Mark Farley's Reviews > Dying Young

Dying Young by Marti Leimbach
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really liked it

I didn't just want to write about a book today. No, I wanted to write about a book and a film. Or more importantly a book that was made into a film and how books and films correlate.
Its a cliche and I find myself saying this all the time. I'm like a broken fucking record. But the relationship between the written word and the silver screen (ergo, Hollywood) is a long and much documented story that better people have written better things about but the one thing that irks me the most about falling in love with a book, being a fan from very early, is the treatment said work gets after the 'sell their soul to the corporate devil' and is produced into a shiny marketable thing when a load of moolah and peoples time is thrown at it. And anytime I hear anyone say things along the lines of 'oh, the book/film is better than the book/film' it just sends me off on a tangent.

Before I read and watched 'Dying Young', my main point of annoyance about "money+text+premise to the square root of what marketing executives and major studios want at that particular time for whomever' is Bridget Jones.

I will put my hand up and say I went to the two (at the time) novels after seeing and very much enjoying the first film. My first reaction after finishing the book was 'wait a minute, what film did I just see?'
I closed the book and checked. Yes, there was Renee Wotsit, Mr Darcy and Hugh Grant but where is this character? And where was that in the film? Bridget's mother runs off with some sort of spear-weilding warrior from Africa. Look back at the film, its not there.

Which brings me to a film about a man surviving cancer. And more specifically, how different both versions of the book and film are. And they certainly are versions. Ingested back to back, its like being welcomed into two alternate realities.

First of all, the book universe is set in rural Massachusetts and in the film, we are in San Francisco. Yes, the film companies do this all the time. Jesus, they took the brilliant 'High Fidelity' by Nick Hornby and set the film in Chicago. Its what they call artistic licence. I think its like taking The Sound of Music to Glasgow and letting the two warring football hooligans clash, personally. I mean, who needs nazis? But I don't agree with that at all and would describe it as something liken to gutting a prime sturgeon for its caviar.

Looking at the time in movies at the time and the cast, I cant help but think that this was treated as (and the book was gutted with a big fuck off knife) an ongoing vehicle for both Scott and Roberts. The former was coming off the back of a decent success with grungy Seattle based relationship indie flick, 'Singles' but unfortunately for him, he was overshadowed by the music and the quirkier people around him. And then there was also a reasonably minor hit called, 'Pretty Woman'.

A lot about 'Dying Young' as a film adaptation is about following the success of the mega hit. I'm sorry but I believe this to be true. If you don't believe me, I beg you to indulge me in two points:

1. The general synopsis of both films is 'poor girl makes big in an unfamiliar environment'. Its like hey, you remember that cool chick you liked who was a whore and colored her boots in with black marker pen? Shes back and shed looking after a sick guy. Add cancer card where applicable.

2. Julia Roberts starts both films dead poor, on the bones of her pretty arse and jackjaws hipster lingo in a club with some big haired friend and she takes both rich guys that she will reluctantly fall in love with into her world (some sort of dance club where she will gyrate half naked) and he will look like a fish out of water.

But back to the book for a minute, which is the part of all this that should be more celebrated. Its a great book, a lovely book. Insightful, beautifully written and I loved not only the literary references (and actually thought the added red head/Klimt angle was a welcome addition) but more a concise character development and actual relevance of some of the characters they clearly played down for the film to make the lead star look better. For example, there is no mention of being a lost and jaded kleptomaniac who conducts an illicit affair with Gordon pretty much through the entire book before leaving them both at the end and to the prospect of whether Victor will survive or take his own life. In fact, throughout the film, Julia Roberts is some sort of martyr and heroine, when in fact the reality is much darker. And more enjoyable to witness.

The book is a different journey for sure but the emotions and the empathy are deeper. The characters that the film downsizes are more complex and angst ridden. It is written with a more mature head and intriguing sense of wonder and thought for the time. Take on both book and film and weave in your own opinion. But read the book, I loved it.
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Reading Progress

May 31, 2015 – Shelved
Started Reading
June 2, 2015 – Finished Reading

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