I did it!
I actually went to the movie theater, got some popcorn, and watched a film based on a book I read recently. Curse = broken.
Now, for the reaction:
***If you have not read the book and/or seen the movie, this is your spoiler alert.***
The movie was good. It was. I laughed out loud, I could follow the storyline, and it ran fairly parallel to Matthew Quick’s novel. Cooper, De Niro, Lawrence, Weaver, and Tucker were all great. It was fun to see Julia Stiles in there, too, as Pat’s best friend’s wife, Veronica.
There were a ton of variances though, as there always are with these types of things, and I was eager to share these with my husband who tagged along. Unfortunately, he hasn’t read the book, so my occasional, feverish whispering in his ear meant nothing to him.
– I noticed that they didn’t make Pat as much of a slave to his physical fitness in the film. I liked this element of the book, because it offered rhythm and repetition and lent a lot to Pat’s character and the way his mind worked after being in the “bad place.” Pat still ran a lot in the movie, with his trash bag of course, but it wasn’t as obsessive. I think this detracted from the character profile.
– The song: There’s this song that sends Pat spiraling out of control. It played at his wedding and also when he discovered his wife having an affair leading to a violent attack. In the book, it’s Kenny G! It’s tragic, but it’s really funny! The way he talks about the “sexy synthesizer chords” and the “evil bright soprano saxophone” and has to hum a note and count to ten when he hears or thinks of the song is a great detail that teeters precariously between hysterical and depressing (p. 12). There is even a chapter, “I Fear Him More Than Any Other Human Being,” where Pat’s character falls into a weird, dream-like confrontation with Kenny G himself that results in his parents trying to help/restrain Pat and turns into a fight (p. 34-37). Maybe Kenny G wouldn’t agree to it when the producers approached him. But that’s a shame, because I missed this detail in the movie.
– The timeframe: In the book, Pat believes he was in the “bad place” for a short, eight month stint. They mirror this in the movie. However, the book delivers a plot twist when it’s discovered that Pat was actually in the mental institution for about four years. This is huge. He realizes everything has drastically changed. Why did they choose to leave this out? When I told my husband, even he said “That’s a really big twist to leave out of the movie.” I agree. It also helps to set up the situation with Pat’s ex-wife, Nikki, who has remarried and has children. This, too, is not in the movie. No, they decide that Pat should actually come face to face with his estranged wife at the dance competition. She is no longer a character we hold at arm’s length, because she is thrust upon us.
– This brings me to the dance competition itself. Tiffany and Pat’s training leading up to the competition is cleverly written. Pat, who believes his life is a movie, even does a “Movie Montage” to explain it. He chooses this method saying “In the Rocky movies, it only takes a few minutes to cover weeks of training, and yet the audience still understands that a lot of preparation went into the actual development of Rocky’s boxing skills, even though we only get to see a few clips of the Italian Stallion working hard” (p. 190). The next pages are filled with, you guessed it, short clips that had me laughing as Pat and Tiffany dance and run, Pat exercises, his family and friends try to get it out of him what he’s up to, and we get more of that repetition and rhythm that seems to be comforting to Pat.
In another twist, the competition turns out to be just a volunteer participation event where Pat finds that he and Tiffany are dancing alongside a bunch of teenage girls. Tiffany and Pat perform their epic dance routine to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (um, hysterical), and from the way the narrator relates it, they are really good. Whereas in the film, the competition is definitely a competition, and Pat and Tiffany are competing against professional dancers. They do badly for the most part but are excited for their score, because they win the parlay Pat’s dad had with a buddy. This is definitely funny in the movie, but I feel the original version of events is far more entertaining and humorous. Oh, well.
– The letters between Pat and Nikki (really written by Tiffany) did not get enough attention in the film either. Neither did Pat’s huge disappointment when it all falls to pieces.
– For fear of droning on and on, I will end with the fact that there was a bit too much weeping in the movie. In the book, Pat’s mom literally breaks down at every silly little thing. This shows the weight her character has been carrying and also lends comic relief to the story. In the movie though, I felt like they focused too much on the sentimental scenes. The basis of the story is sad, yes, but overall it’s funny and uplifting. They went Hollywood by putting more emphasis on the touching moments in the movie.
And that’s that. I broke my bad habit of leaving movies unseen and now have a greater appreciation for this novel and its movie adaptation. I did need to pick it apart a bit, but now that I’ve done it I can relax. I would also like to add a big congratulations to the film and cast for all the awards won. You know, because Jennifer Lawrence or Bradley Cooper may read this.