Monday, December 21, 2009

Everything Is Illuminated

After having watched Everything Is Illuminated, I have to wonder if Liev Shrieber even bothered to read the book, or if he just read the summary. The movie barely manages to hit on maybe 1/4 of the novel, and even then it manages to get several things wrong. The things the movie manage to get wrong are much more galling then the things that it leaves out, in my opinion.

The story of Trachimbrod and Jonathan Safran Foer's many-greats grandmother is probably my favorite part of the book, and is entirely left out of the movie. I can see how this would have been near impossible to include in the movie, but it still disappoints me. Maybe if they had made it a 2 1/2 - 3 hour movie instead of an 1 1/2 hours, it would have been possible.

Alex's father is only seen at the beginning of the film and then again at the end. None of the hatred of Alex for his father or the concern he feels for his little brother Little Igor is shown in the film.

One of the biggest problems I have with the film is what they did with the main character, Jonathan Safran Foer. At the start of the film he is seen with a rather large collection of miscellany on his wall, various things he has "collected". Alex even refers to him as "The Collector" in the film, instead of "The Hero". I don't really see the purpose of adding this personality quirk, which only made Jonathan seem odd.

Making Lista Augustine's sister was another odd choice, but it didn't detract from the film. I don't, however, think it added anything, either.

The character I most thing suffered in the movie was Alex's grandfather. Making him Jewish was infuriatingly unnecessary and actually harmed the coherency of the film, leading to his forming of Heritage Tours, his interactions with Lista and his suicide (which they also altered) becoming nearly meaningless. It also added an unnecessary element of clich├ędness.

Maybe if I hadn't read the book before watching it, I might have enjoyed Everything Was Illuminated much more then I did. I loved Eugene Hutz (the lead singer of Gogol Bordello, which had three songs in the film) as Alex, he was definitely the crowning jewel. I believe Elijah Wood did the best with the part he was given, which wasn't much.

All in all it was an enjoyable film, but probably not one that I'll watch again, and definitely not one that I'll end up purchasing.