Jr. embellishes details (hello, strategically placed Santa hats!), he stays true to Swofford's 2003 Desert Storm memoir, subjecting Jake Gyllenhaal's Marine to repeat viewings of Apocalypse Now, football games in 112° heat while dressed in full gear, and endless, endless waiting. Last Word Though director Sam Mendes' film is visually stunning, it can't match the gritty (and information-packed) scope of Swofford's book. You got that, soldier?

SHOPGIRL
Steve Martin (Hyperion, $10.95)
Saks Fifth Avenue replaces Neiman Marcus as the employer of mousy glove saleswoman Mirabelle (Claire Danes), but practically every other aspect of Martin's introspective 2000 novella remains intact. Could this be because the star adapted his own work? Last Word Attention, customers: The film, while engaging, fails to capture the book's melancholy and achy tone. And the story doesn't need Martin's distracting voice-over as a self-described ''omniscient narrator.''

BEE SEASON
Myla Goldberg (Anchor, $13)
Although screenwriter Naomi Foner spells out the basic plot about a girl's unexpected success as a spelling bee champ sending her Jewish family into a tailspin, her narrative lacks the mystical quality of Goldberg's 2000 debut. And why change a religious zealot's sex to accommodate Kate Bosworth? Last Word Richard Gere and Juliette Binoche are dreadfully M-I-S-C-A-S-T as Jewish parents, and the CGI effects demonstrating the girl's thought process prove I-N-A-N-E.

DERAILED
James Siegel (Warner, $6.99)
Save for a slightly tweaked ending and a more multicultural cast, Collateral scripter Stuart Beattie's take on Siegel's 2003 thriller — about two adulterous lovers (Jennifer Aniston and Clive Owen) having a very bad, horrible, no-good day — is pretty much taken straight off the page. He even lifts much of the melodramatic dialogue. Last Word For a more jolting and creepy ride, climb aboard Siegel's quick-paced and, if possible, more explicit page-turner.

Originally posted Nov 11, 2005 Published in issue #850 Nov 18, 2005 Order article reprints