The 73rd Golden Globe Awards are upon us, and the nominated films include adaptations of some of our favorite books of the last few years (and, in one case, one of our favorites of the last 50). Books have always made great source material for films, and these five Golden Globe-nominated pictures manage to avoid all of the traps of adaptation, turning great stories into great movies, sometimes by faithful translation, and sometimes by spinning off into new directions. In either case, these five works are as brilliant onscreen as they are on the page.
Carol, based on The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith
There have been a number of memorable motion pictures made from the works of Patricia Highsmith, Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley among them. Known for her psychological thrillers, the notoriously prickly author published her second novel, The Price of Salt, under the pseudonym “Claire Morgan” because she was concerned about reaction to the book’s lesbian themes. Homosexuality wasn’t unheard of in books of the 1950s, but Salt was unusual because it wasn’t written for shock value or to make a point about the doomed and tragic nature of lesbian romance. Fast-forward to 2015, and the long-in-the-works film from director Todd Haynes (Far from Heaven, I’m Not There) is the most nominated movie at this year’s Golden Globes, vying for five statues, including Best Motion Picture in the Drama category. The story of a young photographer (Rooney Mara) and her slow-burning romance with an older woman (Cate Blanchett) has made a glittering transition to film.
The Revenant, by Michael Punke
Director Alejandro Iñárritu wasted no time in the wake of the awards success of 2014’s Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), which took home a Golden Globe for its screenplay (and, incidentally, an Academy Award for Best Picture). He’s back with one of the year’s most talked-about films, The Revenant, starring the always-reliable Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy. It’s based on Michael Punke’s 2002 novel, an almost-true story of real-life trapper Hugh Glass, who is mauled by a bear and left for dead in the unsettled American west of 1823. It’s a harrowing story of survival and revenge, as Glass seeks vengeance against the companions who abandoned him. Alongside the Best Picture—Drama nod, DiCaprio and Iñárritu earned individual nominations.
Room, by Emma Donoghue
Based on Emma Donoghue’s harrowing and deeply felt 2010 novel, Room stars Brie Larson as Joy Newsome, who has been held captive for seven years in a small, squalid room—the same room in which she gave birth to her son, Jack, a product of rape by her kidnapper, and in which she now raises that beloved son. When Joy and Jack mount a successful escape attempt, the wider world presents a host of new challenges. While Joy is traumatized and resentful of the time she’s lost, her son is disconnected and struggles to understand the reality of a world outside the confined space he knew so well. Donoghue wrote the screenplay, which has been nominated for a Best Screenplay award, and the film is a favorite to win Best Motion Picture—Drama.
The Big Short, by Michael Lewis
They’re not all quite so heavy. The Golden Globes splits Best Motion Picture awards into separate Drama and Musical or Comedy categories. The Big Short is nominated in the Musical or Comedy category, though not everyone is likely to find the subject matter funny. The film is based on Michael Lewis’ 2012 book, which tells the behind-the-scenes story of the credit and housing bubble that developed in the 2000s. You know—the one that burst so dramatically around 2008, and took your 401K with it. The film focuses on three sets of people who get wind of the gathering storm and manage to, with varying motives, make a ton of money from the situation. Director Adam McKay is mostly known for comedies like Anchorman, so this is a real departure; his success in turning an acclaimed nonfiction bestseller into a highly nominated film is even more impressive.
The Martian, by Andy Weir
It’s a bit surprising that The Martian is nominated as a Musical or Comedy in the Best Picture category, but Mark Watney is probably one of the funniest film characters of 2015. Director Ridley Scott and star Matt Damon made for an impeccable team, translating the danger, adventure, and sly sense of humor of Andy Weir’s hard sci-fi novel to the big screen. As in the movie, the book follows an astronaut stranded on Mars in a very believable near-future as he fights to survive a decidedly inhospitable world. Watney leaps off the page, bringing a sense of humanity to the science fiction premise, and the film maintains the carefully measured blend of humor, drama, and suspense. Damon and Scott are nominated alongside the film.
Which books are you cheering for at the Golden Globes?