WEGG Question #30 - The Book vs. The Movie

by Peter Hedges

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WEGG Question #30 - The Book vs. The Movie

Unread postby Liz » Tue May 01, 2007 10:12 am

Let’s talk about the differences between the book and the movie.

Comment on the changes.

Did you like some? Dislike others?

Did some make sense? Why?

If you had read the book first do you think you would be disappointed with the movie?
You can't judge a book by its cover.

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Unread postby Betty Sue » Tue May 01, 2007 12:01 pm

Brrroooaaaad sweeeeping questions :-O which should engender lotsa interesting answers! I just have time for a few comments now.
Of course, I just loved the movie. And I enjoyed the book so much partly because I already knew the characters but also because it was actually quite different. Had to follow it up by reading lots of Peter Hedges writings.
We had trouble with Becky being so young in the book, and I get the feeling that she was used as a mysterious catalyst and not the love of Gilbert's life. "I remember my date with Becky to watch the sunrise. It will have to wait until another day." And the book ends with it being all about family togetherness and a new day dawning. The movie, of course, ends with Becky, Gilbert and Arnie getting back together and thinking of the future. It was more of a love story.
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Unread postby Gilbert's Girl » Tue May 01, 2007 1:02 pm

Well I didn't like Momma in the book as much as in the movie, Darlene Cates certainly brought a sensitivity to the role and she was much more sympathetic.
Johnny of course plays a much better Gilbert, I am not that keen Gilbert of the book he seems much more bitter and angry and does things I can't imagine film Gilbert would do . Film gilbert is again a much more sympathetic character.
Again film Becky and her grandma are much better characters that the book ones.
Can't answer the last question as the book is not widely available to read here so I would never have seen or read it before seeing the film.

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Re: WEGG Question #30 - The Book vs. The Movie

Unread postby Lady Jill » Tue May 01, 2007 1:58 pm

Liz wrote:Let’s talk about the differences between the book and the movie.

Comment on the changes.

Did you like some? Dislike others?

Did some make sense? Why?

If you had read the book first do you think you would be disappointed with the movie?


Oh I was waiting for this question, for on the whole I thought the movie was a huge improvement over the book. That said, I shall answer these questions.

Book Gilbert seemed much more angrier than Johnny's Gilbert. I agree here, Gilbert's Girl, that movie Gilbert would have never done some of those things Book Gilbert did. Also in the book Becky was depicted differently than movie Becky. The latter was much warmer, light hearted, and seemingly not so condemning of Gilbert's behavior. I think she actually had more influence on him in the movie.

One thing about the book that was an ah ha moment for me, was the beginning of the book really made clear how Arnie kept saying that Gilbert was shrinking. I never got the connection in the movie of Gilbert literally taking it to heart that he was shrinking back from life in Endora - the end of the road. The book really helped me see that.

So with Book Gilbert seeming so much more angry, what really made sense in the movie, was Johnny taking that part inside himself - The angry Bear, the dark side, the one he knows he has - we all have- and not verbally using it. As a person dabbling in screen writing, I have learned that too much dialog kills a script. And too much on the nose dialog too. That's what Johnny brought to his Gilbert, leaving out the angry dialog, and doing those brooding looks he is so great at. Less is More!
If I had read this book first, and I didn't know about JD, I doubt I would have gone to see it. But going to the movie first, knowing and loving Johnny's work, and then reading the book, was OK

Lady Jill
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Re: WEGG Question #30 - The Book vs. The Movie

Unread postby Liz » Tue May 01, 2007 3:06 pm

Lady Jill wrote: Also in the book Becky was depicted differently than movie Becky. The latter was much warmer, light hearted, and seemingly not so condemning of Gilbert's behavior. I think she actually had more influence on him in the movie.


Good point about movie Becky's influence, Lady Jill. I hadn't noticed that before, but now that you've pointed it out, I would agree.

Betty Sue, I agree that the Becky/Gilbert subplot was more of a love story in the movie.

I think I prefer the movie to the book for the reasons expressed so far. However, the book was a nice supplement to the movie. Although Johnny's Gilbert was played incredibly well and lended itself better to the screen that the book Gilbert would have, I really enjoyed getting inside of Gilbert's head in the book.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby Parlez » Tue May 01, 2007 3:19 pm

What I liked in the book that was left out of the movie was the carnival bit. I have such fond memories of the carnival coming to town - just like Arnie! I also thought Tucker's character was more fleshed out in the book; I didn't really get what a nice guy he was from the movie - he just seemed sort of dumb. Becky, I never liked, in the book or the movie! Juliette Lewis doesn't do much for me. And, IMO, Arnie came off as much more annoying in the book..I guess because the written word didn't have the advantage of Leonardo's exquisite performance. I really enjoyed reading Gilbert's inner thoughts - his wit and sense of the absurd. That part wasn't quite captured in such a specific way on film, IMO.
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Unread postby SamIam » Tue May 01, 2007 4:07 pm

I am writing a paper on the American Dream in A Raisin in the Sun and Whats Eating Gilbert Grape? and My english teacher looked at my outline and said "Their name is Grape?". I said Yes it was. She never knew it was a book. She had just known it was a movie. I really liked both the book and the movie, however, the movie was better because of the actors chosen for the movie. Like it has been said, Johnny didn't become Angry Gilbert with actions but with facial expressions that added a lot more to it. It made you understand that he was angry. He didn't have to act on it. It's interesting because most books made into movies, the movie doesn't do them any justice but this movie totally did justice for the book.
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Unread postby Endora » Tue May 01, 2007 4:50 pm

The book's Gilberts inner thoughts were replaced by Johnny's facial expressions pretty well. I saw the film first, read the book just for this thread. I now wish the film were more like the book. I think they prettied up the family. The relationships were kinder than in the book, and the film made Gilbert more of a put upon plaster saint by removing his inner voice. I think they could have made him meaner to be true to the book.

But having said that, why be true to the book. It's only based on it, not the full story from the book.
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Unread postby Betty Sue » Tue May 01, 2007 4:53 pm

I agree that Johnny still had the angry, frustrated dialogue going on inside his head in the movie and showed it a great deal with his eyes. I thought it was hilarious to read that murderous inner voice (one that I think was in my head as a kid!) in the book. His actions proved he wasn't serious, but how great that he could vent in his head! So I enjoyed Johnny's portrayal and the book version.
Lady Jill, I hadn't really noticed before, but I just viewed the movie again and saw that as Arnie ran down the road at the beginning, he was chanting, "You're shrinking, Gilbert." So it sort of set up the movie theme. Another mantra Arnie had later in the movie was, "We're not going anywhere!"
If I'd read the book first, I might have been disappointed that certain events had been left out but think I would have understood the need. I think I would have enjoyed the fact that book and movie were quite different, just as I did with seeing the movie first. Is it possible to be disappointed by that movie?? :eyebrow:
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Unread postby fansmom » Tue May 01, 2007 4:58 pm

SamIam wrote:I am writing a paper on the American Dream in A Raisin in the Sun and Whats Eating Gilbert Grape?
SamIam, after I was halfway through What's Eating Gilbert Grape, I realized that the title doesn't have a question mark at the end of it. The book isn't asking a question. It lists the things that are eating Gilbert.

I'm not an English teacher but that thought made a slight change to the way I thought about both the book and the movie.

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Unread postby nebraska » Tue May 01, 2007 6:10 pm

Most of my thoughts have already been expressed. I have a great love of the movie, and I guess it will always be first for me. I think the book was harsher, grittier, and perhaps more like real life would be. I loved being inside Gilbert's head, it was what I would imagine a young man's head to sound like. Johnny's Gilbert was good, but I don't think I imagined exactly what was going on in book Gilbert's head! That was my favorite part of the book. I haven't watched the movie recently, but if I remember correctly the Grapes spent the night of Mama's death crying. I really liked the dancing and music and photos and memories they shared in the book much better. I think Mama's actual death was portrayed better in the movie, however.....that scene where Arnie can't wake her up is heart breaking. :bawl: I think we have an accord that book Becky was our least favorite character. I also was annoyed by movie Becky, she just seemed too sweet all the time, and something else irritated me but I am not sure what it was...her voice maybe? But definitely a better character than book Becky. If I had read the book first I am sure I would have been disappointed that some scenes were left out....the carnival and the black board writing... few movies portray the book precisely as it was written.

One really big difference was Arnie's physical appearance. Book Arnie, with his missing eye and the rest of the description Gilbert gave, was a rather repulsive creature. I think Leo's appearance made the character more lovable. As someone else mentioned, they prettied up the family quite a bit.....except perhaps for Gilbert. We really got only hints that book Gilbert might have been quite attractive.

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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Tue May 01, 2007 6:18 pm

The movie characters definitely had softer edges. nebraska, something bugged me about Becky too and I've decided it was her hair. :lol:

I saw the movie first and it remains on my top 5 list so I was excited to read the book. I think both stand alone. I thought Johnny did an excellent job of portraying Gilbert's inner demons although we got to know Gilbert and all the Grapes a little better in the book. That of course is natural because you have so much more time to tell your story. When I read the scene with Becky and Gilbert in the old school building I was disappointed that was not portrayed somehow in the movie. I think it added a lot to the story of Gilbert growing up.

fansmom, that is a wonderful observation! I had always read the title of the book as a question, not as a statement.
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Unread postby gemini » Tue May 01, 2007 10:51 pm

I cant add much here. I agree with the consensus here about the book revealing more of Gilberts inner self and the movie was prettied up into more of a love story. Like some of you I wasn't too keen on either Becky. The younger one in the book was just too intuitive about what Gilbert needed for 15, and he seemed more interested in her sexually than a life long romance. The movie Becky made more sense. She was older and wiser for Gilbert to fall for , but she just didn't seem pretty enough for Gilbert even if they tried to tone down his looks. I liked the sisters about the same in both. Momma was bettter in the movie, probably because Darlene made her so real.
I think leaving out Larry and Janet in the movie didn't hurt the movie as it made Gilbert seem more the family backbone where in the book he was sometimes more immature.
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Unread postby SamIam » Tue May 01, 2007 10:53 pm

fansmom wrote:
SamIam wrote:I am writing a paper on the American Dream in A Raisin in the Sun and Whats Eating Gilbert Grape?
SamIam, after I was halfway through What's Eating Gilbert Grape, I realized that the title doesn't have a question mark at the end of it. The book isn't asking a question. It lists the things that are eating Gilbert.

I'm not an English teacher but that thought made a slight change to the way I thought about both the book and the movie.


Well thank you for pointing that out to me. I didn't know there wasn't a question mark. I never realized it. Thank you very much, Fansmom. :cool:
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Unread postby nebraska » Wed May 02, 2007 6:48 am

fansmom wrote:
SamIam wrote:I am writing a paper on the American Dream in A Raisin in the Sun and Whats Eating Gilbert Grape?
SamIam, after I was halfway through What's Eating Gilbert Grape, I realized that the title doesn't have a question mark at the end of it. The book isn't asking a question. It lists the things that are eating Gilbert.

I'm not an English teacher but that thought made a slight change to the way I thought about both the book and the movie.


I also found this to be an interesting observation. Thanks for pointing this out.


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