3 Times Women's Fiction Adaptations Were Better Than the Books

If you're an author with aspirations of seeing your work adapted for film or TV, people love to look at you like you're a sad puppy. "Oh, but movies are never as good as the book," they say. But is that really true? Happily, no. There are many cases of exactly the reverse, from Jaws to the entire James Bond assembly. I can think of at least three times in recent history that the screen adaptations of books in my own genre, "commercial women's fiction," were significantly better than the books they were derived from.

The Devil Wears Prada

The 2003 novel, by Lauren Weisberger, was painful to read for me -- bloated with passive voice, scarred by cliches. The story beneath the mediocre writing, however, was excellent. This happens, sometimes. Good story, yucky writing. Actually, it happens... a lot. The adaptation by screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna unraveled Weisberger's threads, and stitched a great film. Add excellent performances by Meryl Streep and Anne Hathaway, and you get a movie exponentially better than its source material.

Bridget Jones's Diary

Though more readable than The Devil Wears Prada, the 1996 novel Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding is still a clumsy hunk of prose. The film adaptation, co-written by the author and screenwriters Andrew Davies and Richard Curtis, creates more tension and higher stakes than the book, and an agile performance by Renee Zellweger (it earned her an Oscar nomination) makes the movie soar miles above the book.

The Help

Even though NPR, The New York Times and most other guilty-white-liberal media loved the 2009 novel by Kathryn Stockett, I found the "black" voices to be annoyingly stereotypical in that golly-gee-whiz-we-pity-the-coloreds white privilege-y way. The film, however, transcended that claptrap almost entirely because of a defiantly human performance by Viola Davis, who won the Oscar for it. Davis elevated her character beyond the pitiable paper cutout Stockett created, and made her fully a person.