Wednesday, June 27, 2012

"Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim" -Nora Ephron

Nora Ephron:


Last night, Nora Ephron, writer, director, author, producer, filmmaker extraordinaire died at the age of 71. She was well known for great works such as Sleepless in Seattle, Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally and Julie & Julia.

I found out last night that she has passed away as soon as the story was released because I up late cruising the Internet. When I first saw the headline, I thought it was a mistake. My heart stopped. I couldn't believe my eyes. To be honest, I did not know that Ephron had cancer, but from my knowledge of her, I figured she would be the type of person to live forever. Of course, I never knew her and I have never met her, but she simply seemed like an all-around fun, genuinely kind person who loved to laugh and live life to its fullest.

She was also extremely clever and witty in her speeches and in her writing (see videos below). She was always willing to offer up genuine, heartfelt praise to others for their work. She was selfless. And of course, she always knew exactly what to say to get the crowd laughing. She must have been an amazing person.

I realize that often when people pass away, everyone has the tendency to really exaggerate on the deceased person's amazing qualities in order to preserve their memory. But when I write this, I feel as if it really holds true for who Ephron was as a person and as a woman in the male-dominated worlds of film making and writing.  She was truly spectacular. Most importantly, she wasn't afraid to be humbled by those she worked with. She must have had a great collaborative spirit, and she wasn't afraid to integrate new ideas in her writing. She has talked about adding Stanley Tucci's improvised line: "Stuff the hen until she just can't take is anymore" into the final Julie & Julia script by saying "When that happens, when you are the writer, it would be very stupid to say 'What have you done to my script?' I just wrote it down and put it into the final script." Ephron was willing to work with others and humbly share her incredible gifts.

Her work was not always loved by critics (who cares anyway?), but her work was well loved by audiences. I cannot speak for every person who has ever watched an Ephron directed or written film, but I love what I have seen of her work because it is very honest and true to real life. ("I try to write parts for women that are as complicated and interesting as women actually are" -Ephron) She doesn't beat around the bush. She is straightforward and she says exactly what she feels.

As for her romantic comedies, what would the world be like without them?

Ephron was funny, witty, honest, insightful and clever in everything she wrote. Her words will live on in our hearts, because she has captured our hearts through her writing and her work. I had an art teacher who once said "Words cannot just be spat into the air and forgotten."  Granted, my art teacher was speaking about bullying and how we have to watch what we say. But I think this holds true, Ephron words will still linger on, even though she has unfortunately passed away. Her work will live on. Her words and her presence in our lives will not be forgotten. She had a great spirit and she knew how to live her life to its fullest. A spirit like hers cannot die. So, here, today and now, in honor of Ephron: "Be the heroine of your life, not the victim" (Ephron).


*Of course I have to somehow bring this around to Meryl Streep. Ephron and Streep worked together three times on Heartburn (based on Ephron's novel), Silkwood and Julie & Julia. Streep says that "Nora looked at every situation and cocked her head and thought 'Hmmmm, how can I make this more fun?'" Streep also says that "You could call her for anything: doctors, restaurants, recipes, speeches or just a few jokes, and we all did, constantly. She was an expert in all the departments of living well."  More of famous friends' final words on Nora Ephron can be seen on USA Today's website (

Courtesy of one of the greatest websites ever: 


"Insane people are always sure that they are fine. It is only the sane people who are willing to admit that they are crazy."

"My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have the potential to be comic stories the next."

--Nora Ephron

Here's yet another link: Nora Ephron's 27 best quotes:

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Devil Wears Prada, Lauren Weisberger (2003)

Film: 20th Century Fox, directed by David Frankel (2006)


The Devil Wears Prada tells the story of a young woman fresh out of college who finds herself working for a high-profile fashion magazine (Runway) with a horrible, demanding boss (Miranda Pristley). The stakes are high, and Andrea must decide how much of herself she is willing to give up in pursuit of success and acceptance in the cut-throat fashion world that she doesn't belong in.

When I first acquired this book from the library, one of my first thoughts was: "Wow, why is it so thick?" (It's 360 pages in length.) I had been expecting something much shorter, because in my mind, my knowledge of this book classified the novel as a "fluffy beach read" or something of the like. Anyway, the novel turned out to be much lengthier and more detailed than expected. Overall, the writing was acceptable, but I wasn't a huge fan of the book, especially after I had seen the movie. To me, the characters in the novel version were far more annoying than the characters in the movie.

Andrea, the protagonist complained and cursed a lot. Of course, her constant complaints allowed the audience to see how difficult her job was, but I was weary of her character by the time I reached the middle of the book. The novel seemed to drag on, and I felt that many of the pages were filled with the same action. The majority of the novel details Andrea's complaints/struggles as she must cater to Priestley's insane requests. The pages of this novel also include Andrea's breakdowns and her fall-outs with her friends/family. Andrea's character was very rough around the edges and straightforward in her writing/speaking. This character did not really appeal to me. Therefore, I found the novel difficult to work through.

However, some elements of the novel were much better than those in the film. For example, Priestley's senior assistant Emily, actually sympathizes with Andrea. In the movie, Emily is written as a much harsher character. It was nice to see that the two co-workers could function. Also, the reader was given a detailed inside look into the fashion world, which is often not seen through anything but glossy, air-brushed images. Although I did not personally enjoy the novel, Weisberger must have done something right because her novel is a New York Times Bestseller. I would recommend this novel to people with patience.

As previously indicated, I preferred the movie over the novel. The movie felt more concise and logical. It did not include Andrea's endless complaining. Also, Andrea (Anne Hathaway) was a kinder, sweeter character. Anne Hathaway's Andrea was much easier to sympathize with. The movie did also not put a spotlight on Andrea and her friend Lily, who often gets overly drunk. This was an improvement from the book. Overall, the movie version just seemed to have a better flow. Seeing the designer clothes on screen was fun and also helpful to understanding the glamour that accompanies the hard work. It was also easier for me to see the clothes rather than have to imagine the clothes as they were being described in writing. Finally, Meryl Streep's Priestly helped me, as a member of the audience, to really witness the evil that Weisberger wrote about.

All in all, the book and the movie were vastly different from each other, because the movie was such a loose adaption of the novel. I have compiled a long list of differences between the book and the movie which can be seen in my previous post.

Random Differences (The Devil Wears Prada): From Page to Screen

  •  Andrea Sachs is a graduate of Brown University in the book. In the movie, she is a graduate of Northwestern University. 
  • Stanley Tucci's character of "Nigel" exists in the novel as a combination of "Jeffy" and “Nigel”, who each play a smaller role in the story. 
  • Andrea smokes in the novel. 
  • Miranda's senior assistant, Emily, seems is more sympathetic in comparison to how she is portrayed in the movie. 
  • In the book, Andrea must get the latest Harry Potter book early. In the movie, she must obtain the Harry Potter manuscript. 
  • Miranda Priestley's physical appearance in the movie is different from how she is described in the novel. (silver/gray hair instead of a blonde bob) 
  • Miranda's twin daughters have black hair in the book. They have red/brown hair in the movie. 
  • Andrea first lives in an apartment with two girls (Kendra/Shanti). She later moves in with her friend Lily. She never lives with her boyfriend. 
  • When Andrea first goes to be interviewed for the position, she speaks to a series of girls before seeing Miranda. In the movie, Andrea only speaks to Emily Blunt's character, Emily before seeing Miranda. 
  • In the movie, when Andrea first drops "The Book" off, she is mislead by the twins and she places the book on the stairs. She drops "The Book" off alone in the movie. In the book, Emily goes with her for her first dropping off of “The Book", and Andrea speaks to Miranda while her family is eating dinner.
  • Andrea's boyfriend is Alex in the novel, while it is Nate in the movie. 
  • Alex is a school teacher in the novel, while he (Nate) is a cook in the film. 
  • In the novel, Andrea's parents play a larger role, while Andrea's father is only seen once in the movie and her mother is never seen. 
  • Miranda's twins have a nanny named Cara in the book. Andrea interacts with Cara on the phone. These interactions do not take place in the movie. 
  • There are more characters in the book, such as Uri (Miranda's driver), Eduardo (the annoying doorman type person at the Elias-Clark building) and Sebastian (a dedicated chef at the restaurant where Miranda gets her lunch.) 
  • In the novel, Andrea buys extra Starbucks coffee to give to people on the streets. This is not shown in the movie, but it is shown in the deleted scenes. Andrea also always gives her morning cab drivers extra money.  
  • At the party at the Met, Andrea is with another worker from the Met, not Emily. 
  • Emily does not go to Paris because she has mono in the novel. Emily does not go to Paris in the movie because Andrea is Miranda's preferred choice. 
  • While in Paris, Andrea is urged by her friends/family to return home because her friend Lily is in trouble. This encounter does not happen in the movie. Also, Andrea talks back to Miranda and is fired. In the movie, she simply walks off. In the novel, Emily fires Andrea. 
  • The presence of "Page Six" and the fear of paparazzi reporting on Miranda's workers' complaints is in the novel. 
  • At the end of the book, Andrea sells a story to Seventeen magazine and makes money by selling her designer clothes from Paris. In the movie, Andrea gives her clothes from Paris to Emily. 
  • Andrea and her boyfriend never get back together in the book. 
  • Andrea sees Miranda's new junior assistant at the end of the book, while in the movie, Andrea sees Miranda again across the street. 
  • At the end of the book, Andrea moves in with her parents, while at the finish of the movie, Andrea has found a new job already.
*Meryl Streep in character is pictured below. On the left is Anna Wintour, who is believed to be the inspiration for Miranda Priestly in the novel. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Bridges of Madison County, Robert James Waller (1992)

Film: Malpaso Productions/Amblin Entertainment, directed by Clint Eastwood (1995)
I'm guessing that the consensus among most book lovers is that movie adaptations scarcely live up to the book. In the case of The Bridges of Madison County, however, I found that the movie was far better than the book.

The Bridges of Madison County details the brief 4-day love affair between world-traveling photographer Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood) and Iowa housewife and war-bride Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep).

I did not particularly care for the book, although it probably didn't help that my old library book smelled really foul and musty. Anyway, I found that the book had far too many long, drawn-out, boring descriptions of each character. It is always good to have well-developed characters, but in my opinion, it works better if the descriptions are spread throughout the exposition. It also didn't help that Waller decided that Kincaid should have a truck named "Harry." As the story progressed, little phrases like "Harry was hot" or "He loaded Harry up" came up in the writing, which just felt out of place. I also had to keep remembering that the middle-aged, male Kincaid named his truck and referred to it as Harry. Besides this, the book overall felt rather clumsy, sappy and awkward throughout. At its core, the plot and the message of the book was lovely, but I felt like the actual execution of the ideas presented in the book were not as refined as they could have been. But Waller does deserve credit for his lovely plot idea, and some execution on his part.

On the other hand, I have a different opinion on the film. From the transition from page to screen, the dialogue was edited and refined, which helped the conversations flow more easily, which is especially important because of how densely written the film is. It is mostly two people having a conversation. Therefore, the dialogue had better be good, which it was. Small changes in wording greatly enhanced the flow and the feel of the story. For example:

Book line from Kincaid: In a universe of ambiguity, this kind of certainty comes only once, and never again, no matter how many lifetimes you live.
Film line from Kincaid: This kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime.

Both lines convey the same general message, but in transition from the book to the film, much of the dialogue was improved upon. As evidenced above, Kincaid's film line is simplified and it becomes less bulky, but it still carries the same idea. Of course, Kincaid's book line is lovely, but it is very dense.

Overall, I enjoyed the film, while I simply tolerated the book. The film was really lovely, and the acting from both principles was well-done. The musical theme composed by Eastwood was another nice touch. The film version had various other high notes in comparison to the book, but I will only note one more improved element: Location or setting is often an important "character" in order to tell a story. The Bridges of Madison County is set in rural Iowa, which appears to be vast, open and beautiful. The lushness and the simple beauty of the land itself provides the entire story with the desired romantic feel. The film features breathtaking cinematography, which draws the audience in, and makes the story more believable/understandable. (just watch the trailer, below) Of course, the novel couldn't have had the same visual power because of the simple fact that it is a book. I recommend the film, while I suggest the novel if you are interested in seeing the dramatic difference between the two versions.

*Meryl Streep on The Bridges of Madison County: "I read, not the whole book, to be fair, but I didn’t think it would be something that I would be interested in.”

The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles (1969)

Film: United Artists, directed by Karel Reisz (1981)

 The French Lieutenant's Woman follows a Victorian love triangle that ensues after Charles Smithson, a well-to-do, wholesome English gentleman falls in love with the mysterious Sarah Woodruff by a strike of cruel fate after many wanderings in the Undercliff. Woodruff is the novel's protagonist and the "Woman" in the title. She is also dubbed the unkind "Tragedy" or even worse "The French Lieutenant's Whore" after her tragic story becomes known to the close-minded British town. Due to her unfortunate history with a French Lieutenant (Vargueness) who did not turn out as expected, Woodruff is left in perpetual sorrow. However, she soon reaches out to Charles for assistance, which naturally results in complications because Charles is engaged to the shallow, but beautiful Ernestina Freeman. There is more that meets the eye in this tragic Victorian love story that explores the lengths that one will go to in pursuit of "love", as well as the constraints of one's society, desires, ambitions and pursuits.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. At first glance, the plot is nothing out of the ordinary, but as the novel progresses, more information is revealed which adds considerable interest to the seemingly simple plot. While reading this book, I found myself consistently engaged in the story. This may be a cliché, but I felt as if I were in the story. The characters and their locations were thoroughly developed, and various character interactions were added to the main story to create a multi-layered story. For example, Fowles includes the relationships between Charles and his servant (Sam), the doctor, Ernestina's wealthy father, his uncle and the love story of Sam and Mary (Ernestina's maid). Every so often, Fowles would end a chapter with a cliffhanger involving one character and then switch to another character's tale, which of course, adds to the anticipation of what is yet to come.

Most importantly, Fowles writes about the Victorian sexual and social oppression with a 1970s outlook. Fowles adds anecdotes of his then-modern outlook upon the Victorian age. Although the 1970s have passed, this novel has perhaps improved with age. As a modern-day 2012 reader, I am given two time periods at which to marvel at because our society no longer holds the same 1970s perspective from which Fowles is writing from.

Above all, Fowles writing is intelligent and honest. He is not so much a narrator in the story as he is a writer. Fowles clearly lets the audience know that even he does not know all the solutions to each of his characters problems. He often remarks that his characters have "disobeyed his orders" or that he cannot say what they will do next. Fowles use of this writing technique makes his writing charming and even personal. One of my favorite lines from the book is this: "There are tears in her eyes? She is too far away for me to tell; no more now, since the windowpanes catch the luminosity of the summer sky, than a shadow behind a light" (466). Finally, Fowles kindly salutes other great poets, writers and thinkers such as Darwin, Thomas Hardy, G.M. Young and Matthew Arnold by inserting quotes and poems before each chapter begins.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman was simply amazing. It is no wonder that this is a modern classic.

*As for the Meryl Streep movie, I have yet to watch it. Although this basically defies the purpose of this blog (not to mention within the first review), I plan to eventually acquire the movie. I will watch it and add my thoughts on how The French Lieutenant’s Woman went from page to screen.

The Purpose of this Blog

The purpose of this blog is to review books that have been translated and adapted into Meryl Streep movies.  Hopefully, I will also provide comparisons between the book and the film version of the particular work that I am reviewing. I will use a rating of stars with 5 stars being the highest ranking possible. The rating will be for the book. I will also review other books. I got this idea from my sisters and from a lovely display in Barnes & Noble dedicated to books that have become Meryl Streep's body of work.
Here is a possibly incomplete list of Meryl Streep movies that have gone from page to screen. The books have the same title as the film unless otherwise indicated. The author of the book is indicated in parentheses. Enjoy! :-)

  1. Julia (Pentimento, Lillian Hellman)
  2. Kramer vs. Kramer (Avery Corman)
  3. The French Lieutenant's Woman (John Fowles)
  4. Sophie's Choice (William Styron) 
  5. Out of Africa (Karen Blixen aka Isak Dinesen)
  6. Heartburn (Nora Ephron)
  7. Ironweed (William Kennedy)
  8. Evil Angels/A Cry in the Dark (John Bryson)
  9. Postcards from the Edge (Carrie Fisher)
  10. The Bridges of Madison County (Robert James Waller)
  11. Before and After (Rosellen Brown)
  12. One True Thing (Anna Quindlen) 
  13. Adaptation. (The Orchid Thief, Susan Orlean): This is almost an exception, but the film revolves around this book as it is being adapted into a movie. 
  14. The Hours (Michael Cunningham)
  15. The Manchurian Candidate (Richard Condon)
  16. A Series of Unfortunate Events (Lemony Snicket)
  17. The Devil Wears Prada (Lauren Weisberger)
  18. The Ant Bully (John Nickle) 
  19. Evening (Susan Minot)
  20. Julie & Julia (My Life in France written by Julia Child, Alex Prud'homme and Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen written by Julie Powell)
  21. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Roald Dahl) 
  22. The Iron Lady (Hugo Young) I'm not entirely sure about this one.