Wednesday, February 26, 2014

In which my F2F book group goes to see Labor Day, the movie

If you hang around here much, you probably already know my F2F group was provided 10 copies of Labor Day by Joyce Maynard.  I had already received a copy from HarperCollins and read the book, by the time the offer arrived, so I left the choice of whether or not to accept the offer up to members.  I liked Labor Day (the book).  And, our F2F group discussion about Labor Day was a good one; in general, everyone enjoyed it, which is interesting because I've since read a few scathing reviews, one of which referred to the pie in my favorite scene (short version: "escaped prisoner teaches deeply depressed woman and her lonely son how to bake pie") as a metaphor for life when, personally, I think it was just a scene designed to show the escaped prisoner's humanity, but that's neither here nor there. Point being, we liked the book and the discussion was a good one.

HarperCollins also provided us with 10 tickets to the Labor Day movie, which our group leader handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis.  I don't know exactly how many people showed up but I'm guessing it was 20-25.  We had a huge turnout, which was fun in and of itself - just going with a group, sitting with someone I would not likely ever have attended a movie with otherwise and discussing in the hallway after the movie ended . . . that was a terrific experience.

So, what did we think of the movie?  To be honest, there was pretty much a collective groan as we exited and the most commonly used words were "fragmented" and "confusing".  But -- and this is an interesting distinction -- that was the opinion of those of us who read the book, which was most of us.  There seemed to be an advantage to not having read the book in advance of viewing the movie, which I find is often true for me; I can't speak for anyone else in that regard.  My typical mode is to watch the movie, read the book, then watch the movie, again (if I know a book is being made into a movie and I haven't already read the book, that is).  If you see the movie first, then you can read the book with a completely different perspective.  In my case, I like to see a story visually portrayed then go deeper by reading the book, which obviously gives you the internal side, elaborates on details movies often skim over, etc.  It's a kick comparing the two mediums.

Anyway . . . ramble, ramble.  After I'd gotten a general (mostly negative) reaction from most everyone, someone nudged me and said, "H liked it!"  H is a new member and she had only read part of the book. She reminded me that the acting was good (true - great actors, all around). H also said she thought Barry, the handicapped boy, was cute and his mother was just as annoying in the movie as she was in the book.  We both agreed that Henry, Adele's son, was a good little actor and they did nicely show how Adele and Henry's weekend with Frank left a lasting imprint on both their lives.  I was really glad to have a few moments to chat with H about her thoughts because she helped me to leave the theater thinking about the positives. It's easy to focus on the fragmented way the story was filmed and overlook its strong points.

Eventually I was emailed by our group leader with thoughts from a few people who viewed the movie at a later date and shared their thoughts.  The common denominator, again, seemed to be that those who had not read the book enjoyed the Labor Day movie more than those who did, even though pretty much everyone found the flashbacks confusing.  Some just didn't care, though, and enjoyed it for what it was.  I'm going to quote our group leader:

People who enjoyed the movie because of the story, the romance of it, the happy ending, the good actors, and were not bogged down in what we knew from the book didn't care about a few scenes that may not have made a lot of sense.  Just didn't matter enough to spoil their enjoyment.   

That's pretty much H's viewpoint.  So, good and bad.  I asked and everyone did enjoy the pie scene -- one of the scenes we were most looking forward to.

I later thought about the fact that in the movie Frank is more threatening in the store (where he doesn't so much ask as insist that Adele and Henry take him home) and on the car ride to their home, which struck me as a good choice because Adele's mental illness is clear in the book and -- although I think Kate Winslet did a knock-out job of portraying her fears -- I think it made sense to have Frank appear more threatening if you haven't read about just how seriously depressed and agoraphobic Adele was, beforehand.

Our thanks to HarperCollins for providing copies of Labor Day and movie tickets.  We really had a terrific time talking about the book, watching the movie and then discussing the movie.

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  1. I hate having books spoiled for me and yet I don't mind if a movie or TV show is spoiled, so I almost always prefer to read the book first. Sometimes though seeing a movie will interest me in reading a book I either didn't know about or didn't care about before. So, I do both.

    I am sorry you didn't like movie more. I thought it was okay. I do think this might have been a better movie to go into without having read the book. The acting was wonderful and I liked the overall story. I thought the movie captured the tone of the book quite well. I came away wishing Henry's character had more of a chance to develop in the same way it did in the book. And the flashbacks . . . That's one instance in the movie I'm glad to have had the background. They were confusing and not complete.

    1. I don't like having either spoiled, at times, but sometimes I don't care. Weird. Not sure what makes the difference but I'm glad I've figured out that it's not a problem to see a movie first then read the book, for me. I used to just not go to see movies based on books because I always came out saying, "They RUINED IT!" LOL You know how that feels.

      Oh, I thought it was okay. I just didn't like the fragmented feel. When I came out, I was surprised that the people who didn't read the book were the ones who were less critical but it makes sense in retrospect except, as you say, for the flashbacks. I'm surprised that even though people didn't get them, they just shrugged that bit off. So glad I got to talk to the group member who really liked it because she helped me to see the positives. I did think Kate Winslet really showed Adele's fear. I think that's one of the things I loved most about the movie.

  2. Something like this would be a blast for my f2f book club. That's cool that you got to experience that. I want to see this movie and then maybe read the book. Sometimes I just want the movie first.

    1. I think it would be really, really fun to do this a couple times a year, Jenny - just for the sake of hanging out with the book group in a different setting, if for no other reason. It was a blast. Didn't even matter that we didn't all adore the movie, you know?

      Definitely see the movie, first. That seems to work best. Then you can read and find out what the hell just happened, haha.

  3. I read the book in September 2009, so I think enough time has passed that I can probably see the movie (when it comes out on video) and be satisfied with the production. I'm sure I've forgotten enough details in the past 4+ years. ;)

    1. Yes, I think you'll be fine and may even have a slight advantage, when you get to it, Les. :)


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