Wild Thing: The best movie adaptations of books by free-spirited women
Eve Babitz is having a bit of a moment right now. If you don’t know who that is, you need to go and have a word with yourself and also we can’t be friends anymore. The iconic L.A. writer and it-girl of the 70s is enjoying a career resurgence thanks to all the millennial women drawing inspiration from her work and the adaptation of her beloved coming-of-age memoir L.A. Woman, which is currently being developed by Hulu.
Babitz is an icon of sexual liberation and cherished for her raw approach to revelatory writing, full of free-spirited anecdotes and observations that still ring true to this day. In tribute to Babitz, her free spirit, and the upcoming adaptation of L.A. Woman, here are eight movie adaptations of books by and about free-spirited women, ranked from worst to best.
8. Hideous Kinky (1998)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 65%
Starring Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) as one of those rich hippie moms you sometimes see complaining about the size of the avocados at the local Wholefoods, Hideous Kinky is a film adaptation of Esther Freud’s biographical novel of her very privileged adventure to Morocco.
Dragging her poor suffering daughters along for the ride in the name of “freedom”, Hideous Kinky is peak “white woman visits exotic land” cinema. At the very least Morocco looks very beautiful, even if the rest of the film is actually hideous.
7. Out of Africa (1985)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 59%
Yet another movie about a rich white lady on the hunt for some personal growth, Out of Africa chronicles Karen Blixen’s experiences in Kenya during the last decades of the British Empire. Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada) portrays the plantation owner who was celebrated for her fighting spirit and the respect she managed to cultivate from the powerful men around her, but it’s possibly one of the most white feminist movies ever made.
6. Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 62%
Starring Diane Lane (Unfaithful) as a recently divorced woman who impulse buys a decrepit Tuscan villa while on a solo vacation in Audrey Wells’s adaptation of the 1996 memoir by Frances Mayes. Grey’s Anatomy alums Sandra Oh and Kate Walsh play the besties back in America lapping up their friend’s crazy story, which offers one of the best encouragements for women to do whatever the fuck they like, whenever they like.
5. Girl, Interrupted (1999)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 58%
Susanna Kaysen’s book upon which the film is based revolves more around the lead character’s struggle with mental health, while the movie sees Winona Ryder (Stranger Things) depicting the character more as someone mistakenly institutionalized because of her free spirit.
Regardless, the movie provides an interesting subversion of what it means to be a free-spirited woman and how society can sometimes find harrowing ways to trample that spirit down. Girl, Interrupted showcases a fiery battle against such oppression and spotlights the liberation of wellness.
4. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 77%
This movie is important, okay? Sure, it’s really corny and the idea that one pair of jeans can survive an entire dramatic summer in the possession of four very differently sized young women is pushing it, but if you want a movie about free-spirited young women, it’s this one.
Starring America Ferrera (Ugly Betty), Blake Lively (Gossip Girl), Alexis Bledel (Gilmore Girls), and Amber Tamblyn (127 Hours) as four besties supporting each other through monumental changes, all four characters display such magnificent growth and joyful reckless abandon throughout the film (based on Ann Brashares book) that it’s still inspiring to watch as an adult.
3. How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 49%
Terry McMillan’s bestselling autobiographical novel chronicling her renewed sense of life discovered while vacationing in Jamaica was brought to the big screen by Kevin Rodney Sullivan (Guess Who). Angela Bassett (Contact) depicts the titular character – a recently divorced 40-year-old – with boundless energy, Whoopi Goldberg (The Color Purple) plays her vivacious bestie, and Taye Diggs (House on Haunted Hill) plays the stupidly sexy 20-year-old she gets that groove back with.
2. Eat Pray Love (2010)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 36%
Based on Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir, Ryan Murphy’s adaptation stars Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman) on a quest of self-discovery (and eating, praying, and loving too) across Italy, India, and Bali after her marriage and career hit the shitter. She has a great time and manages to retrieve her life from the garbage can of the universe in the process.
1. Wild (2014)
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 90%
The book and movie that inspired women everywhere to buy some hiking shoes and go backpacking (so much so that Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life even dedicated a whole tribute to it), Jean-Marc Vallée’s inspiring adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s hit novel will make you want to get out there and find yourself. Especially because Reese Witherspoon (Big Little Lies) makes it look so cool, effortless, and fun.