Summer Reading List: 10 Upcoming Adaptations

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Bookworms, rejoice. As we look forward to a safe return to movie theatres in the near future, let’s plan our summer reading list accordingly. The upcoming release schedule has a number of notable film adaptations. This means that read-the-book-before-seeing-the-movie-nerds like myself have lots to devour for the year ahead. Let’s crack the spine on a good book and get excited for some movies.

Last year’s list actually has several films that were doubly delayed due to the extended lockdowns and production freezes. Add DuneNightmare Alley, and Scarborough to your summer reading list if some of these books don’t tickle your fancy.

Here are ten upcoming film adaptations to beef up your summer reading list before theatres reopen.

The Last Duel by Eric Jager

Could 2021 finally be Ridley Scott’s year for Best Director? The Gladiator nominee returns to the world of hot-blooded historical films with The Last Duel. The film recounts the bizarre true story of an epic duel between knight Jean de Carrouges (Matt Damon) and squire Jacques Le Gris (Adam Driver). When de Carrouges’ wife, Marguerite (Jodie Comer) accuses Le Gris of a violent rape, and no evidence can determine the she said/he said case, a judge orders the mystery solved via trial by combat. The ruse? The men must duel to the death, assuming that God’s hand will guide the virtuous party. The kicker? If Jean loses, Marguerite dies too with under decry that the whole thing’s a lie caused by her wickedness.
The book leaves no ambiguity to what happened, but the case truly captivates as it culminates in the 1386 duel. The nasty and barbarous affair makes clear why it was the final trial of its kind. In perhaps the most novel screenwriting team ever, moreover, Damon reunites Ben Affleck while Nicole Holofcener’s rewrite adds a feminist perspective. The Last Duel is the Ridley Scott/Nicole Holofcener action movie we’ve all been waiting for, baby!
The Last Duel is set for release October 16.

The Stars at Noon by Denis Johnson

Claire Denis adapts this meditative novel about a young journalist navigating a web of lies during the 1984 Nicaraguan Revolution. The story puts Denis back in White Material territory with a hint of Bastards. Johnson’s book is a simmering thriller with conflicts amplified by colonial tensions. The Stars at Noon promises a sweaty and sexy kind of thriller-that-doesn’t-thrill as most of the book sees the unnamed journalist holed up in seedy motels with a shady Englishman. This book reads the way Denis shoots: unsentimental, yet poetic in its directness. The film will rely heavily on the heat provided by stars Margaret Qualley and Robert Pattinson, but Denis does this is kind of material well. It’s a tale of simmering moments amid an atmosphere of free-flowing unease.
The Stars at Noon is in production. A24 has North American distribution rights.

The Power of the Dog by Thomas Savage

From the first paragraph, I knew this book suited Jane Campion. Dog begins by describing a bull’s castration in graphic detail. The figurative castration that follows in the subsequent chapters, moreover, is right up her alley. The book tells of two brothers, George and Phil, whose simple ranch life is disrupted when George, the younger and meeker sibling, gets married. He invites his new wife and her teenage son to the ranch and they (naturally) clash with the boorish Phil. The Power of the Dog promises a juicy part for Benedict Cumberbatch, while Jesse Plemons is perfectly cast and Kirsten Dunst should have a chance to shine as Rose, George’s wife who struggles to adjust to domestic life and Phil’s domineering ways. This book is a thoughtful, meditative cross between a western and a domestic drama with rich characters and no-bullshit prose.
The Power of the Dog will be released by Netflix this year.

House of Gucci by Sarah Gay Forden

The glamour! The greed! The murder! The madness! Things get awfully Shakespearean in The House of Gucci. This captivating take on the fashion family dynasty has it all and should be atop every cinephile’s summer reading list. Sarah Gay Forden’s impeccably well-researched and highly readable book recounts the Gucci family’s dramatic rise and fall. There’s backstabbing galore as the Italian clan becomes consumed by the power that popular shoes and chic bags bring.

House of Gucci makes this year a double header for director Ridley Scott, too, as he follows the historical drama The Last Duel with this scintillating tale. The film has a stacked cast with Adam Drivers as the ill-fated Maurizio Gucci, Lady Gaga as his jilted wife, Patrizia, and Al Pacino and Jared Leto among the Gucci clan. The film should be quite different from the book, however, with early reports that the story will be told from Patrizia’s perspective and Lady Gaga narrating.

Set for a November 24 release. Variety recently reported that House of Gucci will not be ready for Venice, so don’t be shocked if it’s not at TIFF too. But that means there’s plenty of time to read it over the summer. It pairs spectacularly with a negroni!

Read Pat Mullen's full list here: