- Movie Rating -

The Little Drummer Girl (1984)

| October 19, 1984

“The Little Drummer Girl” is the only book by John Le Carre that I have ever read all the way through, and it was a fascinating read although I’m not sure if it is indicative of his work is to build mass of complicated twists and turns that might frustrate the average screenwriter.  His work is difficult to adapt because of the complexities in the plots, the characters and the motivations.  That’s a problem here because the story has been pared down, the motivations are slim and the characters are less fleshed out.  This is Le Carre as if it were written to be a humorless Bond picture.  I have a problem with that.

Okay, admittedly, the problem with the movie may be my problem.  How does someone approach this film without having read the book?  It is hard to say.  I know that the book was a long read just as much as the movie is a long sit.  In order to make this story work, it needed to be either a television mini-series or broken into several parts like Star Wars.  The complexities of this story take time.

So here are the basics: Charlie is an American stage actress who has been performing in England who is not shy about her support of Palestine in the conflict with Israel, but she makes it known that she is in favor of consolation, not violence. 

Yet, through a series of motivations too complicated for the movie to carry them, the Zionists factions recruit her to work on a campaign that will reveal the identity of someone called “Khalil” who is known to be the perpetrator of a series of terrorist bombings of very important Jewish personnel.  These factions want Charlie first because she isn’t dedicated to either side and second because as an actress, she can work undercover.

Charlie reluctantly agrees largely because she is romantically involved with one of the people who is recruiting her.  So, the personal stakes get higher as she becomes more personally involved and she comes to realize what she is being asked to do.

This is a lot of information for the average audience member to keep up with, but in the book, we had time to get to know her, time to spend time with her and learn who she is personally.  The movie has to get to the facts quickly and drop of lot of information and a galaxy of supporting players on us and decipher who they are.  Maybe, possibly, it might be easier if you don’t know who the characters are and are coming to this film completely cold.  Maybe it might have worked better if the director George Roy Hill wasn’t racing to catch all of the book’s minor details.  Scaling this story down to its essence might not have been the best approach but it might have made for a less convoluted movie.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1984) View IMDB Filed in: Drama