I know it may be difficult for some of you to understand, but there was a time when home entertainment wasn't on demand. When a movie left theaters, the only way you could watch something at home is when TV stations would air them. This would result in the film being edited for content or time. Think about it, there was no Internet so you couldn’t stream anything. There wasn’t even any DVDs, Blu-rays or VHS for that matter. The only way people were able to enjoy their favorite movies at their leisure was through novelizations.
When done right, the novelization should do more than just retell the movie. If that was the case, they would have just release the screenplay instead. The best ones gives readers the perspectives of each character. The ones I was most impressed with were Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Alien. It informed what each character was thinking and it brought new insight that wasn’t in the original film.
The Nice Guys is the latest action comedy from director/co-writer Shane Black. It follows the misadventures of a private eye Holland March (Ryan Gosling) and hired thug Jackson Healy (Russell Crowe) as they investigate the disappearance of a young girl. It has elements of being a hard-boiled crime caper mixed with a buddy-cop formula, only these two men were not on the side of the law.
The novelization of The Nice Guys follows the plot of the film pretty faithfully except they move the opening scene when a young kid discovers porn star Misty Mountains in his yard. The book starts with an older lady asking for Holland’s help in finding her niece. When reading it, I was happy when the narrative would switch viewpoints of different characters, sometimes during the same scene. There was one moment at an auto show that not only gave us Jackson's and Holland’s viewpoints, but also that of Holland’s daughter and the bad guys too. I was glad the book, like the movie, focused on the relationship of these characters rather than just on the mystery itself.
The book also gave me insights into Jackson that I never saw in the film. I learned that he was originally from New York but moved to California because it was either that or jail. His dad was stationed in the army and was never around much. Jackson talks about being in a fight the same way his dad was in a war, where each minute you’re alive is a blessing. I was disappointed that the novel never revealed any more about Holland’s life that the movie didn’t. I knew he lost his wife due to a leaky gas line in the house that he couldn't detect due to his loss of smell. His daughter Holly loved him but was getting annoyed at him drinking too much instead of working on fixing their home. I just wish it gave me some more info on his past the same way it did for Jackson.
The setting of the '70s worked better in the film because you could actually see all the references to that decade. The book acknowledges the era only at a few places, but it’s not important.
Writer Charles Ardai did a really good job at adapting the source material. If you have seen the movie before and want a different way to enjoy it, I would recommend picking up a copy. And if you haven't, the book works on its own, like one of those fun, pulp, crime paperbacks found at drug stores or airports.