Awesome Adaptations: An Awesome Adaptation of an American Story
Awesome Adaptations is a weekly bookish meme, hosted at Alisa Selene’s books blog, Picturemereading.
Each week I will be writing about an adaptation of a book that I think is worth seeing and I have challenged myself to come up with suggestions to match a category. Any format (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. If you’re playing along, just mention this blog in your post. Let us know what adaptation you’d pick and why it is worth watching. Oh, and don’t forget to share the link to your own post in the comments for that week’s challenge so that everyone can read your thoughts!
If you don’t have a blog yet though you can still play along, just leave your answer in the comments thread for each week’s challenge.
This week’s challenge is to name: An Awesome Adaptation of an American Story
Title: Little Women
Adapted From: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
This story holds a special place in my heart. I first read it when I was a young girl and it stayed with me. It tells a simple story of a family living in post civil-war New England. They used to be a wealthy family but they have fallen on hard times and the family is having to make do with very little. In spite of that they are an incredibly close and loving family.
The character I always could relate to the most was the tomboy Jo, who would rather run around and scribble stories than do more ladylike activities. There have been many adaptations of this book, including a notable one in which Jo is played by Katharine Hepburn. This is my favorite version of the story and features my favorite cast to play it.
Winona Ryder does a surprisingly great job of capturing Jo’s personality and impetuousness Kirsten Dunst is wonderful as the prissy and sometimes vain Amy. Trini Alvarado does a wonderful job of ladylike Meg and showing her struggles to fit into society. Claire Danes is probably the stand out as vulnerable and sensitive Beth, when she dies later in the story it breaks your heart. However the glue that binds it all together is Susan Sarandon as the kind and wise Mrs. March who teachers the girls right from wrong. The cinematography is beautiful and really captures the wintry New England landscape. Overall it is an awesome adaptation that truly captures the spirit of the original novel for me in a lasting way!
Title: John Adams
Adapted From: John Adams by David McCullough
I was curious when I first learned that HBO were going to make an eight and a half hour biopic about the life of John Adams. In a period that was full of larger than life characters like Washington, Jefferson and Hamilton, Adams appeared to me far less interesting while his description of himself as ‘obnoxious and disliked’ during his time at the Continental Congress was one that stuck with me. Did I really want to spend so long in that man’s company?
When I finally saw the mini-series and read McCullough’s biography I realized what HBO had seen in this story. Adams is an engaging character to follow because his opinions evolve over the course of his life, he is involved in a number of key moments in the nation’s development and though he is less grand than Washington and less brilliant than Jefferson, he also feels all the more human.
I should say at this point that, as is often the case with biopics, history is sometimes changed for dramatic purposes. For those seeking to research Adams I’d certainly steer you towards the book rather than this adaptation, yet while history is compressed and some key figures omitted, I think the production does a good job of presenting a picture of the times and, in particular, of Adams as a man and a president.
I think the biggest reason this production succeeds is the quality of its cast. Paul Giamatti’s John Adams is irritable, frustrating and clearly a difficult man to love, yet I think he captures the passion and determination of a man who would have an enormous impact on American history. I thought Laura Linney was wonderful, particularly in the scenes in which she is left on her own in Massachusetts while John is travelling. In her hands Abigail really comes to life, being sometimes stern, always practical and willing to stand up to her husband when she believes he is wrong.
But the great performances do not just end with the headliners. Every significant part seems to have been cast perfectly from Ebon Moss-Bachrach as a grown-up John Quincy Adams to Zeljko Ivanek as John Dickinson to Stephen Dillane who is magnificent as Thomas Jefferson, capturing his enigmatic and often contradictory personality well. But perhaps the performance that shines most for me is Tom Wilkinson as Benjamin Franklin. He can be witty, charming and profound yet it is easy to see why John Adams would find him so difficult to deal with and resent his easy popularity.
So those are our choices, how about yours? Link to your blog post in the comments below and let us know what you’d pick.
Next week we’ll pick an awesome adaptation WITH CORSETS! Check out the schedule for the rest of the year here.