Book vs. Film: This Is Where I Leave You

Recently Alena @ Alena’s Life reposted an older post about loving Jonathan Tropper’s This Is Where I Leave you. It reminded me that this was a book that had been on my list for a while, that I still wanted to read it and that the movie was coming out soon.

But with so many books on my TBR list, it was going to take something special to bump this one over other ones in the queue.

Basically a day later, I won passes on twitter from Penguin Canada to go to the premier. I now had just a few days to read this book and prevent myself from committing one of my worst book crimes.

I went to the bookstore to get it (narrowly avoiding another book crime: the dreaded movie cover) and managed to read it ahead of seeing the movie the other night.

So Judd Foxman’s dad dies and his dying wish was for his family, Judd, his mom and 3 siblings, to sit shiva. That is, to stay in the house for seven days and mourn him while not killing each other.

A pretty tall order. Judd and his siblings, Wendy, Paul and Phillip, all have their own sh*t going on: Judd’s marriage is in shreds following his wife’s infidelity; Wendy’s husband is an a^*hole and she still carries a torch for her first love; Paul and his wife are trying to have a baby and it’s not going well; and Phillip is the baby who is guaranteed to screw up and is currently dating a version of their mother.

In the book, Judd is in a dark place. He’s incredibly angry and says inappropriate things to basically everyone. And he’s completely fixated on sex -when he first walks in on his wife having sex with his boss in their bed, it’s like three pages of what it was like to actually stand there and watch it, before some rather graphic descriptions of birthday cake in unmentionable areas. Judd is on self-destruct auto-pilot.

Then I went to see the movie and some of these rough edges were smoothed out but I found that I missed the more realistic Judd. Movie Judd, played by Jason Bateman, is Jason Bateman in pretty well every movie you’ve ever seen him in – kind of charmingly muddled. But where book-Judd objectified women a little too much (always thinking about how he can have sex with these beautiful, young things), movie-Judd is harmless and just kind of pathetic.

One thing that I did appreciate about the movie that I think may get a little lost for some folks in the book (due to all the sarcasm, sex and f-bombs)is that the Altmans (oh yeah, the family was renamed) genuinely care about each other. As per Wendy (Tiny Fey): “you’re idiots, but you’re my idiots.” But what was lost along with some of those rough edges was some of the reality. I’m pretty sure that book Judd is closer to the real-life situation of losing your wife, your job, and your father in quick succession; he is pissed at the world.

If you’re worried that the book you love has been completely stripped of all the things you loved about it don’t be – I think they did a pretty good job of staying mostly true to the events and dynamics of the book. And I had a pretty good time with the Altmans – it really showed me that I cared about the characters I had come to know in the book.


10 thoughts on “Book vs. Film: This Is Where I Leave You

  1. The movie and the book both sound good. We’ll see which one I get to first. I do like Jason Bateman. I’m old enough to remember watching him in The Hogan Family (or Valerie). Ha!

    • I had a hard time with some of the sex stuff in the book only because it felt kind of objectifying. It was all about her great ass, or how a hot girl made him feel inadequate. I didn’t love that aspect. But Judd in the movie has lost something of Judd in the book. As per usual in adaptations I guess.

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