Well, the Snook is off for his company’s Christmas party today – they went lawn-bowling at Bondi, if you can believe it – so I decided to take in a movie. I’ve been eagerly awaiting Possession, which is based on the novel by A.S. Byatt (which I just read a few months ago). I liked the book a lot, even though I felt like most of the poetry and literary analysis were over my head. (You can read my initial thoughts about it here.) The movie, on the other hand, sucked. I thought it completely dumbed down everything I liked about the novel. Numerous characters and sub-plots are cut in favor of making a straightforward romance. It also managed the neat trick of surgically removing all the hotness from Aaron Eckhart and Jeremy Northam. (Seriously, I’m going to have to go watch Emma right now just to replace the images of Northam I currently have in my head.) I also don’t get why Eckhart’s character was made American instead of English. It obviously wasn’t a simple casting decision; they make reference to his origin several times in the script and tie his “impulsive” behavior (stealing manuscripts) to it. What the hell is the point of that? Were the filmmakers worried that American audiences wouldn’t go to a film where all four principals speak with a British accent?
Overall I just thought the movie spelled things out that I felt should have been handled more subtly. Like the lesbian relationship between Christabel and Blanche, for instance. In the book we don’t know the truth, because it’s impossible for Maud and Roland to have known. But in the movie we have to see them clasping hands and giving each other numerous smoldering glances. I felt embarrassed for the characters. It felt like we were seeing things that they wouldn’t want us to see.
Ebert would be ashamed of me, because I’m committing the cardinal sin of film reviewing: I’m reviewing the movie that wasn’t made rather than the one that was. He seemed to think that it was pretty good. I guess without reference to the original book it’s still a decent film, and it’s a fairly intelligent date movie. I just can’t get over the fact that, for me, the love story was the least interesting part of the novel. That the filmmakers chose to focus on that at the expense of everything else shows that they never really got the point of the story in the first place.