Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Netflix Files: December 5-11

White Teeth (2002) dir. Julian Jarrold:
Adapted from Zadie Smith's wonderful novel of the same name, Jarrold's 4-episode miniseries is certainly engaging, if not quite as successful as its source material in getting the point(s) across. White Teeth's main concern is the question of what it means to be British in an era of multiculturalism, and features characters who are white, black, Bengali, Christian, Muslim, etc etc. But even though the casting is generally spot-on, the screenplay fails to find a means to transmit Smith's omniscient narration and exposition to the screen, leaving the story feeling less insightful than it really is. One complaint that often arises when novels are adapted is that the adaptation is too short, and leaves too much out. The same is true here, even though each episode is roughly 50 minutes. In dividing the story among the four main male protagonists, supporting characters and subplots don't feel as fleshed out as they should in order to achieve real impact. That said, it's at least well-assembled and well-acted (Geraldine James as the intrusive Joyce Malfen - Chalfen in the novel - in particular), and Jarrold directs the whole affair nicely and with strong soundtrack choices (the "Flight of the Bumblebee" scene is perfection), although it's a far cry from what he achieved last year with the Red Riding Trilogy. My only worry about this miniseries, though, is that anyone who sees it without reading Smith's novel may not think there's much more to the story or characters, when there truly is.

Grade: B-

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