I liked the heck out of this book when I read it some four years ago for my old book club. I loved Tropper’s voice and the humility he gave to these dysfunctional characters.
When I heard it was going to be made into a film I was pleased and even more so when the cast of actors slated to play these quirky characters were chosen. Jason Bateman, well I just love him and he was the perfect Judd, but the scene stealer (IMO) was played by Adam Driver who embodied the wild, carefree yet sensitive younger brother Phillip.
While attending BEA this year, there was an event on my last night featuring some of the cast, the director and Jonathan Tropper and I made sure to attend. Of course Tina Fey and Jason Bateman were as adorable and witty as one would imagine but I took away something more important talked about by Tropper. He is both a movie aficionado as well as a writer and he explained how he goes into a movie adaptation with a different mind set. He doesn’t compare the two. He looks at them as separate works of art because they truly are. We hear a lot about how movies are never as good as the book and sometimes that is true, but to what extent? Movies, theater, film, television shows can never tap into what a reader brings to the story. That is definite. But sometimes what is on the page can’t be translated to the screen. Modifications have to be made and actors also bring their own personality to these invented characters. It completely changed how I watch film and television adaptations.
So back to the review. I liked the movie. It covered the gamut of emotions that the book explored. I found myself laughing out loud, cringing and getting misty eyed at some of the more poignant parts. I don’t remember the book being as vulgar and I am not one easily offended by crass and the profane but there was A LOT in the movie. Maybe I was slightly uncomfortable because I was sitting behind four elderly women and they didn’t laugh out loud as much as I did.
Several viewers on the web have expressed that they felt the movie “tried too hard” for the laughs and I can see their point but the overall story was executed beautifully. Maybe part of the feeling that the movie was working too hard was because of the number of strong personalities on screen. You have Fey and Bateman vying for laughs and tears as well as Jane Fonda, Adam Driver, Connie Britton, Dax Shepard and let’s not forget Timothy Olyphant as the endearing neighbor Horry. I love Horry! And the “boner” jokes about Rabbi Grodner did get a little old. Overall, it felt as though the story went by too fast. We spend hours and days devouring a novel, going through the range of emotions, and with a movie it’s over in about two hours.
So, my final vote? Enjoy both! Nothing comes close to the experience of reading a book for the first time. And Jonathan Tropper is one of the few male authors who I really enjoy hearing from. His perspective on life, his humor, a look into the male psyche and his heartfelt love for family despite their screw-ups.