What Are Critics’ Favorite “Chick Lit” Film Adaptations?


“Chick lit” can be a loaded term — just ask Jennifer Egan. But it also provides an easy (if admittedly dated) shorthand for a category of fiction written for a female audience about the female experience. Today, when a film adaptation of Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help arrives in theaters, it joins a long line of best-selling books that Hollywood producers have snatched up, hoping to capture that allegedly elusive lady demographic. Judging by its current 83% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, it is also poised to join a much shorter list of chick lit film adaptations that were a hit with critics. Click through as we revisit some previous examples, starting with the best (The Bridges of Madison County) and ending with the worst (The First Wives Club), and let us know in the comments if you agree with the critics’ rankings.

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

Based on: The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller Critics’ response: 90% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes

“In a medley of bold and subtle gestures, [Meryl] Streep tells Francesca’s plaintive story,” Richard Corliss wrote in his review for TIME. “Through the actress’s effort and her director’s generosity, this book about an irresistible man becomes a movie about a remarkable woman. Madison County is [Clint] Eastwood’s gift to women: to Francesca, to all the girls he’s loved before-and to Streep, who alchemizes literary mawkishness into intelligent movie passion.

Terms of Endearment (1983)

Based on: Terms of Endearment by Larry McMurtry Critics’ response: 89% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes

Roger Ebert’s take? “The most remarkable achievement of Terms of Endearment, which is filled with great achievements, is its ability to find the balance between the funny and the sad, between moments of deep truth and other moments of high ridiculousness. A lesser movie would have had trouble moving between the extremes that are visited by this film, but because Terms of Endearment understands its characters and loves them, we never have a moment’s doubt: What happens next is supposed to happen. because life’s like that.”

The Joy Luck Club (1993)

Based on: The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan Critics’ response: 84% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes

“Tan’s book is so uniquely satisfying that you root for this two hour-plus film, with a script by Tan and Ron Bass (Rain Man), to match it,” wrote Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. “Four different actresses play the aunties in their youth, which sometimes keeps us struggling to keep the stories straight,” That we do is a tribute to the power of Tan’s theme about the miscommunication that separates one generation from another.”

Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)

Based on: Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe by Fannie Flagg Critics’ response: 83% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes

“In Fannie Flagg’s novel Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe, Idgie and Ruth shared a love that dares not speak its name,” Washington Post critic Rita Kempley wrote. “But in this movie by Risky Business producer Jon Avnet, they are not lesbians, just really, really good friends. And Idgie just happens to be fond of brogans… Avnet, who wrote the adaptation with Flagg, doubtless played it safe in turning the story into a parable of platonic devotion. And in doing so, he might also have assured the movie’s stars the wider audience they deserve.”

Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001)

Based on: Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding Critics’ response: 80% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes

Bridget Jones the movie is a recognizable version of the book; it’s simply a much smarter one. [Helen] Fielding, [Andrew] Davies and [Richard] Curtis had the good sense to downplay the novel’s cutesiest and most annoying elements — the obsessively endless references to Bridget’s calorie counting, for instance, and the book’s trademark but gimmicky use of Bridgetisms like ‘v. v. good,'” explained Stephanie Zacharek at Salon. “The film preserves one significant and enjoyable element from the book: It’s clear Bridget is a girl who unapologetically enjoys sex.”

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Based on: The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger Critics’ response: 76% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes

The Devil Wears Prada tells a familiar story, and it never goes much below the surface of what it has to tell,” said David Denby in The New Yorker. “Still, what a surface! Bright and crisp and funny, the movie turns dish into art — or, if not quite into art, then at least into the kind of dazzling commercial entertainment that Hollywood, in the days of George Cukor or Stanley Donen, used to turn out.”

In Her Shoes (2005)

Based on: In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner Critics’ response: 75% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes

“I think one reason this movie is so appealing is that it’s the anti–Sex and the City — its earnestness and relative lack of rank bawdiness or cynicism seem novel in the present pop-culture atmosphere,” wrote New York Magazine’s Ken Tucker. “Beyond that, though, there’s the unconscious pleasure a moviegoer gets when you’re in thrall to a filmmaker who’s working at such a high yet unpretentious level.”

The Notebook (2004)

Based on: The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks Critics’ response: 52% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes

The Notebook may be one hundred percent sap, but its spirit is anything but cloying, thanks to persuasive performances, most notably from Rachel McAdams,” wrote Desson Thomson at The Washington Post. “As Allie Hamilton, whose passionate heart becomes the movie’s powerful fulcrum, she almost makes you forget what you’re swallowing.”

How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)

Based on: How Stella Got Her Groove Back by Terry McMillan Critics’ response: 49% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes

Said Stephen Holden at The New York Times : “The movie, adapted by Terry McMillan from her semi-autobiographical novel, is pointedly boundary-breaking in its positive portrayal of a May-September relationship between a younger man and an older woman. And while it presents the rosiest possible view of such a relationship, it doesn’t completely shy away from the downside. ”

The First Wives Club (1996)

Based on: The First Wives Club by Olivia Goldsmith Critics’ response: 41% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes

The First Wives Club freely overhauls the amusing beach book by Olivia Goldsmith, eliminating the sex, adding more slapstick and tailoring the leading roles to suit three divas in starring roles,” wrote Janet Maslin in The New York Times. “The best part of the film has the three women discovering their shared anger and bonding into the club of the title. Later on, less entertainingly, they open an office, sneak into one husband’s apartment and try out other tame tricks.”