With so much ongoing overlap among books and movies, it’s no wonder that the annual wintertime Sundance Film Festival tends to become a bit of a springboard for fabulous adaptations. And though many book-to-film features bypass the festival circuit and take their place in mainstream theaters year-round, there are still quite a few stories coming through by way of the Park City slope-side screens — and in such a way that has us once again remembering one of the reasons we love winter.
This year’s festival is shaping up to be no different, as adaptations take their place once more, and begin to weave their way throughout the lineup. Here, we’ve pulled together a few book-based films that we’re anxiously awaiting.
Directed by Christopher Neil, based on the novel Goats by Mark Jude Poirier
“Goats” is the directorial debut of Christopher Neil, who we’re hoping has the gene for fantastic filmmaking, given the fact that he is the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, the iconic director who has a few brilliant adaptations of his own — “The Godfather,” “Apocalypse Now,” as if you need the reminder — under his belt. In this adaptation of the novel Goats by Mark Jude Poirier, Neil focuses his attention on the coming-of-age story of fifteen-year-old Ellis Whitman. Young Ellis has quite the cast of adults in his life, including his guardian, a pot-growing mentor called Goat Man. But when Ellis heads east for a more conventional path in life, what he actually finds is a whole lot of disillusionment. The cast includes David Duchovny, Vera Farmiga, and Graham Phillips as Ellis.
“Lay the Favorite”
Directed by Stephen Frears, based on the memoir Lay the Favorite by Beth Raymer
We’ve been following news of “Lay the Favorite” for quite some time. Beth Raymer’s memoir of her entry into and romp throughout the world of sports betting, though a little heartbreaking at times, provides a bird’s-eye view of a testosterone-fueled industry few know. Rebecca Hall takes on the role of Raymer, with Bruce Willis as Dink Heimowitz, Raymer’s boss and mentor. And with additional cast including Catherine Zeta-Jones, Vince Vaughn, Laura Prepon, and Joshua Jackson, we’re willing to bet that this one’s a Sundance hit.
Directed by James Marsh, based on the novel Shadow Dancer by Tom Bradby
James Marsh, you’ll recall, is the documentarian behind last year’s Sundance stunner “Project Nim” and the astounding “Man on Wire,” which reached new heights in the telling of the story of Philippe Petit’s death-defying 1974 tightrope walk between New York City’s World Trade Center twin towers. “Shadow Dancer,” based on the novel by Tom Bradby, will be a departure from documentaries for Oscar winner Marsh. It brings to life the story of Collette McVeigh, raised as part of a Republican family in Belfast in the 1970s. The story catches up with Collette years later, as she joins the IRA — and is captured during an aborted bomb attempt in London. As thrilling as “Man on Wire” was in Marsh’s telling of the story, “Shadow Dancer” promises to be a whole new type of thriller for the director. Andrea Riseborough and Clive Owen star in the film.
In 2009, David Blackmon won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction for his book Slavery by Another Name. The book revealed the story of the “Age of Neoslavery,” a post-abolition period of time following the Civil War up through the start of World War II in which slavery thrived. Director Samuel D. Pollard has now brought the stories of the proponents, activists, and those caught in between to life in this remarkable documentary, which doesn’t just tell a story — but redefines history.
“Oslo, August 31st”
Directed by Joachim Trier, based on the novel Le feu follet by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle
Danish filmmaker Joachim Trier brings the coming-of-age tale of recovering addict Anders to the big screen. Based on the novel Le feu follet by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, this is the story of a young man with high hopes for rehabilitation, a man who heads to Oslo on a day pass from rehab to visit his sister, his old friends, and to interview for a new job. But prior to finding sobriety, the thirty-something-year-old Anders had shattered more than a few relationships as well as his finances, and finds that the stresses of the big city and the pressures left over from his last life may be too much to handle, even if only for a day.
Directed by Andrea Arnold, based on the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
This classic tale of a rescued orphan’s love for his foster sister receives a somber and sensual remake by British director Andrea Arnold, who won an Oscar in 2003 for the short film “Wasp.” Wuthering Heights has certainly seen its fair share of on-screen adaptation — it’s been brought to film more than a dozen times — but, still, if anyone is able to bring the novel’s disturbing essence to audiences in a brand-new way, Arnold is the person for the job.
Directed by Jennifer Baichwal, conceptualized from Payback by Margaret Atwood
Director Jennifer Baichawal has spent much of her documentary filmmaking career deconstructing the visual, as she attempts to align form with content. In her latest work, “Payback,” already nominated for a Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize, Baichwal works in the opposite direction, building a visual context around the essays compiled in Margaret Atwood’s book, about wealth and debt. The result is a story that submerges us in the choppy waters of the financial society in which we exist today.
“John Dies at the End”
Directed by Don Coscarelli, based on the novel John Dies at the End by David Wong
It’s only the mind of Cracked.com senior editor Jason Pargin, alias of novelist David Wong, from which could spring such a, well, cracked-up kind of tale. There’s a new drug on the streets — “soy sauce” — that takes one out of his body, literally. Groovy. The downside? You don’t always come back with your inherent humanity. In other words, there’s a new kind of body-snatcher in town. The movie stars up-and-comers Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes. And bonus: Paul Giamatti alert! We love this man, in damn near everything he does.