The official poster for Lone Scherfig's adaptation of David Nicholls'
Ever since the days of Gone With The Wind, Hollywood producers have been optioning bestselling books and whipping them into celluloid hits. At the Oscars this year, several books-and-now-they're-films will get nods, from The Social Network (loosely based on Ben Mezrich's The Accidental Billionaires, which was loosely based on the lives of the smooth-cheeked geniuses behind Facebook) to True Grit (read Charles Portis' novel! Really, just do it), to 127 Hours (nee Between a Rock and a Hard Place), because some people prefer reading about a person slicing his own arm off to watching it happen.
But as the Oscars are almost here and will soon be over, and we have a long year ahead of us, I've decided to focus on (and give you a little preview of) the bumper crop of upcoming films based on books coming out in 2011. Some of them are based on masterpieces (I never met a Bronte sister I didn't like), and some, well...some are based on Something Borrowed. But they are all worth bringing up at your next dinner party when there's an uncomfortable lull in the conversation — because nothing can fill that space like debating whether or not the source material is better than the film, and so on. It's small talk gold.
Jane Eyre (March 11)
The Book: You read it in seventh grade, if you'll recall. But to jog your memory: Charlotte Bronte wrote her most famous work in 1847, inventing the original plain Jane. "Poor and little" Jane works in a drafty old house for the semi-handsome (if not abjectly creepy) Mr. Rochester, who definitely keeps his crazy wife in the attic. It's a Gothic thriller with strong female characters, and if you haven't read it yet, do get on that.
The Film: It actually looks good! Director Cary Fukunaga's debut, Sin Nombre, was a gorgeous film, and his remake of Eyre has the blessing of BBC Films behind it. Mia Wasikowska is earning a name for herself in the literary movie genre (she played Alice in last year's Burton adaptation of the Lewis Carroll story), and looks as if she can hold her own against Michael Fassbender's imposing Rochester. The trailer is here.
See It With: Your period-drama (and possibly collectible doll?) loving aunt.
Desert Flower (March 18)
The Book: Somalian model-turned-writer Waris Dirie published Desert Flower in 1998, telling the world her story of escaping from her rural village after having been circumcised at 5 and sold into marriage at 13. She is now an international advocate against female genital mutilation, and also happens to be a stunner.
The Film: Ethiopian supermodel Liya Kebede takes on the Waris role — she is discovered in a London fast food restaurant by a fashion photographer, and soon it is all catwalks and, later, activism. This is a feel-good film, to be sure, but hinges on the precarious assumption that models can act. Trailer here.
See it With: A group of fashion-forward friends. Even if the initial tragedy is too much to process, there is a lot of couture to discuss.
The Adjustment Bureau (March 4)
The Book: This rom-thriller is "loosely" based on the short story "Adjustment Team" by science fiction master Philip K. Dick. In Dick's story, first published in Orbit in 1954, a real estate salesman named Fletcher suddenly gets caught up in a complex scheme to ease Soviet-bloc tensions — a series of mysterious events ensues.
The Film: Matt Damon plays an affable U.S. congressman who falls for a modern dancer in New York City (Emily Blunt), but strange forces (and yes, mysterious events) keep them apart. Trailer here.
See It With: The conspiracy theorist in your life.
The Lincoln Lawyer (March 18)
The Book: Crime novelist Michael Connelly can't and won't stop churning out hit books, and this is his 16th — the story of Micky Haller (half-brother of Connelly's main protagonist Heironymous Bosch), who operates a two-bit law practice out of the back of a Lincoln Town Car. Haller lands a wealthy client who wants off the hook for attempted murder charges against a lovely young woman, and the lies and demons spool out from there.
The Film: It is exciting to see Matthew McConaughey back in a meaty, dramatic role after he has spent so much time in board shorts (there are serious Time To Kill flashbacks here). With an ensemble cast that includes Marisa Tomei and Ryan Phillippe and the kind of grimy cinematography that popcorn was made for, The Lincoln Lawyer should be one of spring's big box office draws. Trailer!
See It With: A second date. The action sequences and the soapy legalese will give you plenty to talk about over spaghetti.
Water For Elephants (April 22)
The Book: A runaway bestseller, Sara Gruen's historical novel centers on circus worker Jacob Jankowski and the eclectic cast of characters working for The Benzini Brothers' Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Gruen wrote the novel in a month, apparently, basing the core of the book on the story of Jacob from the Book of Genesis. The paperback edition hit #1 on the New York Times bestseller list in 2007.
The Film: Combine one-part Reese Witherspoon and one-part Robert Pattinson, and a couple of pachyderms, and you may have Pattinson's most successful book-to-screen outing that isn't Twilight. Bonus: Fewer screaming girls to contend with. Trailer here.
See It With: Circus folk. You know some, right?
Something Borrowed (May 6)
The Book: Emily Giffin is to bookstores as nip is to cats. (Correction: Airport bookstores.) But the fact that she writes frothy vacation reads doesn't mean you can't flaunt your secret love for Something Borrowed at the cineplex. The story is straight out of the chick-lit handbook — perky-but-underdoggish New York lawyer Rachel is in love with her best friend Darcy's fiance, whom she drunkenly beds on her 30th birthday. She then has to choose between her friend, her lover and her self-respect. It's a morality play, really — albeit one set on beach volleyball courts in the Hamptons.
The Film: Big Love's Ginnifer Goodwin, The Office's John Krasinski and Kate Hudson headline an ensemble cast full of all the character actors you've seen in rom-coms before. From the trailer, it looks like Goodwin outshines her material — and that Hudson is continuing valiantly on in her quest to play the same role in ten movies in a row. Trailer here.
See It With: Your one friend who isn't sick of Kate Hudson yet.
One Day (July 8)
The Book: David Nicholls' sweet novel, a breakout bestseller last year, charts a romantic relationship over the course of nearly 20 years, checking in on the same couple on July 15 of every year between 1988 and 2007. Emma and Dexter are star-crossed, often missing each other in an effort to intertwine their lives — and though the book is based on a literary gimmick, the will-they-or-won't they plotline provides enough tension to make it a quick, fun read.
The Film: Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess play the hapless pair, and directing the adaptation is Lone Scherfig, whose last film, An Education, was 2009's indie to beat. Solid prospects here. No trailer yet, but the movie poster has emerged, and it is steamy.
See It With: The man/woman you really only see once a year. This is as good a reason to reunite as you'll get.
The Help (Fall 2011)
The Book: As Monkey See covered earlier today, author Kathryn Stockett is in a bit of hot water over a lawsuit — but that won't stop her fable about three women of will kicking up dust in a sleepy southern town from continually topping the bestseller lists.
The Film: The cast is chock full of strong women: Viola Davis, Sissy Spacek, Emma Stone, Allison Janney, Cicely Tyson and Octavia Spencer. The massiveness of the book's sales should propel the movie to big box office, despite the fact that its Mississippi-born writer/director, actor Tate Taylor, has only made one other (small, indie) film.
See It With: Your mother. She's dying to go.
Moneyball (Sept 23)
The Book: Uber-journalist Michael Lewis simply cannot write a bad book — he wrote The Blind Side, Liar's Poker, The Big Short and about 100 amazing magazine investigations. Moneyball is Lewis' glimpse inside the world of professional baseball. Published in 2003, the book follows the Oakland A's and their GM Billy Beane as the team attempts to win despite being one of the more broke franchises in the American League.
The Film: Brad Pitt. Philip Seymour Hoffman. Robin Wright. Jonah Hill (okay, that one is not like the others). Director Bennett Miller of Capote. That's all we need to say for now.
See It With: Your dad (or whoever drove you to tee-ball practice).
Too Big To Fail (May 2011)
The Book: Andrew Ross Sorkin's nonfiction epic about the financial crash of 2008 is perhaps the best book yet to explain the mortgage crisis and where all of our money really went.
The Film: A big HBO movie about our very own modern times? Yes, please. The cast is amazing: Cynthia Nixon, James Woods, Paul Giamatti, William Hurt, Matthew Modine, Tony Shalhoub and Billy Crudup (as Tim Geithner!). Plus, I think it is safe to say that some of us still don't completely understand the whole "stock market apocalypse" situation and could use a glossy Hollywood production to help clarify things.
See It With: The biggest Paul Krugman groupie you know.
We Need To Talk About Kevin (Fall 2011)
The Book: Lionel Shriver's 2003 novel struck a lot of controversial chords — Kevin, a teenage sociopath, goes on a Columbine-reminiscent killing spree at school. His mother, Eva, is left to ponder what could drive her son to murder his peers, and she writes letters to her estranged husband about what has occurred. The novel is disturbing, harrowing and beautifully written. This is one to buy, read and re-read before the film comes out.
The Film: This adaptation is shaping up to be an artful one — Tilda Swinton, the grand (androgynous) dame of weird acting, will play Eva, with John C. Reilly stepping in as her husband, Franklin. Promising up-and-comer Ezra Miller plays Kevin, and from what we saw of him in 2008's creepy Afterschool, Miller can really bring psychopathic behavior to screen. As an added exciting thing, Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood is scoring the film (thereby keeping the rocker-turned-film-composer trend that Trent Reznor began with The Social Network alive and well. Update: He also scored There Will Be Blood. What can't that man do?)
See It With: Someone who won't judge you for your weepyface.
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (December 21)
The Book: You know what this book is. You weren't born in a cave. (Psst, cave people! Over here: It's part one of a trilogy of dark Scandinavian mysteries centered on an ass-kicking, violent heroine named Lisbeth Salander. The author, Stieg Larsson, passed away in 2004 before the books were ever published, let alone the biggest bestsellers of 2010 and beyond.)
The Film: In America, we always want our own version of everything, don't we? Because the Swedish adaptations of the trilogy, starring Noomi Rapace, are essentially wonderful. But never to be bested by foreigners, Hollywood is making a run at a new version, directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, The Social Network) and starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara. See Mara's transformation into the punk Salander, here.
See It With: Everyone. Just...everyone.
And there you have it! Which ones are you most excited for? And if these don't get your blood pressure up, there's always 2012, which will bring new adaptations of The Great Gatsby, All Quiet on the Western Front, The Giver, The Bell Jar, Moby Dick and of course, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Go Hollywood, go.