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Dakota Johnson dressed in Victorian-era clothing with hands clasped in front
Dakota Johnson in “Persuasion.” (Image: Netflix)

Even Netflix sometimes makes mistakes. The streaming giant has given us plenty of excellent and unforgettable content over the years, but some of the adaptations Netflix has released have more than missed the mark. For these failed projects, the book was better than the movie! We discuss some of the biggest blunders in Netflix-adaptation history below.

‘Brain on Fire’ (2016)

 A sickly woman lies in a hospital bed with a bandage around her head
In “Brain on Fire,” this hospital patient hardly gets any rest. (Image: Netflix)

Based on the New York Times bestselling memoir of the same name by Susannah Cahalan, Netflix had its work cut out for it with this one but still let us down. The movie tells the story of a writer who begins experiencing abnormal symptoms, gets misdiagnosed, and is sent to the psych ward by mistake. We’ll learn she was suffering from a rare brain condition all along and not a psychiatric problem.

Despite the intriguing and original story, “Brain on Fire” fails our expectations in several ways. Chloë Grace Moretz delivers a disappointing performance as she seems to struggle with the complexities of her character. The movie also traffics in cinematic cliches and boring techniques. It’s no wonder the movie has only 13 percent on Rotten Tomatoes.

‘Death Note’ (2017)

A young man stares mysteriously into the distance while neon lights stand in the background
Nat Wolff delivers a strong performance in “Death Note.” (Image: Netflix)

Released in 2017, this Netflix live-action movie is loosely based on the Japanese manga of the same name. The movie follows a high school student who can kill just about anyone on his cross-list by writing down their name in an enchanted notebook.

A talented cast is not enough to save this production from failure. The movie is slow while also feeling rushed; it tries to package hundreds of years of mythology into just under 100 minutes. As of publication, “Death Note” suffers from a 37 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

‘Girlboss’ (2017)

A young woman walks into a party with a hopeful expression on her face
Sophia Marlowe could do it all — except deliver an entertaining comedy show. (Image: Netflix)

The title of this comedy series is a cruel twist of irony. Based on Sophia Amoruso’s bestselling book “#GIRLBOSS” about her once-successful clothing line, Nasty Gal, the series was marred by controversy from the beginning, with Amoruso filing for bankruptcy and being accused of discrimination.

Critics penned mostly unfavorable reviews of what they deemed an unlikable series, and Netflix canceled the show after just one season.

‘The Kissing Booth’ (2018)

Surrounded by people holding red solo cups, a girl plays video games while a boy cozies up next to her
“The Kissing Booth” could have been the high school movie of the decade. (Image: Netflix)

“The Kissing Booth” tells the story of a young forbidden love that threatens a life-long friendship. Inspired by Beth Reekles’ novels of the same name and with it-boy Jacob Elordi as part of the cast, this teen romantic comedy was highly anticipated but did not rise to the occasion.

Critics have taken issue with the strong language, underage drinking, and sexual references in the movie, particularly since it’s marketed to younger audiences. The movie misses the mark and doesn’t deliver the charm we expect from this kind of rom-com, and it’s certainly not the kind of movie that makes you reminisce fondly about young love.

‘Hillbilly Elegy’ (2020)

 An older woman with thick eyeglasses and curly hair stares in disbelief.
Glenn Close as Mamaw. (Image: Netflix)

Few books from recent years have made as much of a splash as “Hillbilly Elegy.” Written by J.D. Vance, who was elected as Ohio’s newest U.S. senator in November 2022, the book chronicles the history of communities across the Appalachian region, with an emphasis on understanding the socio-economic problems that inform their values. The book spent several weeks on numerous bestseller lists and was even hand-picked as a must-read by Oprah Winfrey.

The Netflix adaptation, however, did not live up to the hype. Glenn Close and Amy Adams are part of the star-studded cast, and they deliver strong performances in what is otherwise a dull production that relies on stereotypes and melodramatic effects. Many critics said the book was not very original or insightful to begin with, which perhaps explains the movie’s shortcomings.

‘Rebecca’ (2020)

A handsome man walks into a room with his hand on the waist of an equally beautiful woman
“Rebecca” features a very good-looking couple but little else. (Image: Netflix)

This romantic thriller might as well be a tragicomedy. Based on the 1938 novel of the same name by Daphne du Maurier, there is very little to like about “Rebecca.” The movie is about a young woman who marries an older widower and struggles with the legacy of his first wife, an enigmatic figure who died under mysterious circumstances and looms throughout the narrative.

The movie burns extremely slowly, to the point of being painfully boring — it’s exactly the kind of thing you watch in the background without paying attention to it. Watching Armie Hammer attempt a British accent is even worse, and that’s before we even get to the cannibalism allegations. The stage and costume designs, however, are strikingly beautiful.

‘Persuasion’ (2022)

A woman wearing a long, green dress playing with two young kids in a forest
Dakota Johnson plays the lead in “Persuasion.” (Image: Netflix)

This long-awaited adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion” is arguably one of the biggest letdowns in recent years. The storyline revolves around a woman and her former flame who reconnect eight years after separation. Presented with a second chance at love — and with their feelings as raw and intense as ever — the stakes could not be higher.

This production, however, was a royal disappointment for true Austen fans. The movie is significantly different from the book — so much so that the story on the screen is nearly unrecognizable from the pages of the celebrated novel. Deviating from the source material can sometimes make for a better movie, but that’s not the case here.

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