Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Castle Rock Companion - Thinner

While Thinner is a fairly thin volume by King standards, the story still feels more appropriate for a short story rather than a novel.  A man accidentally kills a gypsy woman with his car, and he is cursed to become thinner and thinner until he wastes away.  I can't help but think that is maybe how the story started out, and King ended up writing more until the length was fatter and fatter and became a novel.  Regardless of his intentions, we linger a little too long on what I feel is otherwise a pretty cut and dry tale.

You might expect a tale where the "villain" is a Romani person to be unfair to them, but while King may be relying on some stereotypes to tell the tale I don't think he crosses the line to offensive.  In fact, he spends a lot of time being sympathetic to their situation and the way they are run out of town even when they follow all the rules.  Unfortunately, that also means we end up with a fairly unlikable protagonist for the story.  Billy Halleck is a quite literal fat cat lawyer at the beginning of the story, and while he learns a few things here and there, he isn't really all that changed by the end of it besides his weight.  I think that's another reason the story feels like it should be short to me - that lack of growth is expected for shorter length stories but novels should really be about how someone changes.

That said, I did enjoy the ending as it gives Billy exactly what he deserves.

The film, directed by Tom Holland, is a faithful adaptation.  Things seem to happen a little faster but it all works out in pretty much the same fashion as the novel.  In this case, I wouldn't have minded if they had taken some time to change things a little, maybe make Billy a more likable character, as it would give us someone to sympathize with. As it is, I don't like the movie for the same reasons I don't like the novel.  It's a well made film, I just don't like the story.

There's also the issue of how to show Billy's transformation.  While it's become vogue of late for actors to lose a ton of weight (and if the 2014 awards are any indication, it's enough to make them hand you an Oscar) given the generally short shooting length for films an actor could not safely lose the weight required here.  They remedy this by giving him a fat suit at the beginning.  Fat suits make all actors pretty much look the same.  The bulging cheeks tend to look corny and they affect how much emotion the actor can portray.  Robert John Burke is adequate in the role but any chances he would have had to shine are buried under the prosthetics.  There's a brief period where he gets to look like himself, and then they use more prosthetics as he becomes dangerously thin, layering on wrinkles to get the look.  It makes him look old rather than thin.  I wonder if the CGI of today would be more suited to the task of handling something like this now.

It's probably no surprise, but in my opinion this is definitely a King novel and film that you can skip.

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