Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Hume Cronyn, Jacob Pitts, Toby Moore, J. Barton, Danny Swerdlow
Director: Peter Yates
Great casting but misses some key themes of the book
S. Wilson | NYC | 12/30/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
""A Separate Peace" is one of my favorite books. An absolutely horrible film version was made of it in 1974, so I knew Showtime's updated version was virtually guaranteed to be an improvement. An improvement it is... but it could - and should - have been better.
First the Good: The role of Finny has got to be one of the hardest parts out there to cast. The part calls for natural athleticism and tremendous charisma - a truly rare combination (especially in actors). Toby Moore was great casting. I have no idea who he is or where he came from. He had an almost impossible task, and he nailed it. The actors who played Gene and Brinker also performed admirably. If it had a script that stuck to the actual Knowles' story, this film might have been something very special.
Now to the Bad: Knowles' story is much more than a story about adolescent friendship and betrayal. It is about how a person can only find peace within himself when he is forced to face his own darkness. Finny, who knows only love and forgiveness, seems to be the only exception to this rule - and because of that, he is destroyed by his best friend. By the end, Gene makes peace with Finny and finally finds peace within. The writer and director missed much of these key elements. Important scenes are brought to life beautifully, but we never really get inside Gene's head, so we can't understand how or why he achieves a 'separate peace.'
The writers also decided to omit the other key theme of the book: Finny as a representation of peace in world at war. While Finny talks like he was rearing to go to war, he in fact is unable to do so - because of his leg, but also because it is not possible for him to hate (as Gene describes in the final 'you'd be terrible in a war, Finny!' dialogue). Alas, none of it makes it into the film.
All in all, it was great to see a terrific performance by Moore as Finny, as well as some great scenes from the book brought to life (The Headmaster's Tea, The Winter Olympics, The Trial). However, I will still have to wait for a film to be made that is true to the spirit of this American classic."
Not Bad, But Something's Missing
Timothy Kearney | Hull, MA United States | 03/18/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Sometimes whenever the words "the book is so much better than the movie" are uttered, it can sound somewhat boorish. However, when it comes to a book like John Knowles' A SEPARATE PEACE stating that the book is better than the film is an understatement. The novel which has undertones of love/hate and admiration/jealousy, set at a boys' prep school during World War II has to be read to be experienced. This is not to say the film is not without merit. This film, originally made for SHOWTIME has many strengths: perfect attention to detail as far as set is concerned, believable actors who seem to belong in a prep school setting, and reasonably good acting. All of these qualities should make a great film. Something fell short for me, however. I think it's because the characters in the book become so real and engrained in a reader's mind, any film version will pale in comparison. I say this as someone who read the book first by choice, then as a requirement in college, and years later taught the book.
That being said, of you are thinking about purchasing this film and have never read the book, you may very well enjoy it. As I said, there are many good attributes to this film and people not familiar with the book could find it riveting. If you love the book, you may be somewhat disappointed that the film seems to lack some intensity and may also find it somewhat slow paced. Of course, if you are a student purchasing the film to avoid reading the book, I would not recommend. The film does follow the basic plot line of the novel, but that something that makes A SEPARATE PEACE such a great work is missing in this film version.
The 1972 film version was a preppy classic: 2004 was not!
Malcolm R. Mckay | 04/14/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"John Knowles modern masterpiece, A Separate Peace, are one of many subtle, and subtly is the watch word, themes of love, hate, jealously, denial and regret. The 1972 version does attempt to address this style and what the book is - A love story.
The 2004 version does not use subtly at all but overtness in the portrayal of the story. What is staring you in the face when you read the novel is, as I have previously stated, a love story and yes maybe it is arguable, a gay love story. In the novel and 1972 film version there are sexual understones everywhere in the writings and dialog. In the 2004 Showtime film version these tentions were omitted and the actors were in there late twenties playing teenagers which caused for mature acting taking away from any tenderness or hesitation of innocence in youth.
I did not like this remake for more reasons! The hair that broke the camels' back was that Phineas was given a surname on the letters he received from the draft boards! Finny is a character that does not have nor needs a last name. John Knowles did that intentionally.
Though I accept the 1972 version the acting was at times a little amateurish, so what, it attempted to be sincere to the novel by shooting on location at Phillips Exeter Academy that The Devon School was based on; which also the writer attended as a student.
The directors and producers took all teenage Exeter students, with excepton of Parker Steveson whom attended The Brooks School, to play in a Paramount Film! Class act by preppies compared to this Canadian College shot, played with adult actors, politically correct, platonic version. No - Veto on this sham try again. The 1972 film version with John Heyl and Parker Stevenson was the real deal for A Separate Peace on the screen. The Showtime 2004 film made for cable version was not."
Moving and well-made
C. Daly | 03/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"First let me say that a movie can never acheive the level of depth as a well-written novel. Even if this film had a script taken verbatim from the book, it would not be able to convey the same depth of meaning, the same development of characters.
That being said, I think this movie is excellent. Of course, I am in a unique position. I watched the movie first, and then was so intrigued, I went on to read the book. Had I fallen in love with the book first, I may very well have found the movie disappointing like many of the other reviewers. But since I saw the movie on its own without comparing it to the book, I was able to see how this movie is an artistic work with its own merits, irrespective of the challenges of bringing a classic novel to the screen.
The strongest actor in this film is Toby Moore, who steals almost every scene he's in as Finny. He radiates charisma, which is perfect for a character who Knowles wrote as being able to "shine with everyone, he attracted everyone he met." He's a character incapable of hating anyone or holding a grudge, and a character who no one can help but like. I could not have imagined him portrayed any better.
Some scenes are added to the movie that are not in the book, but I feel these scenes are useful in developing characters and relationships that are developed through straight description in the book. We see how the war plays a role in these boys' lives--a distant joke at first, and then one of the boys goes off to the Army and comes back different--disheveled, mentally broken. We see Gene's changing relationship with Finny, his admiration combined with thinly veiled resentment and jealousy, and finally his realization that Finny meant well all along, that there was never any rivalry, that Finny wanted to see only the good in Gene and was deeply hurt by any other suggestion.
The movie's main weakness is that much is missing in the development of Gene's character. His motivations are vague and his true feelings veiled without the internal narration of the novel. He's still well-portrayed in the film, but I can better understand Gene after reading the book.
If you're looking for an exact representation of John Knowles' novel, then you will be waiting forever. But this movie is a gem in its own right, a moving and engaging coming-of-age story."