Many of the best films are based on novels, in my opinion. As an aspiring novelist, I have firsthand experience with the struggles of character development. Since I’ve been writing my first novel, character development (or lack thereof) is one of the things I take note of in any film I see. Of course, there are likely many factors why character development takes the backseat to other things in a film—special effects being the most common.
While technology greatly increases the production quality of films, it also tends to leave more important aspects of the storytelling weaker.
That said, there are some films, that, in my opinion, successfully tell a good story, and have well-developed (and believable) characters—but not based on novels. Here are a few which I wish were.
Almost Famous (2000) written by Cameron Crowe
Perhaps the main reason this movie is successful in terms of character development is that it is semi-autobiographical. There are so many things that, while successfully addressed in the movie, would make great back story in a novel: William Miller’s early childhood with his overprotective mother. The conflict between his mother and sister. Perhaps the story behind his absent father. William’s developing love for rock music, and later on, the full story of Penny Lane. There is so much great stuff to get more insight into. And of course, more depth and description into the world of touring with an up-and-coming rock band.
Almost Famous, had it been a novel, would likely have been a quintessential rock novel, joining the likes of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity.
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson
After I first saw this movie, I wanted to read the novel. Of course, there isn’t one. Despite the fact the movie is introduced as a reading of a novel, and several scenes are enhanced by an off-screen narrator supposedly reading from the novel the movie is based on. No such luck.
Juno (2007) written by Diablo Cody
There’s a lot of great dialogue in this movie, but one of the things I thought was lacking was insight into the relationship between the title character and Bleeker, the father of the child that drives the entire story. The relationship between Juno and her father and step-mother is also something that would be fantastic to get more insight to.
Swingers (1996) written by Jon Favreau
A high quality lad-lit novel is hard to find. Outside of Nick Hornby and Jonathan Tropper, I haven’t found any established authors of the genre that I love enough to have read their entire bibliography. I have discovered some highly enjoyable lad-lit aside from them—don’t get me wrong—but I haven’t found many that really speak to me. I think Swingers, as a novel, would. The movie is great, and there’s a lot of different relationships that have so much more to be revealed: Mike’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend Michelle, and the events surrounding their break-up, or Mike’s relationship with Trent and the other guys, which has its good moment and rocky moments would make for great reading. There’s a lot of insight to be revealed, especially if written in the first person from Mike’s perspective.
Good Will Hunting (1997) written by Matt Damon and Ben Affleck
Let’s face it, when you have a conflicted character like Will Hunting, you can’t help being curious to know just a genius like him ends up in and out of jail throughout his life, and taking jobs well beneath his mental abilities. Obviously, to those who have seen the movie, they know Will Hunting was an abused child and was extremely devoted to his friends, and while that is well portrayed in the movie, wouldn’t you love to know more?
Agree, or disagree with my choices? Have any of your own? Leave a comment and let me know!