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Film vs. Book: “Wonder,” “Murder on the Orient Express,” and “The Disaster Artist”

As we reach the end of 2017, there are several movies currently playing in theaters which are based on books that you can find in our library system.  But how do they compare to the original stories?


For those who have not read it yet, Wonder is about a boy named August (Auggie) Pullman, born with an unusual face that leads people to point and stare at him.  He’s been home schooled for most of his life due to the high number of surgeries that he’s needed to help him breath, eat, hear, etc.  But his mother decides that it’s time for him to start going to a private school, and the book follows his first year in fifth grade through his eyes and the eyes of other people in his life.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film version of Wonder and would highly recommend it to families and fans of the book!  Director Stephen Chbosky did a nice job of covering the different characters’ perspectives the way R.J. Palacio did in her novel.  The child actors portraying Auggie, Jack Will, Via, Julian, Summer, etc. all play their roles perfectly.  It’s a great movie for families to watch over the course of Winter Break.

Murder on the Orient Express

Kenneth Branagh stars as the fictional detective, Hercules Poirot, in this new film adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express.  When a passenger dies from multiple knife wounds and the train becomes trapped in snow, Poirot must figure out which one of his traveling companions committed murder.

It’s a beautiful-looking movie with great acting by all the stars, including Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Daisy Ridley, and Leslie Odom Jr.  But if I hadn’t read the book beforehand, I would have had some trouble following along with the twists in the story.  There are so many suspects on the train that some characters are more or less ignored until Poirot discovers their connections to the victim.  And when he does make those discoveries, there are times when he talks so quickly that he can be difficult to understand.  If you’re not paying close attention, you may find yourself thinking, “Wait, what just happened?”

Still, I recommend Murder on the Orient Express if you’ve read the book.  Kenneth Branagh gives an entertaining performance as Hercules Poirot, which makes it worth watching.

The Disaster Artist

Ha, ha, ha!  What a story, James Franco!

I wrote a positive review of The Disaster Artist, by Greg Sestero, on the West Chester Public Library’s blog around the time that it was first published.  It tells the true “behind the scenes” story about the development of one of the worst movies ever made, The Room.  Since then, I’ve acquired my own copy of The Room and watched it several times.  My friends and I cannot stop quoting it to each other.  It’s a terrible film in a way that’s extremely entertaining.

The film version of The Disaster Artist focuses on Greg’s friendship with the writer, director, producer, and star of The Room, Tommy Wiseau.  They both express a dream to “make it” in Hollywood and move to Tommy’s apartment in Los Angeles.  But neither of them find much success with acting.  So Tommy decides that he’s going to make his own movie, the next great American drama: The Room.  And nothing goes as planned, due to Tommy and Greg having no idea how to make a movie and Tommy refusing to listen to the advice of his cast and crew.

Overall, I thought it was a decent movie.  I’m glad that Franco encourages us to sympathize with Wiseau rather than mock him.  It has a good message at the end about the nature of success and failure.  I recommend watching it if you’re familiar with The Room.

However, the book is much, much more interesting.  Some of the best (or worst) stories got left out of the Disaster Artist movie entirely.  Such is the nature of adaptations, but I would’ve liked to have seen more scenes that dealt with the strange production of The Room.  If you’ve never heard of this movie and want to learn more about it, definitely check out the book first.

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