Book to Film Fail

May 5, 2012 at 11:44 pm (Reviews) (, , , , , )

Remember my Water for Elephants review? I loved the book.  It was wonderful.  Read it in one day, and thought it was lovely.  It was lovely in a raw and gritty circus animal way.  At the end of my review I let you all know that I hadn’t seen the movie, but I’d let you know what I thought of it when I did.  Well, now I’ve seen it and I’m royally disappointed.

It’s too clean.

The set looks clean, the characters are too clean.  The magic of the gritty circus look is absolutely missing.  I love Reese Witherspoon to death, but she was utterly wrong for the role of Marlena.  Her acting is always impeccably perfect, but to no fault of her own she’s too blonde, too beautiful, and too old for the role.  Vampire Boy/ Cedric Diggory/ Robert whats-his-face is entirely the wrong look as well.  He should be a red head, couldn’t they have dyed his hair? Even the midget is too pretty of a midget.  And the character that gets the Jakes should have looked a little more like Dopey from the 7 Dwarfs… no one looks their part.  The train is too clean, the tents are too clean.  Where are the dust bowls? Where’s the Depression?

In addition to all this clean-ness, the cinematography is too crisp.  But not in a new movie way, its crisp like I’m watching an afternoon soap opera, or someone’s home movie.  Everything is so bright, in the book I imagined the circus being a small series of twinkles in a long road of darkness.

The structure and mood of the movie is nothing of that of the book.  If you’ve read the book, you remember the opening? The scene that sets up the premise for all that is to come – the scene that makes you want to read the rest of the book in the first place?  That scene is completely omitted from the opening of the film.  What’s so depressing about that is that they filmed it! You see it at the end! Why didn’t they edit it so that it matched the genius of the bookend style that Sara Gruen so brilliantly wrote?

As the last scene closes, my best friend, who waited to watch the movie with me because we both loved the book so much says, “That was lame.”

The movie had no umph.

Permalink 6 Comments

Why I Loathe Rating Things With Stars

May 5, 2012 at 2:44 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , )

A Review of Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

I’ve been a voracious reader my entire life and I’ve always loved the classics.  So it didn’t surprise me at all years ago when my AP English teacher handed me the semester syllabus  with a list of titles to read and I unwisely blurted “I’ve already read them all,” with disappointment.  He said “Fine” and later supplied me with a new list, all contemporary award winners I’d never heard of, including Snow Falling on Cedars.

I read it.  I re-read it.  I couldn’t figure out why I hated it, and why I wanted to read it again.

Until now, when watching the movie, which is, amazingly, incredibly accurate from what I remember of the book – scene for scene.

At my core I am a romantic and idealist.  I love forbidden marriages, truly and unhypocritically, as I am in one.  I love childhood sweethearts, best friends, having secret adventures in the woods and on the seashore.  I’ve been in love with my husband since I was fourteen, have now known him half my life, and am raising a beautiful daughter with him.

What I hate? That Hatsue doesn’t marry Ishmael.  That she willingly chooses another, after giving herself to Ishmael like a little slut in the woods.  What is a beautifully written piece of timeless literature, becomes an irritating anti-love story to me, until it becomes the ultimate love story by him saving her husband anyway.  Poor Ishmael! Why did she not marry him? There’s so many reasons, so many.  I cannot mar the merit of Guterson’s work, it is so well done.  But I hate him for falling short in my ideally romantic heart.  I cannot comprehend giving myself so fully to my best friend and then saying No to his marriage proposal for some loyalty to culture.

I remember that somewhere I’ve rated this book with 2 stars.  2, just 2.  But –

I haven’t read this book in over ten years and still it resonates with me.  Even prior to watching the movie, I could recall various parts of the book in extreme detail, it’s actually why I chose to watch the movie this week.  I knew I was in the mood for it.  Now, with the movie so fresh in my mind, I think I should re-read it soon.  The story is brilliant, and true to what I imagine life was like then.  But I will always hate Hatsue a little more than I should, because Ishmael is one of the most beautiful human beings ever written and though it unfair to ask every character to behave as I would – I would have married him and lvoed him ’til the day I died.

So truth? I think I love Snow Falling on Cedars.  I love it with a hateful indescribable passion.  I hate Hatsue for being weak.  I hate the United States for putting the Japanese into camps.  I hate Kabuo for being so easy to love.  I even hate Ishmael for being as Anne Elliot describes in Austen’s Persuasion, one of those who “love longest, when all hope is gone.”  I hate it because I long to re-read it and every time I do I bawl like a baby, because every time I expect it all to be different.

I have a hard time rating things with stars.  My initial shelfari review, where I gave it 2 stars, stated:

I didn’t like it is too strong a phrase, and I liked it also too strong.  But I am committed to re-reading it eventually to see if my opinion has changed since I read it for school at seventeen.  At the time, I found it awkward and sad.  I do remember enjoying his descriptions, it was the storyline itself I was unsatisfied with.

Unclear, vague, and starless.  But the book stays with you for so long, so how can I rate it badly?  In all honesty, I can’t.  Not anymore.  I feel compelled to change the stars to 5, but tomorrow I’ll only want to give it 3.  This is why I prefer to read full reviews, and not rely on stars.  This is why I prefer conversations, rather than one-lined opinions.

David Guterson, if you read this, you are a brilliant writer.  And I have a love/hate relationship with your book.

P.S. I adore Ethan Hawke, who plays Ishmael Chambers in the movie made in 1999.  He is also an author, and I enjoyed his novel The Hottest State.  I also have a copy of his book Ash Wednesday, but have never read it.  If anyone is interested in reading it with me, let me know.  I am also interested in reading Guterson’s book on homeschooling, because apparently he has one, and any other book by him.

Permalink 6 Comments

The Lovely Bones

January 24, 2010 at 8:13 pm (Reviews, The Whim) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

I read this book a few years ago, actually, but with it being so wildly popular again I realized I never wrote a review.

The Lovely Bones is a bit tragic, terrible in its opening rape and murder, hazy with a metaphysical view of heaven, and sad as the family surviving the deceased fourteen year old attempt to function with one less person in the household.  Its beautifully written despite its harsh plot points and terrifying point of view, but reading Alice Sebold’s memoir Lucky will help you understand her approach to the story.  I highly recommend for 14-18 year old girls to read as a warning to pay attention to what’s going on around you and that the wise choices in life are not always polite nor do they quench certain curiosities.
Buy The Lovely Bones

Permalink Leave a Comment

Unexpected Gem

December 18, 2009 at 4:31 am (Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

The Reader by Bernhard Schlink

The Reader is a touching coming of age novel that reads like a  memoir.  Reminiscent of McEwan’s Atonement in its themes of shame and intense raw humanity, Schlink constantly begs the question from his characters and his readers: “What would you have done?”  The humility of illiteracy, ignorance, and confinement brought tears to my eyes.  I found The Reader to be an unexpected gem.

Purchase The Reader

Permalink Leave a Comment