Ok, I am a girl, and I love love stories, and romantic comedies, and heartfelt indie dramas that focus on the true depth of love and life. I mean I am still pretty awesome but there isn’t a girl out there (almost) who doesn’t like to sit down to a romantic movie every once in a while.
So I picked up the book, One Day written by David Nicholls, and began to read. This book did become a movie starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess (another reason I wanted to do this review is because Jim Sturgess is pretty…. Awesome).
I read the book first, then when I was done, (and promptly cried afterward) then I watched the movie. I have to say that I was severely disappointed. It was awful. If I had watched this movie alone without reading the book, I would have loved it. However, the book was a million times better and the movie ultimately faltered to capture the love, chemistry and spirit of reality of the book.
Here is what I thought was wrong with the movie:
First. I don’t know if it is just me, but there was absolutely NO CHEMISTRY between the lead actors, Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess. There was a definitely obvious chemistry between the characters in the book. The whole time I was reading, it was oozing through the pages. I never FELT that with the movie actors. They weren’t able provide a believable level of attraction to each other (not to mention the characters were supposed to age 20 years through out the story but they weren’t able to age the actors appropriately). Even when the two movie Dexs and Ems kissed it didn’t feel like a “FINALLY!” moment like it was the book. It was lackluster. Part of the problem, I think, was that in the novel, Dexter obviously tries to suppress his love for Emma on many occasions. He dates and sleeps around all the while denying his love and it physically and mentally takes its toll on him as a person. I did not feel that way about the movie Dexter. They portrayed him more as someone who doesn’t realize his love for Emma till the end when everything is fallen apart when it is more that he always knew but never had the courage to express it till the end. This small change took away from the overall feel of the story. I am pretty sure; I squirmed with awkwardness throughout the movie.
Second. My second biggest problem of the movie version (and believe me there were a ton of nitpicky problems as well) was the skipping over of certain scenes. Now, don’t get me wrong. I realize that trying to convert a long book that spans 20 years of life into a normal length feature film is difficult. And obviously they had to cut a few scenes out. But I think they shortened the wrong scenes and cut the wrong scenes out. One of the big ones that jumped out at me was Emma’s relationship with her principal (headmaster? Eh either way) at the school she taught at. The movie TOTALLY skipped over this while I thought it was an important part of the book. But leading up to that, I think the movie glazed over the breakup of Ian and Emma. In the novel, Ian and her fight in which he breaks up with her because of her obvious love for Dexter. The movie glazed over it just saying that they had split up. Emma’s affair with the married principal comes right after the break up with Ian, and the movie chose to ignore that completely. I felt like her ending things with the headmasters showed a lot of progress in Emma and her self-worth. She starts to finally realize what she wants and what she doesn’t want. One thing the movie did do well was the fight scene when Emma comes home and Ian is there. I think the fight and subsequent heart to heart the two had was accurate.
Another scene I was actually really looking forward to in the movie (that never came) was the visualization of the letters that Emma wrote to Dexter and the postcards Emma received from Dexter in the first few years after graduation. I loved that part of the book, maybe because it rang true with me, but I wanted to see that in the movie. They barely even showed the years they were apart while Dexter was floating around Europe. And they never mentioned how he got his job being a “TV presenter” (It was on a train mind you).
I think Dex’s drug and drinking problem was toned down for the movie. I can see why they did it, but I disagree with doing it. It made Emma leaving their friendship behind all the more intense when his self-destructive actions were more prevalent.
One of my favorite favorite scenes in the book was the part that took place in the hedge maze at Tilly’s wedding. This was the “FINALLY!” moment I was waiting for and it was followed by such disappointment, which lets face it, is how life really is most of the time. They kiss and reunite and it is so passionate but then is ruined by the fact that Dexter is now engaged and about to become a father. The movie made this scene much shorter, located on a bench, and passionless. It was terrible.
And c’mon! Where is the scene where Dexter tries to take care of his daughter for the first time? They barely showed it. They didn’t show him calling Suki, and others when he gets overwhelmed, or his heartfelt call to Emma that doesn’t go through. It was a pathetic attempt but you really felt the overwhelmed nature of Dexter in the scene.
The ending is sad, in both film and book. But the book sadder by the extra knowledge the reader has. The movie left out the bit about Dexter was waiting for Emma so they could view a house together. And that the last thing Emma thought was about how late she was going to be meeting him there. Sadness. So while the movie was still sad, I wish they added the extra layer to really show how terrible it was.
Not as romantic as a dimly lit hedge maze.
Third. The last thing I didn’t like about the movie (and probably the least worst of the three things) is the casting. Jim Sturgess was perfect for Dexter; I’ll give them that. However, while I love Anne Hathaway and think she is very talented, did not pull off the role of Emma. I don’t know if it is because of the obvious uncomfortableness between the two actors or just not good in the role as a whole, but I didn’t enjoy it. I couldn’t see her as Emma; Her accent was only ok (since its not authentic it sometimes became clunky). I also didn’t like Ian. The actor was good but not how I envisioned him. In the book, Emma says when she looks at him she thinks of “tractors” which I didn’t not see when I looked at the actor who played Ian. I didn’t see it at all. I think they could have done better (no offense to the actor!) Overall casting was only so-so.
I think, if it hadn’t been for the chocolate orange in my lap during this movie, it would have been even worse. I think they took to many shortcuts to make it fit in a reasonable time frame. But frankly if they had done the adaptation more thoroughly, it could have easily been a little longer without sacrificing attention spans. I have rarely felt so disconnected with characters, which I previously felt entwined with while reading the novel.
Sometimes, books just need to be left alone.