Put to Pasture: YPG Book to Film Club Takes on a Not-So-Pretty Film Version of All the Pretty Horses

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On Wednesday, April 18, a small but solid group of YPG members from six AAP member publishing houses and literary agencies gathered at the AAP offices (located at 71 Fifth Avenue) to watch the 2000 film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses (Vintage, 1993), directed by Billy Bob Thornton and starring Matt Damon, Henry Thomas, and Penelope Cruz.

It was universally agreed among the Book to Film club that this was a truly sub-par adaptation. While Damon gave a decent performance as cowboy John Grady Cole, and there were indeed some moments of cinematographic beauty, just about everything else about the movie fizzled and burned. Cheesy and distracting “old West” music, dizzy direction, and an overall lack of emotion bogged down the entire film. Interestingly enough, YPG members saw the movie as too faithful to the book, to a fault. The novel’s delicate and steady pace just could not be successfully crammed into a two-hour movie. Though the film wasn’t good, it certainly made for a lively (and funny) discussion about the filmmakers’ strange choices, which included one too many contrived “I love you”s from John Grady to Alejandra (played satisfactorily by Cruz).

After such a bizarre viewing experience, I decided to do a bit of research on the film. It turns out that director Thornton’s original cut was much longer—between three and four hours! It’s no wonder that the film we viewed felt so rushed. Additionally, the film’s original score was completely scrapped after the massive re-cut was done. Upon learning this, the disappointment of the film makes a lot more sense. Members could at least agree that McCarthy’s novel—part one of his “Border Trilogy”—was well worth the read.

The next Book to Film Club selection is The Princess Bride by William Goldman (Harcourt Brace, 1973). The screening of the epic 1987 movie adaptation will take place in June, exact date and time TBA. Pick up your copy of the action-packed tale now!

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