Sunday, September 3, 2017

Book to Movie : Brooklyn

I'd like to say that I am the kind of reader that always finds and reads the book before they watch the movie. However, goals are meant to be a work in progress and that is definitely a goal. The best that usually goes down is me finding out a interesting upcoming movie is based on a book then putting said book on my endless TBR List and never getting to it until after I watch the movie because my goals are noble but I've got a patience problem. lol. This is basically what happened with Brooklyn. However, this is a weird once-in-a-rare-moon thing, in which...I like the movie better the book? As in...LOVE THE MOVIE...could barely finish the book.


Both the book and the movie share the same plot. 
Blurb from the Book (Goodreads)
"Eilis Lacey has come of age in small-town Ireland in the hard years following World War Two. When an Irish priest from Brooklyn offers to sponsor Eilis in America -- to live and work in a Brooklyn neighborhood "just like Ireland" -- she decides she must go, leaving her fragile mother and her charismatic sister behind. Eilis finds work in a department store on Fulton Street, and when she least expects it, finds love. Tony, who loves the Dodgers and his big Italian family, slowly wins her over with patient charm. But just as Eilis begins to fall in love with Tony, devastating news from Ireland threatens the promise of her future" 
Blurb from the Movie (IMBD)
"An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within." 
The movie blurb is decidedly less explanative than the book blurb but both plots are basically identical. There's the usual merging of common characters, blending of plot points, creative choices to accurately translate the written novel scenes to film that naturally happens when you go book to movie. But, the basic plot is identical. So why, on earth can I love the movie and not the book? 

The Book

I keep wondering why it received such RAVING reviews. If the movie hadn't happened, if Goodreads didn't have a bunch of 5-star ratings, if the critics weren't like - 'Yea, this one!!"...I would have probably chosen it but then put it back down. Novel Eilis blends into the background of her own story. She's the star yet..I don't really connect with her. It took me a while to figure it out but then it came to me...she has no personality. She's categorically a Mary Sue. Why, why, why did the author get such kudos for writing this? 

You could completely tell that it was written by a man. If he wrote under a gender neutral pen name I would still guess...written by a dude. There is little to no effort to get into the female perspective. His descriptions are one a man would make. Her emotions are flat, barely expressive, and when they are...they're meh. I wanted to ride along this ride with her...but I couldn't. 

This was just worsened by the ridiculously dull dialogue. I get it was the fifties and life was simpler. Talk was more formal and polite...but this was just weird. There was very little variation between the way the character's spoke. He had a huge list of possible dialects, attitudes, mannerisms to have fun with but failed to deliver at all. I mean, it's about Brooklyn...New York City. Her boyfriend was Italian American, her fellow boarders were young, independent women, she was Irish...and yet....nada.

I'm sorry but I have to go back to the written by the man thing. I've read lots of books where you get the masculine vibe from the narration but it didn't bother me. I think the reason it bothered me so much in Brooklyn was because the story could have, would have been something extraordinary.  Courage and resilience, homesickness slowly blending into finding-your-self, dealing with the double-standards and rigid confines of womanhood in the 1950's are common sense elements to write. Not just common sense - necessary to write a accurate portrayal of character's plot line. Her story was very real - as in...single, immigrant women coming to America on their own because home had no future to offer. It's a real, tangible story to write. He just completely failed. I haven't read any other of his books but it would disturb me if this is his perception of women. 

Eilis was SO PASSIVE. I don't feel like she genuinely felt attracted to Tony (her love interest). I don't think she really felt her choice at the end was THE CHOICE but more like the lesser of two evils. She is coddled and patronized (which I do understand is part of the way women were treated in the 1950s however...there is no depth to it), people always make her decisions for her, she is supposed to have all these emotions but does nothing substantial or moving with them. It's disturbing and patriarchal and completely out of sync to the beating, realness of a female main character.

Yea, I don't like the book. 

And I could go on and on about it. But, guess what? I LOVED THE MOVIE. And I much rather spend my brain energy writing about why I loved it and how it rocked my world than how much the novel sucked the soul out of my body through my completely appalled eyeballs. 

Please just throw out everything I just ranted about above and refresh your brain because it does not apply to the movie. At all. 

The Movie

First off, the most important aspect about the film is...Saoirse Ronan. 

She brought Eilis to life. Where in the book there is passivity - there is quiet watching, where there is no emotion - there are a thousand subtle emotions, where there is a cardboard personality - there's a statuesque, intelligent young woman with a heart of a girl next door. She is such a delight to watch in any film but this one has got to be my favorite of hers. She brings a subtle beauty and a stoic graceful charm to the plot. The story being told is a very simple, to the point story. It's rooted in a reality lived by many, many young woman through out recent history.

I think we like to imagine that immigrants, especially those who came alone, were scrappy and adventurous and chose to come to America because of the lore of the streets paved with gold. We neglect to remember that many of them came out of sheer need for a future in a desperate move at survival. Our movie Eilis lives in a small village where she has little to no prospects. No opportunity for a skilled job, no potential husband, a life destined to take care of her mother. Her sister, knowing that she's sick, wants Eilis to have a better future. So she does what big sisters do. She took charge and made things happen. Eilis is not a passive character but she does go along with things. Mostly because....who could turn down such an opportunity?

The movie follows the book closely from her rocky passage to her job and relationship with the Priest who helped sponsor her. But, with SO MUCH MORE. The true and honest truth that she just went along with what other people decided catches up to her and she gets brutally homesick. You can feel it in a visceral way that it is lacking in the depthless novel.

What I really appreciated about her journey was her independent sense of self. She receives a great deal of help from other people and she finds herself thriving. The help that she receives does not negate her. We all get a helping hand, we can get chances - it doesn't mean what we accomplish is anything diminished. Our movie Eilis is Captain of her Own Ship. Whether or not she initiated her voyage or was sent on it by others doesn't matter. Sometimes (this case in particular) a loved one needs to push you away from the dock before you can determine where you're going to go.

It's easy for stories to fall into the trap of "The Hero-Man comes, they fall in love, her happy ending tastes a little like settling but it's cool because you know..Prince Charming...right?" Considering the source material and the time period and the main characters gender it's mildly and perhaps completely miraculous that that ISN"T how the focused love story feels like as it unfolds.

Thus it would be completely remiss if I didn't acknowledge #TONYANDEILIS. #COUPLEGOALS.

I'll be damn if Tony isn't exactly what I would like from a suitor. He knows what he wants, affectionate, adorable, respectful - runs blocks in sewer-dirtied work clothes just to get you in time so you don't think that he blowing you off. Asks his little smart-ass brother for help in writing letters to you. Genuinely admires the kind of woman you are and wants to partner up with it - not squash it or take advantage of it. Yes, I know -- SPOILERS. They don't make 'em like Tony anymore. They really don't.

It's another testament to the strength and character of Soairse Ronan's acting capabilities. I don't think it's entirely contingent on her. You can't cover up a fake out happy ending with one strong woman's brilliant performance. However - she packs a hell of a punch. The entire spirit of the film felt authentic and real and realistic. It was a brilliant snapshot of a women's life in a time where women didn't have a lot of choices. Yet she was given many, yet she took them, and yet she found herself in a life that was aligned with who she was and what she wanted but in a place she had never imagined herself capable of being. It's a tangible fairy tale.

"And one day the sun will come out - you might not even notice straight away, it'll be that faint. And then you'll catch yourself thinking about something or someone who has no connection with the past. Someone who's only yours. And you'll realize...that this is where your life is." 

The most poignant and memorable and resounding quote from the end of the movie. It sums up Eilis and her journey. Because ultimately - the movie (and the attempt that was made in the novel, I believe) was about a young woman who didn't really want to go on a journey but she did and it was right and she flourished and sometimes..well...most times - you have to make that leap. You never know what's coming around the corner. You just never do. 

All in all? Don't waste your brain on the book. Rent the movie. Watch it a few times. And then go Tumblr the hell out of Eiris's gorgeous facial expressions and #EilisandTony.

Until next time!


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