Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What A Waste

Last night I was deeply emmersed in a book, Warrior Soul by Chuck Pfarrer (research) when a movie came on TV that caught my attention. I'd had Mystic Pizza on as background noise, so the station was set at the WE network, WE standing for Women's Entertainment which you could probably figure out given it was airing Mystic Pizza.

Anyway, this made-for-tv movie started to play, and I figured out pretty quick that it must be an adaptation of some romance novel. Being an aspiring romance novel writer and a romance novel reader who would love to see some of her favorites made into movies, I put down my book and gave the show my full attention.

Stupid move.

Horrible. Just absolutely horrible.

Now, I have no idea if the book the movie was based on - A Change of Place by Tracy Sinclair, published by Silhouette in 1991 - is any better. Perhaps in translating the written word to film, something got lost. Like quality.

I mean, from just the little blurb about the book I can see that liberties were taken. In the book, the heroine is a children's book author, while in the movie she is a art history grad student. In the book, the hero's name is Alain Marchand but in the movie he's Philip de Clarmont, an American with French royal blood. So clearly creative license was taken.

But that doesn't excuse the horror that ended up on screen. Gads. How embrassing.

First of all, the hero in the movie was played by Rick Springfield. Now, I loved - swooned over - Rick when he was Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital. In 1981! But I'm sorry, and no offense to Rick, but his boyish hottness in the early eighties did not age into a Cary Grant charm thirteen years later. In some up-close shots during the movie, you could see the wrinkles and bags beneath Rick's eyes. Apparently holding on to past glory, his hair is the same shaggy length that looks really good on a twenty-something surfer dude but not so much on a well-into-his-forties man trying to pull of the sophisticated French couture business man that was his character.

Not to mention, in the love scene, I think I saw hair on Rick's back. I can'

Speaking of the love scene, when the hero and heroine fall into bed together, it's to some Edith Piaf song that did absolutely nothing to convey either a romantic, tender moment or a heated, urgency, one of which would surely have been appropriate. The music was all symphonic crescendoes more suited to a scene of a boat sailing through stormy seas than a love making session. It was laughable.

Once the ending came about, the final nail hit the coffin. In all of five minutes, the bad guy was foiled, the heroine's name was cleared of false accusations leveled against her, the hero learned the truth about her identity (she had switched places with her twin, so all along he believed her to be someone else), she determined to leave Paris in a wounded huff, and the hero came charging after her to declare marriage plans. I'm serious. All of this happened after the last commercial break and before the credits rolled.

The reason I'm whinging about this is not because I expected an academy award winner made from a standard issue category romance. My complaint is that the whole thing was simply so bad. If a non-romance reader were to have watched the show, I can honestly understand why she or he might determine romance novels are nothing more than formulaic fluff full of bad writing, bad story telling, and just general bad.

I used to work for a company that made children's videos with what was called in the company's mission statement "a biblical world view". The founder of the company was determined that just because our product came from a Christian slant and used words like God didn't mean the quality had to be subpar. Most people immediately assume if something is made out of the mainstream, the quality will be at B level at best. When I worked at Big Idea, this simply was not the case.

So why does it have to reason that romance books made into movies by cable networks have to be second rate? Sure, there is no budget for big time movie stars or exotic sets or ellaborate story lines that take hours to tell. But how much extra does it cost to hire good screenwriters to translate the original into visual form?

More important, how much does it cost to choose something well written to start with? It's true that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. So don't even try in the first place.

Again, with all due consideration to Ms. Sinclaire's original work, maybe this story wasn't the best one to turn into a tv-movie. If the book really did have all loose ends tied up in the last chapter, completely skipping over some major issues I would have imagined given the scenario of a man falling in love with a woman who isn't even who she's claiming she is, then shame on the production company for optioning such hash. If it was a case of the original story being hatcheted, then shame on the screenwriters, directors and those who greenlighted the script.

I've said it before that if I had a gazillion billion dollars, I'd start a production studio that turned great romance novels into great movies. Honest. I think that would be a blast. I can name twenty books without even taking a second to think that I would love to see on screen. How much fun it would be to cast and location scout and script it all. My career Utopia.

So it makes me sad when I see such an opportunity wasted. With the hyper-specific network programming these days - networks entirely devoted to women or gay people or senior citizens - I think the idea of turning romance novels into programming isn't that out there. I just hope the bar is lifted a bit. The romance genre community can't handle any more bad representation.

Next thing you know, they'll have Fabio in the opening credits, long hair flying and bare chest glistening.



Jody W. said...

Ehhm, I guess I won't hunt that one down and TiVo it :). I too was curious to see Rick Springfield, if for nothing else than to belt out lines from "Jessie's Girl" during the show.

Steph T. said...

I love the books about BUD/s and beyond by Pfarrer - they're so good they don't even feel like research!

Anonymous said...

Rick Springfield with a hairy back? Say it isn't so! But then I was too busy staring into his eyes when I had the privilege of meeting him in person this past March at a VIP soundcheck. No, he doesn't look 30 anymore, but he don't look back for 57, either.

Come on, the movie "A Change Of Place" is not that, it's not "Gone With The Wind" or "Casablanca"...sure, it's fluff, but sometimes escapist fluff is just what the Dr. ordered :)