Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Many bloggers have told me Lehane's best work was Mystic River. I've not read this book yet, but that is soon to be remedied. I did read The Given Day in January, and it was solid, albeit a few discs too long. But with the movie Shutter Island on the horizon, a Scorcese film no less, I was compelled to give this one a shot. Perfect for the Read the Book, See the Movie Challenge, yes?
I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into. Holy crap.
U.S. Marshall Teddy Daniels, with his partner Chuck, have been summoned to Aschecliffe Hospital, home to the most dangerous, criminally insane, located on isolated Shutter Island. Apparently, a psychotic patient named Rachel Solando has escaped and cannot be found. While the marshall's flounder in their investigation, running into roadblocks, secretive and unhelpful hospital personnel, and more questions than answers, we begin to get some history on Teddy. The man is seriously, emotionally damaged as a result of recently losing his wife tragically and from his experiences in WWII. He has dreams that take on significance, he hears his dead wife counseling him, he questions the existence of a God that allowed the Holocaust to occur.
And this is where I must stop. Telling you any more makes no sense. The further you get into the novel, the more you begin to live in Teddy's skin. You feel his doubts, his anguish, his confusion and desperation. There are smoke and mirrors. You begin to question everything. What is real? What is an illusion? Are you losing your mind? Is this a setup? Teddy has no clue, and you won't either. The book ends with a climax like I have never seen before. It is a total mindf**k.
I can't speak for the printed version, but the audio was beyond powerful. And when this climax occurs, about halfway through the last disc, prepare yourself. I can't remember EVER having a reaction quite as...physiological...emotional...as this one. I stumbled off my elliptical trainer, and shaking, had to sit on the floor for awhile. I will even go out on a limb here, and double-dog dare you to listen to this audio and not have a intense reaction. I promise you, it will bring you to your knees.
This audio would not be what it is without the narrator Tom Stechschulte. While he has acting creds, he has also narrated McCarthy's No Country for Old Men and The Road, Ellroy's The Black Dahlia, and O'Brien's The Things They Carried. His voice is raw, rough and emotive, perfectly suited for the genre with which he is affiliated.
Knowing now, in advance, the twists (but with just as many questions as ever), how will the movie hold up? If I would have read a book version of The Sixth Sense, would the movie have made the same mind-blowing impact on me?
Additional note: After this book had its way with me, I mentioned it to one of my book club buddies, and we agreed this HAD to be the next book club selection, in which we would read the book, then reunite to see the movie together, then discuss the whole mess over drinks!
The book club members were all extremely excited to see the movie. We all grabbed hotdogs, popcorn and beer, and nestled in for a wild ride. Overall, the movie stayed fairly true to the book, up until the last sentence, but more on that in a minute. I felt there was perhaps more attention given to Teddy's emotional baggage with WWII, and less attention given to his relationship with his wife. Also, knowing the plot, its twists and turns, it was interesting how we easily spotted non-verbal cues that hinted that things weren't as they seemed. The climax (the one that forced me off my elliptical trainer) was just as impactful as on audio. My friend next to me cried. It made me nauseous. It was as visually disturbing as a scene could be.
But here is the deal guys. Mr. Scorcese or his screenwriter, or whoever, added one sentence to the end of the movie (that was NOT in the book) that completely changed the meaning and tone of the ending. I sat up in my theater seat and exploded "WHAT??". I couldn't believe it. Do I think that the edited ending added to the plot? Yes! Still, how dare they? I think I was the most insulted of the group...the others didn't get quite so passionate over it.
I thought all of the actors were well-cast. No complaints there. I used to sneer at DiCaprio, and thought him a twerp. I suppose he has proven himself enough times recently that I can now take him seriously.
Had I not read the book, I think I would have been a little confused throughout the movie. While the twists were not a surprise, we had the benefit of the back story, which really enhanced our viewing experience. The entire book club did feel, at the end of the day, that the book was better than the movie.
Book: 5 out 5 stars
Movie: 4 out 5 stars