Monday, May 7, 2012

We Need To Talk About Kevin (2011)

If I were asked "which book made the biggest impact on you?", I'd be hard-pressed to come up with one that made a bigger impact than "We Need To Talk About Kevin".  It was one of those books that was SO well-written, so insightful, yet so disturbing, I didn't know whether I loved it or hated it.  I'm still not sure.  


The idea of seeing this terrifying business brought to life on the screen made me feel all...weird.  It got decent reviews overall, but I had concerns about the casting and the potential failure to capture the book's essence.  In the end, though, I had to do it.  


In the book, Eva is writing a series of letters to her husband, in an in-depth examination of her life raising their son Kevin.  Admittedly, Eva is not a maternal soul, and didn't exactly click with her first-born.  In fact, she has felt from the very beginning that her son may be disturbed.  This fear becomes a reality when Kevin plans and executes a massacre on some of his classmates.  


The book is highly internal, almost a rambling stream-of-consciousness from a mother who is trying to figure out, for the sake of her sanity, if she contributed at all to the creation of this monster, or if he was innately bad from the beginning.


  
Only in the hands of an exceptional actor or actress can a movie be as internal as this one needed to be.  In that sense, picking Tilda Swinton was the right choice.  I still don't think it was enough, but she did the best she could do with her haunted eyes and gaunt, suffering expressions.  The confidences that are shared in the letters in the book, though, are not present in film.  


Ezra Miller played an incredibly chilling Kevin.  He got the sneer, the swagger, the manipulative "bi-polar" personality that he turned on and off between his parents.  He was so spot on, I'm not sure how I will react to this young man in any other film.














The major issue I had with casting was that of John C. Reilly as Eva's husband, Franklin.  It has been some time since I've read the book, but I came away with the impression that the man was fairly attractive.  I have nothing against Reilly's acting, but his poofy clown hair, pot belly and goofiness just did not work for me.  (Not that Swinton is a beauty, but she made up for it with her suffering.)   



The non-linear style of the movie made it hard to follow, even if you have read the book.  At times, the only clue as to what time period we were in was the length of Swinton's hair.  The entire movie in fact was fragmented and laden with impending doom.  Which could also be said about the book, except that the book provides that internal dialogue and insight that is a hallmark of Shriver's work, and made the novel more than a sum of its parts. 


Ultimately, I think the key to understanding and appreciating this movie would be to read the book first.  It will give you that extra edge that makes the story more than just another Columbine tale.  



18 comments:

christina said...

Di and I saw this when it came to the Enzien also and I agree wholeheartedly...the guy who played Kevin was incredibly creepy and sinister. Total sociopath. But here's what bothered me about the film and it COULD just be that it has been YEARS since I've read the book, but didn't it seem that the Kevin from the film was more redemptive than the Kevin from the book? I mean, the last convo that he has with his mom we see him questioning why he did what he did...almost admitting his reasons no longer made sense to him. I cannot for the life of me remember that taking place in the book. In fact, I have this vague impression that the reason why the book was so haunting was because he still had this smirk on his face over what had occurred. Am I wrong?

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I am totally with you on John C. Reilly. I didn't see the movie, but I think his really different looks make him difficult to cast.

Beth F said...

Hummm. I have the book and DVD and haven't read or seen either. I just can't bring myself to descend into that nightmare.

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I do have this book and have wanted to read it for a while. I do want to hold off on seeing the movie until reading it, and I'm sure both formats will deliver a shocking and creepy in a way I won't be prepared for. I guess I'll just have to mentally prepare myself, as much as I possibly can. I've heard so much about this story and know I need to read it soon.

Jo-Jo said...

I have this book myself but was holding off hoping to read it with my book club. When we selected books last month it sure they didn't pick it. So it looks like I'm on my own now.

Anna said...

I kind of want to see this movie because I was blown away by the book, but I'm also kind of scared to. I don't think Reilly makes a good Franklin either.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

You know, the book was so amazing, I've been nervous about the movie. Like you, I thought Reily was a really weird casting choice. That's not at all how I pictured him. I haven't seen the movie yet, but I definitely will.

Ti said...

I still laugh at your "clown hair" reference. As you know, I was hoping for a Kevin Costner lookalike or someone like that.

C.B. James said...

Always fun to read your comments on casting a film. ;-). I've neither read nor seen these and probably won't get around to them anytime soon. My feeling, as you know, is that a book is a book and a movie is a movie so I avoid comparing the two as much as I can.

I do think that if you have to read the book in order to understand the movie, then the movie is not as good as it should be.

Jenny said...

I was thinking of trying to read this book this month. I wonder if the movie is still worth seeing even after reading the book? I'll probably give in and see it.

Julie P. said...

I know you are into horror flicks, but I think this one classifies as that for me!

Marce said...

That book, wow, totally left an impression on me, I can't wait to see the movie.

Franklin didn't match what I thought either, but happy to still wait it out.

Great review.

Jenners said...

I couldn't imagine how they would turn that book into a movie … it is so internal and I imagine it would be easy to get lost in the "flashier" side of the tale. The kid who plays Kevin does look pretty scary. And I have hard time taking John C. Reilly seriously .. I've seen him in too many comic roles.

Iliana said...

I still haven't read this book although it's one that's been on my radar since it came out. It just sounds like a book that would really give you a lot to think about and discuss. Would like to see the movie but of course wanted to read the book first.

Zibilee said...

Glad to have your opinion on this one, as after reading it, I think I am going to wait for video. I think this IS an incredibly difficult story to get on the screen, and I have been arguing with myself for weeks on whether it would work or not. I also think Reilly is not the choice I would have made for Kevin's dad. I just can't take him seriously. Very nice review today. You told me all that I needed to know about this film.

caite said...

I never read this one..seems I should skip the movie and get the book. when I am in the mood for something very disturbing....

Jackie Bailey said...

I loved the book and couldn't imagine it making a good film, but I actually think they did a good job. I thought Kevin was beautifully creepy and I still felt a great deal of emotion towards Eva.

I liked the confusing nature of the plot (although I'm not sure I would if I hadn't read the book)It was a lot better than I expected it to be.

Kathleen said...

I just saw the movie a few weeks ago and really liked it. I agree about John O'Reilly. I loved Tilda Swinton as the mother and the boy who played the son was just too good, if you know what I mean. I agree that if you haven't read the book the movie is very confusing.