“If you could remember every last time, you’d never stop grieving.”
Generally, I make an effort to read the book version of any story before seeing a film adaptation. In some cases this means I never actually see the film version like the time I got around to reading The Da Vinci Code and everyone had seen it and no one wanted to see it again because apparently I didn’t miss anything (Tom Hanks is still the best).
Last week (thanks to Penguin Canada) I won passes to see This is Where I Leave You two days before its official release, which was exciting even if it left me scrambling to find a copy of the book to motor through (success!). I liked the book, and in general was happy with the movie. I appreciated the jokes they added in,wept through multiple scenes, and was surprised at how much I bought Adam Driver as Phillip because I just couldn’t picture it while reading.
I try not to be too critical of movie adaptations. I realize it’s a different medium so not all the same storytelling devices will work and also sticking too close to the book can make a movie feel long and boring (sorry Harry Potter 1 & 2, this was your downfall). But I don’t like when the message of a story suddenly changes on film, a particularly egregious crime in He’s Just Not That Into You which I admittedly didn’t read and sadly did watch and wasn’t the whole point of the book that romcoms are fooling you and you’re not the exception to the rule so don’t try to trick yourself into believing you are but then the movie had the MOST typical romcom outcomes? Who approved this?!
Anyway, this is what I got from TIWILY the book: love is hard and doesn’t always last. The fact that Jen and Judd fell apart doesn’t diminish the depth of their relationship, or completely negate the possibility of rekindling it. Penny presents a very different alternative to Jen but you’re left not knowing what Judd wants, and neither does he so by the end he hasn’t made any life decisions. That will be in the sequel! (Just kidding.)
This is what I got from the movie: there is only one real way of being in love. Jen/Quinn and Judd only got married because that seemed like the thing to do even though they never really had that truly deep connection, something Judd CAN see himself having with Penny after a week of spending time with her while he’s in mourning for his father and his marriage. So even though he’s taking off to be alone and get himself together until his baby is born, he’ll call her in 9 months because for some reason when he’s a father he’ll also be able to begin a new relationship which frankly seems like a lot to deal with at once.
If I’d never read the book I would still like the movie, but I would roll my eyes at the obvious-ness of the ending because life is messier than that. Having read the book, I roll my eyes even more because come on, Jonathan Tropper set up a beautiful, fuzzy, messy, unsure ending and you ruined it with your romantic ice rink scenes you Hollywood people!
A similar thing happened in The Book Thief, one of my favourite novels which for some reason felt compelled to end the film with Rudy trying in death to say I love you, while the book offered a much more poignant and heartbreaking silence.
On a related note:
Great movie adaptations – Stardust, Lord of the Rings, does Hook count?
Terrible movie adaptations – Ella Enchanted. UGH. I don’t even need other examples. Worst ever.