Thursday, November 17, 2011

Book vs Movie: I Capture the Castle

True story: when I was a teen, I was OBSESSED with the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Like, unhealthily obsessed. And in seasons 4 and 5, my BFF Carol and I had huge crushes on Marc Blucas, the actor who played Buffy's college boyfriend. Like serious 'write fan letters, hang pictures in our lockers, hunt down his other movies, write notes about him' crushes. He was a total all-American boy beefcake. So, imagine my surprise when I'm browsing the Netflix instant library a few months ago and see his name in the credits of a BBC-produced film. I texted Carol immediately (because we still alert each other as to MB's whereabouts). And then I realized that I Capture the Castle is the book that's been sitting on my shelf in Nashville for years after my mom read it and passed it along to me.

Well, because I'm a book-before-the-movie type of person, I left I Capture the Castle and Marc Blucas patiently waiting on my Netflix queue until I headed home again and could grab my copy. I was actually excited to finally read it after all these years. My mom had recommended it to me back in my early college years or so, and the recommendation has only been reinforced since then; a fellow book club member who shares many of my reading tastes gave it the highest praises, citing it as one of her favorites.

Dodie Smith's classic is about a family living in squalor in an old English castle in the 1930s. Seventeen-year-old Cassandra guides us through the story via her journal pages. She's just on the cusp of childhood and adulthood and not quite certain where she belongs. Her older sister Rose longs for beautiful things and a rich lifestyle. Their father once wrote a great book but has been in a writing slump for years and refuses to get out of it. Stepmother Topaz is an eccentric soul, latching on to art and its creators. And little brother just tries to stay out of it. Life seems pretty mundane until two American brothers suddenly arrive  and stir things up (in a nutshell).

I think this was a case of my expectations being too high. I enjoyed this, I really did, but I just didn't see the magic that lots of people have found in the story. Cassandra was introduced as such a strong, independent character as opposed to her sister, a characterization that was reinforced throughout her journal entries. But eventually, I lost faith in her rationality. Cassandra was never as petulant as Rose, but I didn't hold them on such a different level by the end. Maturing as a result of new experiences is one thing; I think the point, by the end, was to show a stronger, more mature Cassandra, but I didn't like the path that took her there, nor felt she was the same independent girl who viewed the world with a naive fascination. And that's something I don't believe Cassandra would have lost, no matter her experiences.

After I finished the book, I finally watched the movie. Sometimes, I actually like the movie version better, as in the cases of Harriet the Spy, Atonement, and Julie & Julia. Minor plot shifts, the visualizations, or an actor's characterization can bring a new dimension to the story. But this one just didn't really add anything. I felt like I was seeing the same exact story I had just read. Maybe it was due to the fact that I wasn't totally enchanted with the story in the first place, but I probably could've skipped it. Except I got to enjoy MB on my TV screen once again. Ahhh.


steph_h said...

Marc Blucas? Really? I too have a friend who I have known since my highschool days and with whom I largely bonded because of Buffy, only our response to Riley was so very different from your own. While innocuous at first, he ultimately made my skin crawl and I never thought Blucas was a hottie. Then again, I am one of those avowed Buffy/Angel 'shippers so Riley never stood a chance! ;)

I read this book for the first time a few years ago and I definitely felt the magic. I just adored it, which is part of why I've been so reluctant to watch the movie - I don't want it to ruin the story for me!

Kari said...

Ha, oh boy Steph, we could probably get into quite a Buffy discussion here! I think I loved Riley as a 14-year-old because he was the cute boy I wanted to date. In the last couple of years, I've re-watched the whole series with fresh new 25-year-old eyes, and though I still love Riley for nostalgic reasons (oh, high school), I support B/A. I never disliked them, but I didn't start watching the series from the beginning back in day, so I missed most of the B/A love affair (I started watching in season 3). However, both my 14-year-old self and my 25-year-old self HATED Buffy and Spike.