We saw a play last night that was an adaptation of a novel for the stage. Evidently, whoever did the adaptation was so in love with the words of the novel that they didn't want to cut a single one. The show was 2 1/2 hours, and it was only crammed into that short of a time because the lead actress said all of her lines very quickly. In a period accent. Which meant you couldn't understand her. Sigh.
The show did, however, lead us to seek out* Clueless, a rather different sort of adaptation. Amy Heckerling (director of Fast Times at Ridgemont High) set Jane Austin's Emma in a Beverly Hills high school. Some of the humor is dated and some of the pop-culture parody is a little broad ("Trevor Birkenstock"?). And some of the most egregious slang weighed heavy in the actor's mouths, even when it was timely. But the mapping of rigid Victorian England class distinctions to high school cliques is pitch-perfect. And the fundamental story is so sweet, and presented with such good-heartedness it's impossible not to be won-over by Alicia Silverstone's Cher. And, perhaps most astonishingly, Heckerling doesn't seem to feel any need to try and 'fix' Austin's story, which feels nearly unprecedented for modern filmmaking.
* And I do mean seek. Last night we stopped at two different Blockbusters to see if they had a copy for sale (neither was in our neighborhood, so we didn't want to rent from them) and today we signed up at our local Video Town just to rent their VHS copy. Be kind, rewind.