Books to movies: a mini-roundup

The Oscar buzz is already building for Up in the Air, the latest film by Oscar-nominated director Jason Reitman (Juno). Based on a 2001 novel by Walter Kirn, the movie debuted last weekend upintheairat the Toronto Film Festival to glowing reviews. Kirn’s novel features a well-traveled “Corporate Transition Counselor” (played in the film by George Clooney), who yearns to make a break from his grueling job, but has his eyes fixed on an elusive prize: one million frequent flyer miles. Readers interested in checking out Up in the Air before the U.S. premiere of the film on November 13 will find a new movie tie-in paperback edition available next month, along with a new audio version and mass market paperback.

From USA Today comes word that Jason Reitman’s next directorial project might involve a novel of particular interest here: Joyce Maynard’s Labor Day. Reitman is said to be adapting a screenplay of the book, which tells labordaythe surprisingly tender tale of a mother and son in a small New Hampshire town who shelter an escaped convict during a long holiday weekend. Deb Donovan reviewed the novel in the August issue of BookPage, and I blogged about its attractive cover design a few weeks ago, a subject that elicited several interesting emails from Maynard herself. It seemed appropriate to save my own reading of the book for Labor Day weekend, when two plane flights gave me some uninterrupted reading time. Despite my initial compulsion to shake/scream at/lecture any woman who would give a ride to a smooth-talking prison escapee (do NOT let that man into your car!), I found myself drawn into the story of this poignant threesome and particularly taken with the voice of 13-year-old narrator Henry. It would be fascinating to see how a talented director like Reitman would bring this unique coming-of-age story to the screen.

On the other end of the book-to-movie spectrum is The Road, the grim Cormac McCarthy novel that has encountered a series of delays in reaching the screen. Let’s be honest here, a novel that features seered earth, theroadcannibalism and raw terror always seemed like a longshot for movie success. The Wizard of Oz, it’s not. But I still believe Viggo Mortensen is an ideal choice for the lead role and despite mixed early reviews, I’m still eager to see this movie. As Mortensen said in an interview with Canadian television, McCarthy’s message in The Road is ultimately a hopeful one: “This film really makes you appreciate life,” Mortensen tells CTV. “Sure you can have a bad day. You can have physical ailments and problems in life. But I wouldn’t trade this life or this world for any other. Life is short, you know? You’ve got to pay attention to that.” The film is now set to debut on November 25.

In a recent column, Hollywood Reporter Editor Elizabeth Guider offers an interesting take on why we don’t see as many books made into movies these days: “Much has shifted in the past quarter-century. Novels used to be the bedrock of movie adaptation because they were the basis of the culture’s general education. Practically every best-seller got made into a movie, and some more high-toned works did as well.” Now, Guider says, it’s comic books that generate excitement among studio execs: “Comic books have emerged from kids’ bedrooms into the mainstream as the coolest source material for movies. They and their snootier cousins, graphic novels, are now talked about in the same hushed tones that were once reserved for the works of Thomas Pynchon or John Barth.” Point well taken.

Do you have a favorite novel that Hollywood is ignoring? What book would you most want to see made into a movie?

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