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Read and Watch: Wonder Boys


Some books are ruined by their movie adaptations, and other times, the stories actually work better on film. Then, there are the rare cases where the book and the movie are great for different reasons.

One example: Wonder Boys, the Michael Chabon novel made into a movie in 2000. The film captures the book's wit very well; the script even lifts some of the book's best dialogue. But director Curtis Hanson also makes great choices about what details to leave out.

One of the movie's major triumphs is its. Michael Douglas is perfect as Grady Tripp, an English professor/novelist battling writer's block while wearing his estranged wife's bathrobe. With the exception of Katie Holmes (who's just not quite right as student Hannah Green), almost everyone else gives a pitch-perfect performance. Tobey Maguire is Tripp's brooding but promising student; Robert Downey Jr. is the flamboyant book agent; and Frances McDormand is wonderfully subdued as Tripp's lover and the university chancellor. But while the movie is both quirky and touching, the book is enjoyable even if you've already seen the film, so read more

If you've seen Wonder Boys the movie, the book will be familiar in many ways. But you'll also be surprised at how much father the book takes the story and how much further it delves into the story's relationships. Though the book's supporting characters are just as rich and colorful as they are movie, the novel—much more so than the movie—is primarily Tripp's story. Through his darkly comedic narration, we get to know more about his background, his demons, and his unraveling. Then, there is Chabon's writing, which is at once very accessible, laugh-out-loud funny, and striking in its edgy beauty. Whether you read the book first or see the movie, I highly recommend enjoying Wonder Boys both ways.

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