Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Best Movie Based on a Nick Hornby Book?

Last night, Ashlee and I had a rare opportunity to see a movie. We decided to gamble on Fever Pitch. Neither of us were convinced that Jimmy Fallon could carry a movie; and, while the movie is based on a book by my favorite author, Fever Pitch is a memoir about Hornby's obsession with the Arsenal football club in England. Though he draws parallels between his relationship with soccer and his relationship with women, the book includes no Drew Barrymore character.

We had worried in vain. The movie was good. Very good. Without hesitation, I will place it above High Fidelity and About a Boy as the best movie based on a Nick Hornby book. (I will say, however, that Fever Pitch is my least favorite of Hornby's books, though I still found it an enjoyable read.)

High Fidelity was OK, but stories that are told in the first person and rely heavily on the main character's thoughts don't always translate well to film. Also, "High Fidelity" is the name of an Elvis Costello song; in the book Rob, Barry, and Dick share their lists of the top 5 best Elvis Costello songs; for some reason Elvis Costello is not mentioned in the movie. And unlike Fever Pitch, I think High Fidelity lost something in the Americanization. As it were, High Fidelity is my favorite Nick Hornby novel.

About a Boy is the one movie based on one of Hornby's books that stays in England. It stars Hugh Grant, who is just about perfect for the role. It's a good movie; but having read the book, I was upset by a key difference between the novel and the screenplay. The book is set in 1993-94, the title character discovers Nirvana (the band, not the state of enlightenment), and Kurt Cobain's death is a major turning point in the plot. The film is set in the early 00s, the title character discovers hip hop in general, and no voice-of-a-generation-type celebrity dies (or is mentioned). Since Kurt Cobain's death was an important part of my life story, I was disappointed by the omission, especially since About a Boy was the only of the three movies for which Hornby wrote the screenplay. (I have also wondered whether the title alludes to the Nirvana song "About a Girl.")

Personally, I think that How to Be Good (Hornby's most recent novel) would make a great film, if the writers stay true to the book and if the filmmakers keep it in the U.K.

I think Hornby would be pleased if I made lists ranking his books and the movies based on them, so:

Nick Hornby books
1) High Fidelity
2) How to Be Good
3) About a Boy
4) Fever Pitch

Movies based on those books
1) Fever Pitch
2) About a Boy
3) High Fidelity


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