Monday, March 10, 2014

Movie Monday: A High Wind in Jamaica

A High Wind in Jamaica
On the second and fourth Monday of every month, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good movie almost as much as a good book.

Another Movie Monday, another mid-century adaptation of a literary classic.

Another failed job. Sigh.

I read Richard Hughes' A High Wind in Jamaica last summer and loved it. My post at the time said: " exactly the sort of book I was hoping to find [by doing the 100 Best Novels challenge]. It is a novel rich in character and symbolism, while retaining an engaging plot."

For me, the movie achieved none of that.

The film opens with the hurricane scene, skipping any of the preliminary story or introduction of the children. This sets the stage for a long series of similar errors.

My main complaint with the film started right there at the beginning. In the interest, I am sure, of cutting length, the writers trimmed so much of the character development and symbolism from the tale. 

One of the great things about the book was discovering the personalities of each child and seeing how they responded to the events accordingly. We get a touch of Emily in the movie, though nowhere close to what we glean from the novel. The other children, however, are almost just blank canvases onto which you could paint any childlike personality. We learn so very little about them.

To me, that was the most important part of the book. Its magic came from the child's perspective and interpretation of events. In the movie, the little they attempt to show that just makes the children look foolish, not the same attractive innocence and naïveté from Hughes' work. 

Also missing: a lot of the symbolism from the novel. They did, at least, keep in the drunk monkey bit. That one is too obvious to leave out, I suppose.

One word of praise for the film: the actors portraying the parents did a lovely job. They are so clearly disconnected from their children. They obviously care, but have no clue about the intricacies of their lives, just as in the book. Of course, the movie does not seem to have much clue about the children's perspectives either, so maybe this was just a happy by-product. 

I was sad to be so disappointed by the movie after enjoying the novel so much. Very rarely do I give up on movies or books. I nearly always too committed to a story to leave it unfinished. This movie, however, I considered walking away from several times. Had I not been watching for the sake of this review, I would not have finished it.

What movie adaptations have left you completely disappointed?

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