Monday, September 06, 2004

Quite Ugly Last Night

Last night a dramatisation of the Christopher Bookmyre novel Quite Ugly One Morning was shown on ITV. I'd only heard of this earlier in the day, so I didn't have much time to build hopes, but was quite excited by the programme since a) I'm a big Brookmyre fan; b) I always thought his novels would work well as movies; c) I'd half-heartedly tried to right a screenplay for the same book.

I tried to overlook the fact that James Nesbitt was playing the lead: the story is set in Edinburgh, and Nesbitt, and Irishman was playing a Scottish guy. It turned out that he played what was given to him quite well, and even managed a piss-take of a Scottish accent at one point. Anyway, part of the novel's appeal is how steeped in Scottishness it is.

The problem was the word "adaptation". The story on screen wasn't so much adapted as it was a total rewrite. The characters were all still there (in name at least), as was the basic plot, but the most funny, surprising and enjoyable parts had all been replaced with much tamer ideas.

Be warned: If you haven't yet read this book, I'd avoid the rest of this post - I'm about to give some twists away, and it's a really good story that you should get your hands on now.

The Chemistry: Instead of Parlabane chasing Jenny the police officer, being knocked back because she was gay, then hapharzardly falling for Sarah (the ex-wife), he already knew Sarah (in a way never explained) and was all over Jenny. I thought at the time of viewing that the writers had effectively shut out any chance for sequel film works to be made - in subsequent novels by Brookmyre, Parlabane and Sarah are still together, and this relationship is to some extent important. If any of the other Parlabane novels were adapted, a differing girlfriend status would be confusing to the TV-only fans, as well as other features of his character being questionable.

The Gore: Part of the appeal of the novel was the constant barrage of splattermania - people frequently walking into rooms with bodily waste causing carnage everywhere. I know the drama had to be cleaned up to meet a 9pm time slot's tameness requirements, but if they want to make something, they should make it properly. The killer was supposed to enter into a near-final scene with major facial wounds, a missing hand and poor cognition of events. Instead he's buried by the elderly woman, changing her from a wee old dear into a Crimewatch feature.


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