30 May 2013

Anywhere but Here

Anywhere but Here 2001
  • Director: Wayne Wang
  • Based on book: Novel by Mona Simpson
  • Cast: Susan Sarandon, Natalie Portman, Hart Bochner, Eileen Ryan, Ray Baker,  John Diehl
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Susan Sarandon  – oh so many, for example: Thelma and Louise, White Castle, Dead Man Walking, Little Women, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, The Client, Romance & Cigarettes, The Exonerated, The Banger Sisters, Igby Goes Down, The Cradle Will Rock, Earthly Possessions, Lorenzo’s Oil, The January Man, Bull Durham, The Witches of Eastwick, Compromising Positions, Atlantic City
    • Natalie Portman – V for Vendetta, Léon (The Professional), Black Swan, Thor, Darjeeling Limited, Paris je t’aime, Closer, Cold Mountain, Mars Attacks!, Beautiful Girls, Heat
    • Eileen Ryan – Benny and Joon, I Am Sam, The Assassination of Richard Nixon, The Pledge, The Indian Runner,
    • Ray Baker  Girl Interrupted, Rain Man, Holes, Sweet November, A Thousand Acres, Ed Wood
  • Why bought: Liked the book
  • Seen: twice. First time: awhile ago. Now: March 17, 2013

Movies shouldn’t really be seen just after reading the book. It’s unfair to the movie. I finished reading this novel by Mona Simpson the day before watching the film (second time for both but long enough ago so I didn’t really remember either) and while the movie followed the book more than I had expected, the ending was completely different.  Big disappointment! Adele is simply too selfish to do that. No. No.  No!
After some reflection however I came to the conclusion (which I usually do in like situations): the book is one thing, the movie another. Each should be judged fairly on its own.
The book is very good. Adele is a charming, funny, lively mother who takes her daughter Ann to Hollywood from a boring town in Wisconsin. Ann doesn’t want to go. She hates her mother and loves her. Adele is ruthless, completely self-centered, delusional and violent. She is in fact mentally unstable and a really bad mother. It’s quite a profound book. And tragic.
The movie follows quite a lot but tones down Adele’s extreme characteristics, adds some episodes, changes others, removes a lot, but somehow manages to retain quite a lot of the essence of the book. Until the end.
Why didn’t the director make the movie as heavy as the book? Well, I suppose the slick answer would be Hollywood.  I wish he had but he didn’t. So I’ll ignore the book here.
It’s a good movie. Sarandon is Adele. Selfish, impulsive, shallow. And fragile. Portman is good as Ann. Both are struggling, even though Adele declares, “We didn’t come to Hollywood to struggle!”
It’s a sad movie. See it.  And then after a few months, read the book. The book is better. But the movie can hold its own.

3 ½ * of 5.

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