From the depths of Stephen King‘s complex body of work comes the newest film Hearts in Atlantis, adapting from King’s novel. From a stellar cast and crew, including screenwriter William Goldman (The Princess Bride), Oscar-nominated director Scott Hicks (Shine) and Academy Award-winning actor Anthony Hopkins, it’s a heartwarming story about childhood and how the relationships formed then make the adult later. But does the film hold up to King‘s weird standards? We talked to Kit and Noah about it–here’s what they had to say:
Hollywood.com: According to the conventional wisdom of the moment, sweetness and optimism is all we want from art or entertainment right now. So Hearts in Atlantis seems, at first anyway, to arrive right on schedule. Does this Stephen King offering have too much “supernatural” bite, or is it simply a sweet trifle, a la The Shawshank Redemption?
Noah Davis: Screenplay writer William Goldman has stripped most of the ominous moments of King‘s original out of this movie. Worse, he removed the Vietnam subtext in the book which lent not only to more ominous moments, but deeper meaning behind the relationship forged between 11-year-old Bobby and the aging Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins.) It leaves the film more whimsical than disturbing.
Kit Bowen: Yes, Goldman takes out the weird stuff but I think in this context, it made sense. To try and do the entire Stephen King book would have been too cumbersome, as well as trying to explain the “low men in yellow coats” from the book, who come from another dimension King created in his Dark Tower series. So, instead, Goldman concentrates on the children and their relationships–which isn’t as whimsical as it is endearing. The problem is the film has very little tension in it, making it too sweet.
Noah Davis: Now we’ve done it. We’ve finally elicited a semi-coherent answer from my esteemed colleague. Kit must really like Stephen King.
Kit Bowen: I really enjoyed watching the camaraderie between the kids. They really hit it on the nose about growing up and the relationships we form along the way. The film simply missed a true antagonist. And whether we like it or not, every film needs one to make it really work.
Noah Davis:: One of the most depressing facts about Hearts in Atlantis is that its inane dialogue, which reeks of screenplay software use, is attributed to Goldman, who is still regarded by many as a prince among Hollywood writers. For instance:
Mom: Your father never met an inside straight he didn’t like.
Bobby: What’s an inside straight?
Mom: Never you mind, Bobby-O. Don’t you ever let me catch you playing cards for money.
You get only one guess about what happens when Bobby gets the chance to win some money in a card game just a few scenes later. Hicks‘ work is more up and down. Hicks locates some real beauty in the laid-low Connecticut town, yet appears to be much more interested in showing us pretty pictures than relating King‘s tale in a meaningful way.
Hollywood.com: So where does this film rate in the pantheon of King‘s non-horror flicks?
Noah Davis: Assuming (and I am sure that Kit has her own ranking) that Shawshank Redemption is at the top of the list, followed closely by The Green Mile, this is probably somewhere just behind Stand By Me. The focus of the movie on the relationship between Bobby and Brautigan colors the movie in the paint of nostalgia. Still, it’s not a bad flick, and I can’t blame anyone for wanting to spend two calm and pleasant hours in the dark. Eight bucks for Anthony Hopkins to be your meditation group leader is, on balance, a pretty good deal.
Kit Bowen: I’m still getting over the fact Noah actually remembered dialogue from the film. Did you have your pad with you, Noah? It’s a hard call between Shawshank and Green Mile. The thing about the latter is that it’s such a tough movie to watch again and again, it doesn’t have the lasting power that Shawshank has. Hearts won’t be considered the best, it’s true, but I lean towards Mr. Davis’ comments about it–there are worse ways to spend a few hours.
Hollywood.com: Does Hopkins have a shot at the Oscar gold?
Kit Bowen: He was quite good, but honestly, if he was nominated for this and you held it up against his win for the stellar work he did in Silence of the Lambs, it’s sorta laughable. No, this isn’t Hopkins‘ time.
Noah Davis: Hopkins is, of course, one of the finest film actors of this era or any other, and he is able to seem mournful and profound drifting around this dismal neighborhood in baggy vintage attire, serving as low-voltage fairy godfather to Bobby and his friends Carol and Sully. A nomination may be in the works, but I don’t foresee a victory.