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17 Controversial Book-to-Film Adaptations That Rankled Their Audiences and Authors

Adored, or abhorred? These literary adaptations left audiences, critics, and in some cases their source material's authors, puzzled.

Woman in the Window (2021), Amy Adams as Anna Fox

“The Woman in the Window”

Melinda Sue Gordon / Netflix Inc.

We’ve all heard someone say it before: the book was better. For the most part, it’s true. The best literary adaptations reimagine their source material to create a new cinematic experience; at worst, they’re so doggedly faithful to the text that the end result turns out to be a slog. Neither is especially the case for Joe Wright’s new Netflix thriller, “The Woman in the Window,” a film that has loop-de-looped through so many ups and downs, from uneasy test screenings and rewrites and re-shoots to a big-money handoff from now-defunct Fox 2000 to the cushy streamer, it never stood a chance of coming out the other end as anything less than mangled.

The movie stars Amy Adams as an agoraphobic, wine-slurping child therapist who, too paralyzed by emotional trauma to step outside her Harlem brownstone, spies what might be a murder across the street involving the new couple in the neighborhood, played by Julianne Moore and Gary Oldman. The movie is high-art trash, adorning a sleazy premise (not to mention one that rips off “Rear Window”) with fancy cinematography and a very well-decorated apartment setting.

It is of course adapted from an already controversial novel by A.J. Finn, an author whose rocky backstory could easily fill its own movie (or even a limited series). The pulpy page-turner was a massive hit in 2018, and almost immediately begged to be adapted to the screen with its whiplash-inducing plot twists and “The Girl on the Train”-esque, boozy unreliable narrator.

Whether or not all the trouble that went into getting the movie out there was worth it will be decided by Netflix audiences, who will surely tune in at least on the first weekend. And those disappointed with the end product might be inclined to go back to the source material and figure out where it all went wrong.

To get you in the spirit of risky, will-they-fail literary adaptations, take a look back at some of the most controversial book-to-film revamps ever, including ones deplored by audiences as well as ones disowned by their authors.

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