There have been a few movies made from the books of Jodi Picoult and I'm quickly coming to the conclusion that her books - like many others - just don't translate well to either the small or large screen. I don't think any of it has to do with the books themselves. There seems to be two major issues, one being that budget constraints usually mean some major points of the story need to be modified. The other is Hollywood needing to modify what was once a very good story for the worst.
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The Tenth Circle suffers from both of those problems. It was a made for television adaptation of Jodi Picoult's novel The Tenth Circle. Although in the book the main action takes place in the town of Bethel, Maine, the television version was filmed in Nova Scotia. Although beautiful, it looks more like a maritime area than the mountains of Maine.
There were so many different stories going on in the book which gave much more depth to the central story. Much of that is lost here, unfortunately. Trixie Stone (portrayed by Brittany Robertson) is in many ways a typical teenager. She hides a lot from her parents, but on the surface that wouldn't seem to be a big deal. That is, until her boyfriend Jason (portrayed by Jamie Johnston) breaks up with her. Like the typical teenager, she blames herself and sees it as the end of the world. Jason is one of the most popular kids in the school and being dumped by him is devastating.
For a while, Trixie tries to indulge in the kind of thinking her friend Zephyr (portrayed by Haley Beauchamp) engages in and look at it as just random hook-ups, thinking that is the kind of girl that will appeal to him and bring him back. Zephyr arranges for the two of them to be at the same party. When Trixie arrives home after the party, she tells her father that she was raped.
The Tenth Circle is also about the parents not seeing that the little girl has grown up and is engaging in very adult games. This is accurate to the book although the television version doesn't quite get the depth the book does. Daniel (portrayed by Ron Eldard) is caught up in his graphic novel and deadlines while Laura (portrayed by Kelly Preston) is engaging in an affair. They miss the fact that the teenage world Trixie is in is one with casual sex and recreational drugs with serious consequences.
Unfortunately, unlike the book which left the reader guessing to the end, in the first few minutes of the television version it seems to give away the fact that Trixie's interpretation of what happened is skewed, whether on purpose or not. In the book, this wasn't revealed until close to the end. It makes the whole story seem less about the debate as to whether she was really raped or not and more about parents in denial about their child.
Daniel's background in Alaska comes out in the town where it wasn't known to anyone in the print version of the story. However, this is necessary for the audience to learn about as it sets up the questions of what actually happened to Jason. Shortly after he is arrested for raping Trixie when her bloodwork shows ketamine, he is found dead. The initial thought is suicide, but as the local police investigate, there are more questions as to what actually happened.
It's not just that The Tenth Circle lets the reader of the book down. It's really not all that good on its own. I can't fault the acting as the actors all seem to do an adequate job, although they don't have the chemistry to make the viewer believe they really are a family. The main problem of this film is that it seems to want to be the type of film that will frighten parents as to what type of world their teenagers are living it. It's relying more on sensationalism than an actual story. It's got all the cliches of typical teen movies where they are running wild without parental supervision and nothing to really counter that except Trixie's seemingly hapless parents too wrapped up in themselves.
That's the exact opposite of the book, which although it did contain many of the same scenes here never once made me feel like they were put in purely for sensation. The film also never quite makes the connection to Dante's Inferno that was made in the book and the family going through hell, which is the whole point of the title.
The movie was shown on Lifetime, and it's the type of sappy play on the emotions type of film they've become known for, unfortunately. Picoult's work is much better than that as she usually manages to get the reader to ask themselves questions and keep them wondering. There were no real surprises in the film version of The Tenth Circle. There's nothing particularly special about it and the characters aren't the least bit compelling.
© 2010 Patti Aliventi
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