I love books. I love movies. And there's a lot of overlap in that. In screenwriting class, I was taught that generally speaking, a good novel makes a bad movie, and a bad novel makes a good movie. I saw the movie This Is Where I Leave You yesterday. I thought it was good. So what does that mean for the book?
I read the book last week, wanting to get that done before the movie opened. It's been awhile since I specifically set out to read a book and see the movie of it at the relatively same time, so I thought it would be an interesting exercise.
I liked the book. Jonathan Tropper does a good job of taking on that male middle-aged angst where the main guy character tries to figure out his relationship, thinks a lot about sex, and describes at least once the radiating pain of getting hit in the groin. I liked Judd okay, and I liked his family. I could see where that particular mix of people could cause some dysfunction, but they seemed pretty normal and maybe even likable under normal circumstances. Aside from a nagging fear that I almost became the strange and neurotic high school girlfriend, aka "the girl who never left," and a growing irritation with the dream sequences (which I almost never like in fiction), I found the book enjoyable and even had some moments reading in my cubicle at work when I clamped my hand over my mouth to keep from laughing out loud.
The movie, however, was so much better. Gone were the dream sequences and Judd's constantly imagining himself falling in love and building a new life with every woman who sauntered past. Added were the marvelous voices of Tina Fey, Jason Bateman, and Jane Fonda, who took a okay story and elevated it to darn good. All the best scenes were still there, made better by the watchful eyes of the movie ratings board and the knowledge that conservatives will only let you get away with so much. You left the movie feeling that nothing was missing from the story and that while there was some predictability to it (which I think is one of the reasons we like movies so much and use them to escape the messy unpredictability of real life), it didn't feel to me like it was too obvious. There were some nice surprises. There were some funny moments. There was a real love in the family.
Overall, I'm glad I did this. I had a good time with the book and the movie. Like I said, it's been awhile since I've done that, and I was glad for the exercise. But if you were to ask me for a recommendation, I'd say to watch the movie and don't waste your time with the book. Two hours are enough with these characters. It will be two good hours, but still, it's enough.