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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.”

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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