No movie under six hours could have captured anywhere near the complexity and subplots of Pat Conroy's novel about life in a military academy. For that I was very forgiving about what what cut out, even painfully so. We see no flashbacks of the main characters first three years, there was almost nothing about his passion for basketball, and the love story could have been a movie in itself.
But things had to go, and rather than treat them badly, I have no resentment for what they left out. The movie does concentrate on some important things however, and for awhile, does it well. We see the often cruel treatment upperclassmen give underclassmen, and can see the reasoning why this seems to be necessary. It is the overriding theme of the book, and shows the givers and takers of the harrassment very well.
It also does tackle one of the important subplots, which is the treatment of the first black recruit to the academy. The way the recruit was treated is shown in all of it's frightening detail. David Keith, as the assigned mentor to the recruit, does his job perfectly here by not showing too much sympathy.
But then it all crashes down by trying to come up with a clean, Hollywood, more upbeat ending. The worst sin is the handling of the Pignatello character to make it much less tragic. To leave out what happens after the court martial is to take away one of the dramatic points of the story. With that said, the ending was also much too neat. The way it is handled fails to illustrate the parallel love-hate relationship the main character has with the academy.
This was far too personal a story to be glossed over like this, and I wish Pat Conroy had had more pull to get it done right. He should have chosen the Larry McMurtry route and got the story filmed as a mini-series.