Think of the race for best screenplay adaptation as Olympic ice-skating: To win, you have to score on many points — difficulty of the adaptation, prestige of the source material, and the film’s overall creative success. And if you’re weak on one, you’d better be strong on the rest. About the only thing that doesn’t matter is box office, so look for this year’s contenders to be led by WONDER BOYS, Steve Kloves’ pitch-perfect streamlining of Michael Chabon’s 350-plus-page novel. Doug Wright should win points for adapting his play QUILLS without a trace of staginess, and TRAFFIC author Stephen Gaghan is likely to be recognized for wrestling a six-hour British miniseries into an Americanized movie a third that length.
Then the race gets murkier. CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON and MEET THE PARENTS may suffer because no one knows what they’re adapted from (a novel and a short film, respectively). REQUIEM FOR A DREAM may be seen as more a director’s accomplishment than a writer’s, and critics of ALL THE PRETTY HORSES say it shows the seams, cuts, and compromises that an adaptation should conceal. So, unless the well-received indies BEFORE NIGHT FALLS or POLLOCK come on strong, our hunch is the final slots will go to Robert Nelson Jacobs for his adaptation of Joanne Harris’ novel CHOCOLAT, and Terence Davies for THE HOUSE OF MIRTH, the year’s best adaptation of a classic. (Unless you count BATTLEFIELD EARTH.)
for your consideration
D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack, and Scott Rosenberg took the ultra-British DNA of Nick Hornby’s hilarious novel and turned it into the polished and perfectly American HIGH FIDELITY.