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