Thursday, September 6, 2012

We Need To Talk About The Movie Based On The Book

A majority of the time, I feel like these projects end up with the label - "Good, not Great." No difference for We Need To Talk About Kevin, the movie starring Tilda Swinton based off of the book by the same name by Lionel Shriver. Cut to credits and all I could say was, "Meh."

The most striking issue with this movie has not much to do with the content of the film at all. Which, actually, is part of the problem. There were whole scenes, running 60 seconds or more (an issue, when in film, every second should count) that seemed to be there purely for the sake of style rather than anything which might advance the story or our understanding of the characters. "Look at me and the pretty things I can do with a camera!" doesn't really cut it when the beautiful things that Shriver can do with the written word waste not a moment in her dark and genius novel.

Tilda Swinton does a pretty incredible job with Eva, or takes it as far as the film allows. Without the letters to Franklin which drive the narrative in the book, the viewer doesn't get to know Eva like we know her in the book. While you get a sense that she does try very hard to be the kind of mother she thinks she should be, the viewer misses out on the incredibly selfish side of Eva. It's an important side. John C. Reilly, for his minimal screen time, does a good job of portraying the happy -go-lucky dad. Missing, however, is the spirit and youth of the couples' love before children, which Eva draws on time and time again in the novel. Without ever having a true sense of what they had the viewers aren't as stricken by what the two end up losing.

Kevin is played by several young actors. The oldest and most nihilistic was portrayed by Ezra Miller, whose cold, dark eyes were a dead ringer for the Kevin I imagined in my head. The movie falls short again, in only depicting Kevin and his relationship to Eva, Franklin and his younger sister, Celia. Cut from the movie were the troubles that Kevin got himself into outside of the house, the parents that complained about Kevin, and the resolute way that Franklin insisted Kevin was just being a boy. All of these things together make Kevin's final deed horrific in the novel. In the film he seems... less. Less evil, perhaps. Just a kid who fakes around his dad, is a pain in the ass to his mother, and is mean to his younger sister.

Book beats movie. Hands down.

Purchase Now: Movie, Book


  1. I wouldn't have pegged this as a good book to adapt in the first place, given its odd structure and largely unsympathetic protagonist (at least for the early parts of the book). But I think your assessment is pretty spot-on; very conscious use of style resulted in shots or scenes that, while visually striking, in some cases actually detracted from the story that was being told (thinking of the extended Halloween scene here).

  2. I still need to read this book! I haven't seen the movie either, but it bugs me when movies do that. It seems to happen a lot with movies based on more literary books. Instead of figuring out how to show internal monologue or descriptions, they just do artsy silent shots that don't really do anything.


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