Monthly Archives: March 2019

Losing a Voice in The Razor’s Edge (1984)

While I was not necessarily hoping for a voice-over to represent the narrator, a possibility we discussed in class, I’ll admit my surprise at hearing that the whole character of the narrator was not included in this film. I realized that the moments I listed as “would definitely include” if I were making the film were each centered around the narrator’s relationship with an individual character, such as the scene with the narrator and Isabel drinking ice cream soda at the drug store and really talking alone for the first time, the narrator comforting Elliot and ultimately stealing him an invitation as he is dying, and the narrator seeing Larry for the first time in years and not recognizing him. Because of the automatic exclusion of these scenes, throughout watching the film I tried to judge it as separate from the novel. If they manage to capture that same meaning or feeling in other places, is it equal to having that character, or at least a decent attempt? Though some instances had other ways to fill the gap, some were just not the same without him. He acted as a way to soften each character, making a cast of interesting or likeable figures through his lens of good spirit. As he tells Isabel, “When I’m really fond of anyone, though I deplore his wrongdoing it doesn’t make me less fond of him” (305). This carried over through his conversations and relationships with the characters to shape the reader’s view, and I felt that without him something was missing in our perception of each of the other characters.

I think that the movie had some important visual aspects in an attempt perhaps to make the characters more likeable in the absence of the narrator. For instance, viewers get to see first-hand Sophie’s grief-stricken reaction to hearing the news about the death of her family. The performance was tragic and really allowed more sympathy for her character, as opposed to the novel where readers simply hear a quick account brushed off by Isabel. Yet the film also validates Isabel’s claims about Sophie afterwards, such as in the scene where Sophie is being offensive to Gray and drinking in the car after his father’s funeral. This adds credibility to both of their positions. The film also included a fair amount showing how Isabel and Larry were affected by their split. Yet with the lack of a narrator as a confidant and friend to pull out the character of each individual, there seemed to be a missing depth.

With no narrator to reveal the inner workings of Isabel and her cleverness, and with the story now centered more on Larry’s journey, I felt Isabel and Sophie could be described by the Mulvey article we read. Mulvey quotes Boetticher, writing, “She is the one, or rather the love or fear she inspires in the hero, or else the concern he feels for her, who makes him act the way he does” (837). Not having agency to tell their perspective through the narrator gives us a shifted view of these two women, as Sophie’s conversation with him is cut all together and Isabel to me felt framed more in the sense of her love for Larry, instead of that being just one of the topics she discusses with the narrator in their chats.

Without the intellectual figure of the narrator listening to Larry’s adventures and questioning him about his philosophical findings, I found that much of the significance of his journey to find knowledge, religion, and answers was lost. Instead, the performance of this character seemed to find his answers quickly and did not feel very changed by whatever he discovered. I did feel that the few scenes that included Elliot captured his contrasting nature; he was shown to be extravagant and living the life of luxury, but also kind and welcoming to Larry and Sophie. However, without the narrator detailing his desperate social escapades versus the hospitality he shows for his true friends and family, like the others, much of Elliot’s complexity is lost.

Kelsey Kwandrans

The Inauthentic Portrayal of Larry in The Razors Edge

The 1984 film adaptation of the Somerset Maugham’s novel “The Razors Edge” starring Bill Murray was considered to be a massive failure by both critic and audience alike.  The budget for the film was 12 million dollars and the film grossed a little more than 6 million which is half of the production cost. Critics such as Janet Maslin from the New York Times called this film “disjointed”, describing it as “slow, overlong and ridiculously overproduced”, and critic Roger Ebert called it “flawed” and described the hero as “too passive, too contained, too rich in self-irony, to really sweep us along in his quest”.  My personal opinion aligns very closely with these comments from the critics. I felt as if this film left me disappointing and almost irritated and this was caused by the lack character development in the film especially with the main character Larry. I found that with the third party narrator in the novel it was easier for the reader to attain an outsiders perspective on the characters, including Larry, who in the film was represented in a very unflattering and almost idiotic way.

The character of Larry was one that I found to be very complex and soft spoken in the novel. For example in the scene in which Isabel confronts him about the fact that it has been two years since he has left for Paris and asks him to come home, their conversation is very calm and Larry tells Isabel in a manner that is quite “matter of fact” about his plans for his life. This calmness and almost child like innocence portrayed  in the novel created a very likable character and I truly enjoyed Larry in the novel. In the film this scene however,  Larry shouts at Isabel and is overall more aggressive than the Larry I was expecting from the novel. Murray inserting his own style of humor into the role of Larry made the character even more unauthentic, I found the jokes to be quite unnecessary and it caused me to not take Larry seriously. The humbleness of Larry in the novel is what I was missing from Bill Murray’s take on the character and it definitely fell very short in my opinion.

Larry’s spiritual journey during this film was absolutely nonexistent due to the fact that his character was so underdeveloped and. Bill Murray has his own sense of humor that he inserted multiple times and I felt like I was watching him go on this journey and not the character he was supposed to be portraying. I do not want to discount him completely however because his acting in certain scenes was great I however believe he played this character in a way that was not authentic to the novel.

I feel as if many things differed in the movie such as the character of Elliott and his lack of any sort of role in the plot (which made his death in the film almost laughable) and the deletion of the character of the narrator caused many things to be left out that could have helped contribute to the development of the character development of Larry. I understand that there is only so much you can fit into a film but after watching this film I felt frustrated that I saw a different main character on the screen then I did while reading the novel. Film adaptations of novels are very difficult to get right because the task of converting written word and actions into spoken word and actions is one that is very challenging. I however believe that this one did not do the novel justice and that I sadly have to agree with the critics.

I welcome those who would like to challenge me on my interpretation of the film and I would love to hear your thoughts!

— Jessica Drechsler


What Happened to Larry?

As we discussed in class, film adaptations are a tricky business. The Razor’s Edge proved to be an especially difficult adaptation as the novel’s characters are all filtered through the mind of the narrator, who’s role and input is omitted from the film version. Thus every character in The Razor’s Edge film seems to be half-baked and half-imagined.

The adaptation harms Bill Murray’s Larry Darrell the most. In the novel Larry is kind, intelligent and enigmatic yet the film forgoes his softness in favor of oafish violence. Larry angrily breaks off his engagement to Isabelle, smashes furniture when she leaves and overall becomes a more masculine, more aggressive character. Larry’s overt aggressiveness muddies his character and undercuts his emotional and spiritual journey by seemingly suggesting Larry is not an intellectual searching for some kind of meta-meaning in his life but a beast of a man who seeks physical challenges like the mines and the hikes into the mountains to find enlightenment. The shot where he finally reaches the mountains, though visually spectacular, left me feeling frustrated because if this is the moment of Larry’s enlightenment, if this is the peak of his spiritual journey, why does it feel so hollow?

I think the movie also takes away from Larry’s interior, spiritual journey by having him find his real happiness and real passion, however brief, with Sophie. He tells Isabelle after Elliot and Sophie’s deaths that Sophie was his “reward” for all of the work and soul-searching he did for the first hour of the movie. Does that suggest that the coal-mining, the living on a boat, the hiking up the mountains, the experience with the monks, and the grocery business has all been for nothing? Was the path to happiness really just Sophia all along? I feel like in the novel Sophie was just another extension of Larry’s interior journey and in the film that motive just wasn’t as easily conveyed.

In the end, I think it was the omission of the narrator’s perception of the characters that left Larry so underdeveloped and contradictory. What do you all think?

If a Tree Falls in the Woods…

Labels like “hero” or “villain” are things that can only be given to someone by someone else, and are therefore based on outsider’s perceptions of those people. Novels like Deliverance or movies like Bad Day at Black Ridge show us that people don’t stop being people if no one is watching, and that someone that might be considered a hero in the light of day might behave quite differently when in more isolated circumstances. This leads one to consider what exactly makes a hero, if someone who seems like one on the surface can so surely disappoint.

The link between Deliverance and Bad Day at Black Rock as lenses by which to observe heroic traits is isolation. The cut-off community of Black Rock as well as the truly wild northern Georgia offer little in the way of a public audience. In this way we, the unseen viewer, can see traits of characters that might otherwise be hidden to us in the name of propriety. Macreedy when put under the pressure of a town that largely wants him dead shows defiance and an unbreakable will to persevere in the face of Smith’s paranoia driven blood-lust. Most of the people of Black Rock, when caught up in a murder, were more concerned with either staying out of the way or keeping the act under wraps. My point is that Macreedy behaved more like a hero without any social pressure to do so, while many of the townsfolk took advantage of the remoteness of the area to get away with murder. Similarly in Deliverance Lewis, Ed, Bobby and Drew are put into a situation where they are cut off from any larger society, however rather than maintaining the moral high ground as Macreedy does, they become little better than the pack of murders pursuing them.

What a hero does among other people is important and is part of what makes a hero. Lewis seems quite like a hero to us at the beginning of the novel, but given an isolated area and a strenuous situation, shows himself to be less than that. Macreedy is the opposite, showing a resolute desire to find out what happened to the father of the man that saved his life. Macreedy is committed to doing what is right regardless of the dangers that the townsfolk present. Macreedy shows that a person can be a hero regardless of other’s opinions, while Lewis shows that a hero is not necessarily that behind closed doors.