Roman Polanski's "Carnage" is based on the play "God of Carnage" by Yasmina Reza. It is one of the latest movies to be based on a work for the stage.
The process of adapting a playwright's work to the big screen may seem easy, but it is fraught with failure just lurking around the corner. The trick is to take the play and expand it beyond its minimal setting to make it more cinematic. Critics are quick to pounce on movies where filmmakers don't embrace all the options available in taking a play beyond (in most cases) its one setting.
The following movies are ones which manage to take a play and engage the audience in a way that only cinema can.
Far and away the best one on this list, David Mamet adapted his own Pulitzer Prize-winning play to excellent effect. James Foley directs a cast of actors to die for, including Al Pacino, Kevin Spacey, Ed Harris, and the late Jack Lemmon, who portray real estate salesmen desperate to keep their jobs when a corporate representative promises to terminate the majority of them.
We watch them in and out of their pressure cooker of an office as they figure out how to deal with this predicament. The language is both powerful and understandably profane.
One of Peter Bogdanovich's lesser-known movies, "Noises Off" is based on the play by Michael Frayn which has a director and his actors rehearsing a play which gets increasingly complicated by the personal and professional relationships offstage. The set up does take a bit, but it pays off immensely when the play goes into performance and everything runs amok. The choreography on display is exhaustingly hilarious.
Based on the one-man show written by Chazz Palminteri, this marked the directorial debut of actor Robert De Niro. "A Bronx Tale" perfectly visualizes Palminteri's play, which is somewhat autobiographical, as we watch Calogero (Lillo Brancato Jr.) befriend a local mobster named Sonny who becomes as much a father figure to him as his own father (De Niro).
The story behind this production is one of the most inspiring stories for actors. Palminteri held out on selling the rights to his work unless he got a role in the movie.
Rob Reiner's adaptation of Aaron Sorkin's play is a movie that's grown on me a lot since its initial release. This courtroom drama follows two U.S. Marines who get charged with the murder of a fellow Marine. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) ends up defending them despite the tremendous odds against proving their innocence. The courtroom scene between Cruise and Jack Nicholson is alone worth the price of admission.
Ron Howard directed one of his best movies here from a screenplay by Peter Morgan which is based on his play of the same name. Howard also lucked out by getting Frank Langella and Michael Sheen to reprise their stage roles of former President Richard Nixon and British television broadcaster David Frost. Like "Apollo 13," we know the outcome of events but still remain riveted at how they are reached. Both actors give "Frost/Nixon" the emotional power it needs to succeed.
Heading to the movies? Get an instant mobile coupon to use at select theaters for free popcorn!