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Carissa Green Reads

I read widely from many genres. Perhaps this blog will feature fewer ratings and reviews, but I certainly intend to write about my reading life - it's the subject I most find myself wanting to talk about.

Currently reading

The Gay Science: with a Prelude in Rhymes and an Appendix of Songs
Walter Kaufmann, Friedrich Nietzsche
A Kierkegaard Anthology
Robert W. Bretall
The Guns of August
Barbara W. Tuchman

Notes on Adaptation: This is Where I Leave You

This Is Where I Leave You - Jonathan Tropper

When novels are adapted to film, one naturally expects changes. Sometimes the altered details matter; other times, they are trivialities. Sometimes, those that seemingly are trivial still bug me to no end. 

 

Jonathan Tropper adapted his own novel, "This is Where I Leave You," into the screenplay for the film of the same name. Not surprisingly, it is a largely faithful adaptation. I consider most of the plot changes to be minor and largely sensible for the narrative of film. Giant swaths of Tropper's dialogue remains intact, which is mostly good. A few lines were more believable on paper and seemed forced or overly silly on screen.

 

My two biggest quibbles with the film: First, Adam Driver seemed to be in a completely different movie than anyone else. Yes, his character, Phillip, is the family's free spirit. But tonally his performance was so far in left field he couldn't even see the rest of the team. Second, the "wrap up" didn't quite work, especially with regard to the two female love interests for the main character. Film generally demands closure; the novel had the luxury of a more ambiguous ending. Strangely, the book and film end the same; it's actually a couple of the scenes leading up to the ending that don't quite cut it. 

 

But here's where my adaptation radar goes nuts: The Name Game. Several of the character names were changed from novel to screen, FOR NO APPARENT REASON. Most egregiously, the family name in question was "Foxman" in the novel and "Altman" on screen. Why? Second, the main character, Judd, is married to "Jen" in the novel and "Quinn" in the movie. I know Quinn is a super-popular name right now, but it made the character seem even more insipid than she actually was. And finally, Judd's sister-in-law is "Alice" in the novel, "Annie" on film. No reason. (But the filmmakers seemed to have no problem with using the unusual name "Horry" - not heard on screen since Patrick Swayze appeared in "North and South" - for one of the minor characters.)

 

This phenomenon is not unique to Tropper's novel (see also: "The Descendants" by Kaui Hart Hemmings). And my annoyance at it is not unique to this film. In adaptation, changes should make sense, not seem arbitrary. If I ask myself "Why change the names?" and there is no discernible answer, the reader in me is disappointed. Because what's the rule in Carissaland? "Always Read the Book First." 

 

-cg