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“There’s No Story In The Book!”: Six Films Adapted From Non-Narrative Nonfiction

“There’s No Story In The Book!”: Six Films Adapted From Non-Narrative Nonfiction (photo)

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“He’s Just Not That Into You” is a great title. Born from a “Sex in the City” episode, it’s adorned a bestseller (by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo) and as a phrase has quickly wormed its way into the lexicon. Now it’s got its own movie, too, opening this Friday and starring a slew of stars including Jennifer Aniston, Ben Affleck, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Connelly, Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson and Justin Long. What it does not have, at least in book form, is a story. “HJNTIY” is a dating advice book, a guide for women who can’t get it through their heads that the dude they’re interested in isn’t reciprocating. It’s long on helpful tips and sarcastic quips, but not necessarily on plot or character developments. That’s an extra-heavy burden for the film’s screenwriters, Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, who must fashion an entire story that can stand as its own entity while staying true to the spirit of the book it’s kinda-sorta adapting. But Kohn and Silverstein aren’t the first to tackle this challenge. Here’s a look at how six other sets of filmmakers removed the nons from non-narrative nonfiction.

02042009_HowtoSucceed.jpg“How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” (1967)

Written and directed by David Swift

Based on Shepherd Mead’s “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying”

“This book is all that I need!” J. Pierrepont Finch (David Morse) proclaims in the title number of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” That book, of course, is the book, “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” by Shepherd Mead, the inspiration for the Tony Award-winning musical and its cinematic adaptation. The play and movie’s conceit is that Finch, a rising star at the World Wide Wicket Company, comes by his success through strict adherence to the tenets of said book, a tongue-in-cheek how-to guide to climbing the corporate ladder (subtitled “The Dastard’s Guide to Fame and Fortune”). When in doubt, Finch reads from the book and a Voice of God narrator shares the lessons it imparts; the only guy at World Wide Wickets who even attempts to sabotage Finch’s plans is the only other guy in the place with a copy of Mead’s book. Mead fans in the audience will also notice how most of Frank Loesser’s lyrics to the title song are chapters in the book (“How to apply for a job!” / “How to advance from the mailroom!”). One question: Mead’s “How to Succeed” illustrates its points with imagined scenes featuring a young man named Pierrepont Finch. Shouldn’t Finch notice this incredible coincidence?

It’s Obvious This is Based on a Non-Narrative Nonfiction When… you realize that each song is designed to cover a different topic from the book. There’s one about mistreating your secretary, there’s one about doing things “the company way,” there’s one about how the advancement is dictated by familial or collegial (or sexual) connections, and so on.

02042009_everythingyouwante.jpg“Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* (But Were Afraid to Ask)” (1972)

Written and directed by Woody Allen

Based on David Reuben’s “Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask”

Dr. David Reuben wrote his 1969 question-and-answer guide to the world of sexual intercourse “simply to make available all the facts on the subject.” He was discouraged by the amount of ignorance in ordinary Americans about their own bodies. “A jet pilot propels his airliner through space at 600 miles per hour,” he wrote in the book’s introduction, “yet he cannot propel his own penis seven inches into a vagina.”


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.