Grand Isle is the movie adaptation of Kate Chopin's 1889 novel, The Awakening. Turner Network Television (TNT) made the movie in 1991, and it stars Kelly McGillis as Edna Pontellier and Adrian Pasdar as Robert Lebrun. To say that this movie is based, even loosely, on The Awakening is an insult to Kate Chopin's colorful literary work. A reviewer from People Weekly calls it a "tedious melodrama" and sees it as Kelly McGillis's "vanity project" because she is star, producer, and narrator ("Grand Isle" 13). Grand Isle is an example of how Hollywood's ratings scramble can tear apart a striking piece of literature.
This movie misses the novel's subtle commentary on society completely. The first example is the role of Leonce Pontellier. In the movie, he is portrayed as a hateful, negligent husband. It is a temptation to make an easy villain of Leonce in the novel, but he is simply a male chauvinist, which was not an uncommon role in his society (Skaggs 88). Chopin was trying to address society as a whole, while the movie turns Leonce into the bully. Only the scenes where Leonce is angry with Edna are shown, leaving out his confusion and concern for her. The movie shows Leonce scolding Edna for neglecting the children, demanding her to come inside instead of sleep in the hammock, and becoming angry with her when he finds she has skipped her reception day. It does not show his genuine concern for her which he confides to his doctor or his confusion over her behavior. By creating a villain in Leonce, the movie misses the point Chopin was trying to address about her society in general.
Another aspect of the movie that falls short of Chopin's novel is the relatio...
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...dunes, and sunsets do not make up for the movie, but they help reduce the feeling that watching this movie was the biggest waste of time in the viewer's whole life. The People reviewer says, "Watch it with the sound off." ("Grand Isle" 13)
Any time a literary work is turned into a movie, the producers have a difficult task to make the movie as good as the novel. Grand Isle's producers, Turner Pictures and Kelly McGillis, failed miserably. Their dominant error was that they missed everything Kate Chopin was trying to say about her society and human nature in the novel. They twisted the story into a story of an affair, as opposed to a story of one woman's self-discovering journey.
Chopin, Kate. The Awakening. New York: Bantam, 1889.
"Grand Isle," People Weekly 13 Jul. 1992.
Skaggs, Peggy. Kate Chopin. Boston: Twayne, 1985.
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