Sunday, June 17, 2012
LA Confidential - Great Book, Great Film
Leopard13 has a great post up on his blog, It Rains...You Get Wet, about his first viewing of L.A. Confidential - the great film by Curtis Hanson that was based on the great book by James Ellroy.
The way he went into the film was the polar opposite of my experience. He felt little interest towards seeing it because he'd never read the book, while I went into it (on the day before he saw it) with great trepidation, because I had read the book. To this day, I clearly remember the way I felt the first time I read "L.A. Confidential." I was already an Ellroy fan, but was still unprepared for the brilliance of this, the third book in what would come to be known as his "L.A. Quartet." The intricacy of the plot, the brilliance of the dialogue, the clarity of the characters and their motivations, but most of all the way all of the threads came together in the final third of the book - breathtaking.
So the last thing in the world I wanted was for this to be a lousy movie. I was a little worried when they cast two unknowns in the roles of Ed Exley and Bud White, which seems laughable today given that the unknowns were Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe. Kevin Spacey as Jack Vincennes was about right; although I'd pictured James Woods in the role; and James Cromwell as Dudley Smith seemed off (I'd pictured Brian Dennehy). However, everyone as dead solid perfect, including Kim Basinger, who won as well deserved Oscar as Lynn Bracken.
I'd seen James Ellroy at a book signing in 1988 and asked him what he thought of "Cop," the movie adaptation of his "Blood on the Moon." He growled, "It sucked! They only filmed half of my book!" As anyone who has read "L.A.Confidential" knows, one of the key subplots deals with a man who is obviously a very thinly-disguised version of Walt Disney. There was no way this part of the book would be in the film, because the result would likely have been years of litigation. So I also wondered what Ellroy would think of this adaptation.
Fortunately, he loved it, saying publicly and loudly (the only way he knows how to speak) that it captured "the essence" of his book. Indeed it did.