Sunday, May 05, 2013

Proof of Life: The book vs. the movie Part II

Part I Here

I rewatched "Proof of Life" the film and the book drew connections between characters and turned a good yet flawed film into a spectacular narrative. It feels like the author of the book reverse engineered the script to make it appear as though this 3-star movie came from a 4-star source. 

Case in point: In one scene near the beginning of the film, protagonist Alice Bowman is at a party with her husband before he's eventually kidnapped by a Colombian paramilitary faction (the plot of the story) and one of the two ballroom dancers takes her hand and asks her to dance. 

In the book, it's explained that she takes his invitation because she's been feeling distant from her husband as he's gotten more involved with his work and when he starts getting enraptured in the conversation, she partially accepts the dance invitation from the stranger because she wants to make her husband notice her more. 

It's later revealed that the person who asked her to dance is actually the hostage negotiator leading a double life and Russell Crowe's character, Terry Thorne, suspects that he was planted at the party to get a better read on the couples. 

That's a twist that's not covered in the book. 

Additionally, the dynamics of the Alice-Terry relationship is changed once you read the book. The story presents a very interesting love triangle in that Terry is fully committed to saving Alice's husband and the plot is about Alice and her husband reuniting but there's a strong relationship that's also developing between Terry and Alice and neither one of these two relationships of Alice are treated as invalid or wrong in the face of the other. In the movie, a forbidden kiss at the end is what all the sexual tension leads up to. In the book, that sexual tension is expanded on and it's revealed that Terry had those rather instant feelings for her the moment he saw her and had to consciously fight them off the whole time even when he's giving the outward appearance that he cares about his job. 

One thing that makes the film weaker in comparison to the book is Meg Ryan.  Alice is too complex of a character- her conflicting feelings towards two men, her determination, her sense of quiet fear-for anyone but the best of actresses to portray. When Alice Bowman expresses cautious surprise at Terry's arrival or when she says her penultimate line "You have to know how much you mean to me, you know that", neither of those moments are sufficiently convincing. At the same time, my opinion of the adaptation would surely be changed with a better actress.

The film makes it seem like Russell Crowe locked lips with Meg Ryan pretty much because he's Russell Crowe and she's Meg Ryan and that's what they inevitably do. The drama behind that kiss (and a one night stand that's added to the book and better explains why the kiss isn't accompanied by conversation) isn't fully realized in the book because it doesn't explain that Crowe broke his own code for her and what was at stake for him. 

Of course that's inevitable since books can more easily fill in inner monologue, but that's better served here. 

Bottom line:
I'm not suggesting that all books are better than movies: I'm obviously a movie person. I AM suggesting that THIS book is better than the movie despite the bias against it since it came after the film. 

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