Normally here on the blog, if I discuss a movie based on a book, I do so within the context of my review of that book. But for the Back to the Classics Challenge, “A Classic That’s Been Adapted Into a Movie or TV Series” and “Movie or TV Series adapted from” that book are two separate categories. I chose for both of these categories To Kill a Mockingbird (linked to my book review).
My husband and I watched the movie version starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch this past weekend. I was amazed it was not on Netflix. We ended up renting it online. Our library system did have it, but I didn’t want to take the time to put it on hold and wait for it: I wanted to finish this up before the end of the year, and that night was a perfect time to see it. I think I had seen it some years ago, but my husband never had.
The audiobook is over 12 hours long, so trying to condense all of that in a two hour movie is going to result in some scenes and characters left out and some characters or situations consolidated. But overall I felt the movie did a great job of boiling the plot down to the essentials.
I discussed the plot and my thoughts about it in more detail in my book review, but basically the story opens similarly to the book with childhood episodes of Jean Louise Finch, called Scout, aged six, her ten year old brother Jem, and their friend Dill in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s. They are fascinated with a reclusive neighbor known as Boo Radley and become obsessed for a time with trying to get a glimpse of him. Jem and Scout’s father, Atticus, is a lawyer who is asked to take on a difficult case of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. In the climate of the times, Atticus is not thought well of for defending a black man, especially in this situation, and some of the negative feelings toward him spill over to his children. Scout is a tomboy and her first response to to fight anyone who says anything about her family, but Atticus asks her not to (actually forbids her to in the movie).
Many of the same elements of the book are in the movie as well: Atticus maintaining that all men are created equal and every man is entitled to a fair trial, his explanations to his children about how he could not hold his head up in town or even ask for their obedience if he did not do the right thing, the details of the trial and its result, Atticus’s saying that you never really know a man until you walk around in his shoes and his discussion about why it is a sin to kill a mockingbird. Meanwhile the children discover little gifts to them left in a tree by Boo Radley (in the book they both discover them; in the film Jem does and shows them to Scout later).
There is no Aunt Alexandra who tries to make Scout into a lady in the movie, and Dill’s Aunt Rachel and the town gossip Stephanie Crawford are rolled into one.
Though the book is definitely a richer experience with more background information and fuller development of the characters and plot, the film did an excellent job encapsulating the story and its meaning of protecting the innocent and not judging one’s fellow man unfairly. Gregory Peck was perfectly cast as Atticus, and I felt all of the other characters were very well fleshed-out also.