Book to movie adaptations never seem to be quite right. In spite of the great idea to adapt the book because the story is good, it seems as if all the good points about the book get literally lost in cinematography translation. I know you’re probably thinking, you can’t expect the same thing from a movie that you get from a book and rightfully so, but I still can’t help comparing them and being disappointed most of the time.
After my second reading of Devil in a Blue Dress I was so happy to have reconnected with Easy Rawlins. My memory of the story is even more vivid. He is an all around good guy that revels in his freedom. He owns his own house, has no wife, and kids and is as free as the time period will let him be. In the beginning of the story he loses his job and has no way to pay his mortgage. He is then enticed into a job working for a white man called Dewitt Albright, who hires Easy for $100, to find a white woman who hangs out in predominantly black bars. The setting is Los Angeles 1948. From there the story takes off on a criss-cross of events leading Easy down dangerous paths.
So, I decided to check out the movie which I watched late on a Saturday night on my computer. Devil in a Blue Dress was released in 1995 staring Denzel Washington as Easy and Jennifer Beals as Daphne Monet. Firstly I was happy with Denzel being Easy because he seemed to fit the part perfectly. The other character that was really good was Lisa Nicole Carson as Coretta James. She was flirtatious, while being evasive about what she knew. However, Jennifer Beals as Daphne Monet absolutely didn’t work. I couldn’t understand the choice. Daphne Monet is described as being a very beautiful blond, sultry woman. She’s supposed to be the kind of woman who can tun the head of any man. So no, Jennifer Beals didn’t exude sexy nor mysterious. She looked more aloof and absent on-screen than crafty and sultry.
Another character that didn’t work for me was Tom Sizemore as Dewitt Albright. He looked like a typical Italian mafia type and that wasn’t at all how I pictured him. Albright’s character in the book is cold, calculating, and unpredictable. I pictured him blond, tall, and slim – a man who could pass as a businessman. Instead the Albright character was played as a mafia type like what we’d see in a New York city gangster movie. Another character that didn’t work was Mouse played by Don Cheadie. His character seemed to appear out of nowhere and was too crazy in the film. I think I preferred Mouse in the book because his presence was more believable. His character was explained, so he didn’t appear in the story like a bull in a china shop. I felt as if Cheadie took away from Washington when they were on-screen together. I believe that was because Mouse’s character seemed to have the upper hand in every scene they were together, not to mention we aren’t in Easy’s head as much as we are in the book.
The setting and the costumes were perfect. These two things are visually necessary in making the story come full circle, since the time period is the late 40s. The prominent scenes in the book seemed to be played out far too quickly in the film, therefore losing the ongoing tension of the story. Throughout the book the reader has an on-going fear that something tragic is going to happen to Easy from the police, Albright, Frank Green, passing cars,… Mosley paints a picture of a black person living in the late 40s in a very realistic manner. The simple act of walking down the street can be dangerous. The book makes the threat against black people an ongoing fear throughout the mystery. This adds supplementary tension to the story. That aspect is lost a bit and seems to focus more on the storyline which slightly changes the last third of the book. I think that is what disappointed me the most. Seeing that the movie was produced in 1995, I should have expected these changes.
So should you watch it? I guess I’d say yes if you don’t ever plan on reading the book. Having said that, if you read the book first the movie adaptation won’t bring you anything more than a watered down version that you’ll be disappointed watching.
Devil in a Blue Dress (Easy Rawlins #1) – Walter Mosley (hardcover)
Washington Square Press
Rating – 4 stars
I’m an affiliate for The Book Depository. It would be much appreciated to click the link below if you’re interested in picking up any of my recommendations. It will help fund my incessant book buying, reading, and reviewing.