Book vs. Movie: Face off!

February 13, 2011 § Leave a comment

Obviously books and movies are mortal enemies. If a book and a movie could get in a fight, it would probably look like this, right?

From the Boston Examiner.

I’m not so certain. Sure, we’ve all had a conversation like this at some point:

Person A: “No way, the book was way better!”

Person B: “I don’t know, I thought the book was boring. But man, that Keanu Reeves…”*

Person C: “Wait, that was based on a book? What are we talking about?”

But I don’t think every situation is cut and dried. I happen to love movies almost as much as I love books, so my preferences end up all over the place. Still, I thought it would be a cool idea to compare book-to-movie adaptations from time to time, and hopefully to incite some motivation for y’all to get out and decide for yourselves. Today’s contender?¬† Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake.

Accuracy rating: how close to the book is the movie?: 8-ish. The movie remains true to the aesthetic, tone, and story line of the book, but some story lines are condensed or switched up a bit to keep the film from dragging.

What’s good about the book:

1. Jhumpa Lahiri’s writing style. She’s one of those magician-type writers who has the ability to engross you so thoroughly from page one that you don’t even notice when you’re fifty pages in and are late for a class (totally never happened to me).

2. The story. Yes, I realize how vague that is. Let me elaborate: the story jumps back and forth between the perspective of a set of parents who are first-generation Bengali-Americans and their two children, who grow up only in America and become conflicted–and sometimes strained–in their acceptance of their parents’ culture. It is effortless enough to jump back from India to America over the course of almost thirty years and never feel clunky or forced, which is saying something.

3. The honesty. I’ve read a lot of Lahiri’s other work, so I can say with a fair amount of confidence that she doesn’t sugar-coat things in her stories–and it adds to the suspense and the accessibility of the story immensely. Sometimes books, even good ones, fall into certain patterns so that it’s pretty easy to predict how it’s going to end. I really had no idea what was going to happen until it happened, which is a feat in and of itself but especially in contemporary literary fiction.

What’s good about the movie:

1. The visuals. Not that Lahiri needs any help bringing her book to life, but the way the movie looked onscreen really brought out the essence of the book. The way the camera catches light an angles really keeps all eyes on the screen. The visuals emanate the feel of the book very well. And it’s just so colorful! Just look at the DVD box!

2. The score. There’s a real hodgepodge of music in this film, and it totally works. Anybody who’s a music lover will appreciate the way the filmmakers didn’t just go for the obvious here–there’s real creativity and meaning behind each song that’s chosen.

3. Kal Penn. Okay, I’ve never seen “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle”, so maybe my image of him isn’t tainted, but I find him positively dreamy in this movie. And I only half mean that in the gushing-teenage-girl way. The other half is because I really think the character Penn plays in this movie, Gogol, is kind of dreamy, cloudy guy in his own way, and Penn really captures that.

So, book or movie? I really think it’s a draw in this case. I equally enjoyed the book and the movie because the film makers did a good job of making their product a compliment to the book instead of trying to railroad it or recoiling from it. I’d recommend them both, but read the book first because I want you to get hooked on Jhumpa Lahiri.

*First actor that popped into my head. Random, yes?

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