Kubrick's film was a comedy of manners, such as 1962 permitted; I'm sure Stanley would have made it racier had the censor allowed, but instead (helped by Peter Sellers, James Mason and Sue Lyon) he made it very, very blackly funny, and his screenplay, which made Nabokov rather wince, is a serious achievement. (You can read Nabokov's own effort at adapting Lolita if you wish, because he published the thing separately as a matter of pride. But you wouldn't ever want to watch it...)
Some smart fellow once said that it's pointless to pretend you can 'film a book'; the best a filmmaker can do is come up with something that reminds one fondly of the source. Lyne's Lolita certainly accomplishes that. Watching it, I was frequently and happily put in mind of my first meeting with Nabokov's novel. When Lyne was doing junkets for his movie's release he was quick to confess that originally he had "read Lolita for all of the wrong reasons." Yeah yeah, you and everyone else, pal. Certainly as an adolescent I sought it out for its notoriety as a 'hot book' and instead, like a million others, was quietly stunned by one's first encounter with the high style of twentieth century English literature.
Of course, the book still describes sexual heat, and Lyne obviously couldn't resist visualising some of that, in his very own breathless fashion. But where his film most memorably refracts the novel is in its poignancy, its villain's creeping awareness of his terrible, unretractable sin. How bold and honourable was this Lolita to end on the note of Humbert Humbert's self-realising moment as the police cordon closes in on him while he stands on a hilltop, hearing the far-off sounds of children at play in a little hamlet snuggled in the valley below - knowing that, whatever feelings of 'love' he has professed for his stepdaughter, the truth is that he robbed her of her childhood, and her every chance of happiness in the bargain. Thus: "The hopelessly poignant thing was not Lolita's absence from my side, but the absence of her voice from that concord..."