Books

Reel Lit: See The Movies Or Hit The Books?

EW rates the film adaptations of acclaimed books -- ''Friday Night Lights'' and ''The Motorcycle Diaries'' are among the movies evaluated alongside the books they were adapted from

EW rates the film adaptations of acclaimed books

Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger
Though they don't sugarcoat the physical injuries and broken dreams so achingly detailed by Bissinger's 1990 book on Texas high school football, screen-writers David Aaron Cohen and Peter Berg favor the amped-up games and fictionalized reconciliations (alcoholic dad gives son his own state champ ring) of the Permian Panthers' '88 season over the harsher anecdotes of poverty and racism.

The Last Word
Bissinger's account packs a stronger emotional wallop than director(and Bissinger cousin) Berg's action-centric film.

The Motorcycle Diaries, Ernesto ''Che'' Guevara and Traveling With Che Guevara, Alberto Granado
By dove-tailing the travelogues of Che (Gael García Bernal) and his biochemist pal, screenwriter Jose Rivera weaves a cohesive account of the duo's 1952 South American tour. Though mostly faithful, he omits maritime detours and embellishes minor plot points (an endurance swim becomes a symbol for bridging social inequality).

The Last Word
The gorgeous film better evokes the pre-revolutionary trip than their own scattered recollections.

Theatre, W. Somerset Maugham
Adapting Maugham's rich novella about 1930s London theater in Being Julia, screenwriter Ronald Harwood rushes through the plot and irritatingly condenses intricately layered anecdotes in his hurry to show scorned diva Julia Lambert (Annette Bening) triumph in her final scene. Most annoying revamp: Making Julia's acting coach Jimmie Langton (Michael Gambon) into a hovering, beyond-the-grave observer.

The Last Word
The catty (and class-conscious) English stage world is better explained by playwright Maugham.

P.S., Helen Schulman
Since the author cowrote the script, it's no surprise that director-screen-writer Dylan Kidd produces a strictly interpreted adaptation of Schulman's wacky 2001 reincarnation fable about a Columbia University admissions officer (Laura Linney) and her younger, is-he-her-dead-boyfriend's-doppel-gânger student lover (Topher Grace).

The Last Word
Dear Reader, while the reliable Linney believably overcomes her high school hang-ups, Kidd's film can't match the smart, lusty vibe of Schulman's original novel.

Originally posted Nov 05, 2004 Published in issue #791 Nov 05, 2004 Order article reprints