Books Do It Better: Trailers for ‘A Long Way Down’ & ‘The Fault in Our Stars’

Today I finished reading Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down. It’s a book about four very different people who meet on a the roof of a building in England on New Year’s Eve because they all are trying to commit suicide. If you want to read my full review of the book is about, check out Goodreads. But if you want to get a sense of what the book is like, whatever you do, don’t watch the trailer.

Yeah I know. You just watched it, didn’t you. Well I *did* put it right there. See, the problem with that trailer is that it’s a great trailer! It features a catchy pop tune, attractive people making eyes at each other and splashing in water, and voice over narration that pulls you in. But guess what? That’s not what the this book was about!

Paradoxically, I didn’t even really like A Long Way Down. It was full of annoying and unlikable people and it was depressing. Frankly it reminded me too much of my own life. If you are looking to read a hopeful, “It gets better, life is worth living books” this is not it. If anything, it is a, “Life sucks, but you have to make it though somehow you really have no choice” books. Did you get that from the trailer? I sure didn’t. Also, don’t get me started on the cast…

By now you’re probably reading this and saying, “It’s just a trailer, you need to calm down.” I think I’m so worked up for two reasons. 1. I have very strong opinions about book adaptions because they never match the vision in my head (which is impossible, I know). 2. After reading all the #MTOS responses from last Sunday and thinking about my favorite trailers I have come to see that tone matters.  Trailers create an image in your mind of what film will be like. The tone of this trailer is light and upbeat and fun. Which is the opposite of what a book about suicide should be. Especially this book.

A book that does manage to be light and upbeat and fun while being about a depressing subject (i.e.) childhood cancer, is The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  Funnily enough it is another book I didn’t really like, but in this case I feel like the trailer is perfect.

The Fault in Our Star is hopeful and all about BIG THEMES like “love” and “living your life to the fullest” and “making the most of a bad situation.” Which is exactly what the trailer give you. It mixes teen angst, teary AND cutesy coupley moments, and key lines/scenes from the book itself. It captures the “now-ness” that is so present in Green’s writing. The main problem I have with the A Long Way Down trailer is that it does not accurately capture the despair and the realness of Hornby’s writing. It comes off too polished and Hollywoodized.

Even with all this complaining, I will probably see A Long Way Down when it comes to theaters in the U.S. because chances are I will like an upbeat, fun film more than a depressing one. To me, these trailers just serve to highlight the importance of style when creating an advertisement for a film, especially one tied to a preexisting source material.

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