I recently listened to THE NOTEBOOK by Nicholas Sparks. I've seen the movie version a million times, and I was all set to go on a wild ride of fights and lovemaking…and more fights. Allie and Noah are probably one of my all-time favorite movie couples. No one can throw down the way they do. They love each other so much, yet they never hesitate to call each other out on being complete ass-hats. It's what makes them great.
That said, I found—as I have in a lot of book-to-movie stories I've read/listened to over the last few months—that the movie far outshined the book. They're the same story, obviously, but the thing that pushed the movie ahead of the book for me was the pacing and TENSION. This isn't meant to disparage the book in any way—let's face it, it's a heartbreaking story that most of us will never forget. There wouldn't be a movie if Sparks hadn't written a damn good book that touched people.
My point touches on Kristen's post from last week. Our characters are not our dolls to play with. We need to put them through hell and back and hope they come out the other side okay. A movie has a short timeframe to make that happen, so naturally the pacing will be fast and tense. But why can't books also be that way? Shouldn't we all be striving to keep that underlying tension going through every scene? I would argue that we should. To help make my point, I shall now give you an example from THE NOTEBOOK.
For those of you who have never read the book or seen the movie – possibly both – here is a quick rundown of one scene, as told in the movie/book. Bear with me while I mangle them both. J If you haven't seen/read either…you may want to skip this post.
Brief Summary of the movie: Allie and Noah were teenage sweethearts, torn apart by her parents who thought Noah wasn't good enough for their daughter. They both moved on, only to be reunited several years later. Allie is now engaged, but Allie and Noah end up back together during a couple of wild, sex-filled days. But they're caught by her mother and now Allie must decide between Noah and her fiancé.
The Movie: Noah watches Allie's mother drive away, after she's tried her best to break the two of them apart. Noah: What a beeeyotch! (Doesn't say it but you KNOW that's what he's thinking!)
The Book: Noah watches Allie's mother drive away, after she's tried her best to break the two of them apart. Noah: She was such a strong woman. Now he knew where Allie got it from.
Jen's dog ears perk up. "R'uh?"
The Movie: Noah confronts Allie.
The Book: Noah sits quietly knowing Allie needs some Allie-alone time.
Allie: I don't know what I'm going to do.
Noah: Are we back there again you neurotic woman?!"
The Book: Allie approaches Noah.
Allie: I'm so sorry.
Noah: Don't be sorry, we both knew this was coming.
Noah: You can't go back to him! The last two days happened, you know?!
Allie: But he gave me a ring and I gave him my word!
Noah: And your word is shot to hell now, don't you think?!
Allie: This is so hard.
Noah: I know. Is there anything I can do to make this easier for you?
Jen, listening: WTF?!
Noah: If you go back to him, it's about his money!
Allie: I hate you!
Noah: I hate you more!
Noah: What are you going to do?
Allie: I guess it depends on Lon. I mean, he may not even know anything. Maybe I can just go back and he'll never know.
Noah: *stomach tightens* but he endures it with manly pride intact. Well, sorta.
Allie: _)&(&$%^*()_+)(_*&^#%$^(*&#)*(_)!!!!!!!!!! You bastard!
Noah: +_)(*&^%&^*(*)(+)(*&^&%$%&^*()(+)_)(*&^%%&^*()(_)+_()*&^!!!! You're a pain in the ass!
Allie: I keep thinking I want two things. I love YOU, but I also want a life where I'm not hurting anyone anymore. If I stay, it will hurt so many people. (Jen: Like Noah, maybe?)
Noah: You're not going to tell him are you?
Allie: I don't know.
Much angst ensues. Jen thinks Noah may have tears in his beer by now.
Allie: Why stay? All we do is fight!
Noah: That's what we do! You tell me when I'm being a smug son-of-a-bitch and I tell you when you're being a pain in the ass! Which is most of the time!
Allie: I do love him, Noah. And I love my family. Staying here would be betraying all of them.
Noah: You can't live your life for other people. You have to do what's right for you. People will get hurt, but you can't do anything about that.
Allie: I know that, but _I_ have to live with my decision. (Jen: Whoa. It's all about Allie, Allie, Allie.) I have to be able to go forward and not look back anymore. Can you understand that?
Noah: Not really. Not if it means losing you again. Could you really leave me without looking back?
Allie: I don't know. Would it be fair to Lon if I did?
Noah: GO! If that's what you want, GO! I can lose you again if that's what you want!
Noah: It doesn't have to be like this. We're adults. *pout* We have choices! *stamps foot* We're meant to be together—we always have been! I don't want to dream about you for the rest of my life and what might've been! Stay with me, Allie!
(Jen: OMG. He's begging. Not in a manly type of way, but in a sniveling school boy way.)
Allie: I don't know if I can.
(Jen: Can't says I blame ya, girlfriend. This boy is a bit of a pansy)
Allie: No matter what I do, someone will get hurt!
Noah: Stop thinking about what I want, what your parents want. What do YOU want? DAMMIT. What do you want?!
Noah: You can stay! I can't live my life happily knowing you're with someone else. This is rare—too beautiful to just throw away.
Noah stares her down
Noah: You're not going to stay are you? You want to, but you can't.
Allie: Oh Noah. Try to understand!
Noah shakes his head.
Noah: I know what you're trying to say. But I don't want to understand…I don't want it to end this way. To end at all. If you leave, we'll never see each other again.
Allie cries. Noah tries to suck in his lower lip.
Noah: I'll never forget these last couple of days. I've been dreaming about you for years.
They kiss, and much wiping away of tears occurs.
Allie: I have to go.
She drives off in a rush while Noah stands there, shell shocked, but still…surprisingly…manly. Hmm.
Allie lets go first.
Allie: I have to get my things.
Noah rocks on the front porch while Allie gathers her things.
Allie: Here, Noah. I made this painting for you.
Noah: Oh great…a booby prize. I'll treasure it forever! (Jen: OMG. I just know he's gonna start crying again.) Thank you!!! *smile falters*
They walk to Allie's car. And yes, Noah is crying.
Noah: I love you!
Allie: I love you, too!
Allie starts the car for like, forever. Noah keeps touching her, mouthing the words, "Stay with me."
Allie drives away – slowly. Snail pace. Noah watches for about…10 minutes. He's dizzy, disbelieving…and oh so sad. "Don't go!" he wants to shout as he watches the car leave.
*car is still leaving*
Noah: Please don't go!
*car…yeah, it's still leaving*
Jen: Dude, like Dierks, Noah would settle for a slowdown, Allie!
And the scene ends with one more creepy mother analogy. When Allie finally drives out of sight – and no, there was no glow of the brake lights—Noah thinks: And like her mother, she never looked back.
Okay, now that I've mangled it, here's the movie version in all its glory! Enjoy. J
Can I get an unofficial show of hands? Which version honestly grabs you more? I hope you forgive the artistic license I took with both versions of this story. I did it to illustrate my point.
The book version of this scene is….sweet…sentimental…romantic and…SAFE. And maybe a little—forgive me—boring. Can't you just see their life together? I picture it as one big snuggle session in front of a perfect fire that never needs rekindling. Lounging in a hot bubble bath that never becomes tepid. A lifetime of:
Noah: I love you. Allie: I love you, MORE. Noah: No way…I love you more! *tears to show he's sincere*
In short, a bit of a snore-fest.
The movie version, on the other hand, has FIRE. Passion. Anger. Hurt feelings. Desire. All of the things that make their relationship great. They're crazy about each other, and you just know all of the things keeping them apart are the things that make them perfect for one another. If the movie versions of Allie and Noah stay together, their life is going to be full of arguments and a lot of make-up sex. Allie burning Noah's dinner and him teasing her mercilessly and then kissing away her tears of frustration. Winters spent huddled together in the cold because Noah wasn't able to fix the furnace—something Allie will never let him live down. A life where shit happens and there isn't always a happy ending.
The latter is the story I want to read. It has characters that are flawed—who don't have the perfect answers to every question. Ones who make mistakes and regret them. Ones who can piss each other off and still love each other the next morning.
I don't want perfection. I don't want nicey-nice. I want arguments, and betrayal, and hurt feelings, and passionate make-up scenes. I want, in short, FIRE.
It's what I strive to write. It's real.
I'll take salty over sweet any day.
What about you?
As a fun treat, here are Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling at the MTV Movie Awards, reenacting The Kiss. …sigh, they're so damn cute!