Sunday, February 28, 2010
No, this post is not about the television show Survivor. This post is about Survivor, an excellent book by one of my favorite writers Chuck Palahniuk. I'm on a literary quest to read all of his novels since I enjoy each one more and more. His novels have such unique content and are written in his own unique style--he impresses me more and more with what he publishes.
Survivor, in a nutshell, is about Tender Branson, a man who was raised in a death cult yet escaped before his entire community committed suicide. Tender is the last surviving member of the cult and receives a lot of media attention from it. He is set up with an agent who basically publishes anything under the sun for him and gets him on television as much as possible. He does nothing; everything is scripted and created for him. He is the face and name to this franchise.
What makes this novel REALLY interesting is that it begins with Tender on a plane, telling us that he will soon crash to the ground. He has hijacked a plane, with just him on it, and is going to fly the plane until the gas runs out. In the meantime, he tells us his story. He then begins telling us what happened from the top. The rest of the book is a flashback.
The pages of the book actually go in reverse order, so instead of starting on page one, we begin on page (for example) 312. Even chapters are in reverse. It's these kinds of little touches that makes this man a really interesting person to read.
We now need to understand Tender's cult, the Creedish, who turned him into the odd person that he is. We don't blame him; it just explains his odd tendencies throughout the book. Tender's cult believed themselves to be servants to the human race, and they were waiting from a sign from God so that they could then return to serve him (by killing themselves). Put in better words, here is the purpose to their names and jobs:
"They are extensively trained in etiquette, housecleaning, and other menial labor, after which they are baptized and sent out into the world to make a living. Every month, they are expected to send back money and a letter of confession. "Tender" is not really a name, but a title, which is given to all male children except the firstborn, who is called "Adam". Likewise, all female children are called "Biddy", including the eldest. "Tender" is meant to denote one who tends; "Biddy", one who is biddable. All but the firstborn sons and their wives are discouraged from having sex of any kind and are forbidden to marry, and the latter are expected to have sex only for procreation. All the Creedish wear highly recognizable clothing, both inside the community and out. This makes it easy to spot another member of the Church in the outside world."
Thus, Tender has difficulty with romance. He feels he does not deserve it and shies away from it. Typical to Palahniuk books, Tender constantly provides us with little tips on how to cook or clean. They are really in depth to do the best possible job to cook or clean. It is not common knowledge by far. He will discuss mixing herbs or chemicals to create a good cleaning solution or cooking sauce. He will explain the best procedures for cleaning or the best way to take the shell off of a lobster. It's interesting, yet we see why he possesses this knowledge. This quirky behavior isolates him from others.
In present time, when the novel begins, Tender is living a "normal" life ten years after the mass suicide. He is cooks and cleans for a wealthy family. The odd thing about his life is that his phone number was misprinted in a suicide hotline pamphlet. Thus, he receives tons of phone calls from suicidal people who ask him for advice. They expect someone to tell them not to do it, but Tender will tell them the opposite. He likes having the power over them (like he never had) almost like he is God. It's pretty twisted. Sometimes when he tells people to do it, they chicken out or it stuns them so much that they don't. Other times, people just need to hear what he tells him, and they do kill themselves which is more peaceful to them. They get what they want.
In one instance, Tender tells a neighbor of his to do it when he calls. Once he goes through with it, he learns that his sister, Ferility, is upset about it. He visits her brother's grave, and the two of them start to talk and see each other around. Tender starts an interest in Feritlity.
Fertility soon calls the crisis hotline, not knowing it's Tender, and Tender disguises his voice and tries to talk her out of comitting suicide. Fertility soon becomes interested in this man on the phone, and they keep talking. They even talk about Tender and says how ugly and boring he is. The man on the line (Tender) convinces her to start seeing him because that is the only way the man on the phone will meet up with her.
The strange thing about Ferility is that she has visions of the future. She seems to know EVERYTHING that is going to happen, and that makes her crazy. She has no element of surprise in her life because she always dreams what will happen. This gives her the power to show up where Tender is going to be and tell him things that are going to happen to him.
Meanwhile, Tender is essentially given a make-over and turned into a celebrity for the purpose of making money for the agent. Tender goes along with it. He doesn't really care what happens to him. The agent produces books and television shows for him. He has followers. Fertility gives him prophetic words and predictions to make live on air, and people follow him likes he's a religious leader.
It is discovered, as the FBI investigates, that there are more Creedish survivors. They are sought out because the Creedish also engaged in some illegal activities which they could be prosecuted for. The news continues to show more Creedish victims killing themselves which makes Tender more rare, thus more interesting. There ends up being two last victims, Tender and his brother Adam, who constantly follows him around.
The climax of the book comes when Tender's agent wants him to get married live during the Superbowl halftime show to promote his upcoming autobiography. Tender has been wanting to kill himself the entire time; he just has never found the opportunity. Fertility runs across Adam who wants to frame Tender for murderering his agent to bring him down. Unforuntely, Tender's agent will die anyway during the Superbowl half-time show (as she predicts) so she helps Tender stall long enough so he can escape the show. He then becomes a man on the run, escaping the so-called murder of his agent.
Tender, Adam, and Fertility escape and are on the run. They steal cars and trucks to hop around the country. Fertility soon ditches them though for unknown reasons. They are on their way to the Creedish community to see what it has become. As Adam discusses ways to uncorrupt his mind, Tender gets so mad that he crashes their car into the middle of the landfill, what the Creedish community has become.
When they crash, a figurine of Tender shoots into Adam's eye. Adam asks Tender to disfigure him with a rock so that he can be left alone when he goes to jail. Tender reluctantly agrees, and Adam says he'll tell him when to stop. Unfortunately, he never does, and Adam is killed. Fertility soon shows up, and they leave the scene.
That night, Tender finally gives in to pleasures with Fertility. She tells him in the morning that she is pregnant, and then tells him that she has to travel to Australia. Tender follows. Fertility tells him that someone is going to hijack the plane, and it ends up being him. Fertility tells him that there is a way to escape, which brings the book back to the beginning. Tender doesn't seem to find a way to escape because the book cuts off in mid sentence. We are left wondering if he lives or dies.
But, on Palahniuk's website, he has stated that he believes Tender survives. It seems more like he dies, but I guess it's all just speculation.
Overall, it had bizarre points to it, but I found it really interesting. It was pieced together in an intelligent way that was captivating--it drew me back to the text often. He created such a satirical work that it makes it interesting to see what American culture aspects he's poking fun at. Analyzing this text would be VERY fun to do.
The book asks many great questions: How do we handle traumas? Is there such a thing as fate? Why do people want to commit suicide? How do our environments effect who we turn out as? How much of the media is constructed and fake? How far will entertainment industry go for a profit? Can we overcome our pasts, no matter how traumatic or intense they were?
Palahniuk is a must-read author. He also wrote Fight Club (his most notable work), but he has others that are just as interesting as this book. Survivor was his second written book. I find this man utterly fascinating and I hope that others do too.
So what do you think of Survivor?
Saturday, February 27, 2010
Ricky Gervais is a comic genius. In my opinion, he is changing comedy and how we view it. Whether it's television (with The Office) or movies (with The Invention of Lying), his ideas are just so unique and hilarious that I can definitely see them influencing the path that comedy will take.
The Invention of Lying was such a good movie that I watched it twice in the two days I rented it. I never do that with movies. I like to watch as many movies as I can, so I rarely watch movies twice, let alone in two days. I thought that this comedy was SO radically different from others that I had to watch it again. I felt like I missed jokes and really wanted to revel in how funny and smart they really were. I am very impressed with Ricky Gervais and his innovative ideas.
So, the movie is essentially about what it sounds: a man who invents lying. That means that his surrounding world tells the complete truth. People are blunt and honest with one another. No one lies. There is complete faith and trust. No one would even THINK of lying. Except, Gervais's character does because he comes at a tough crossroads. He loses his job, and since he loses his job, he can't pay his rent. Thus, he is facing being evicted from his apartment. While at the bank, he has the opportunity to lie to get the money to pay his rent. Once he lies, he feels a monumental wave of an idea come over him: if he lies, he can get anything he wants.
The movie then goes through waves of his exploration of lying. He tries to lie to get sex, but he doesn't like doing that. Then he lies to get money at the casino. Then he lies to get his job back, and since his job is writing history, he makes up history to make the best movie ever and to earn the most money ever. He lies to try to get the girl even though Rob Lowe's character tries to get in his way. Except, the only thing he doesn't use is complete lies to sway the pretty girl to like him. Slowly, she does see the good in him even though she is so focused on reproducing and fears that if she reproduces with Gervais that her children will had pudgy snout little noses. That part, I find, to be utterly hilarious.
At the end, she does see him for who he is, and they do have a pudgy little kid with a snub nose. He then learns the trick from his father, so they will both be successful in their world.
Ricky Gervais's character is eventually discovered for knowing too many things which earns him more fame. When he tells his dying mother about how beautiful the afterlife is, he soon becomes the man who knows. He talks about what happens after death and what God is like. Could you imagine having to come up with that?
Anyway, the movie had so many excellent guest stars. They had Rob Lowe, Tina Fey, Jennifer Garner, Louis CK, Jonah Hill, Bobby Moynihan, Jason Bateman, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Edward Norton, Jeffrey Tambor, and of course, Ricky Gervais. They all did a FABULOUS job and were all hilarious. Edward Norton was really the surprise as the traffic cop.
The writers just did a really good job with creating jokes for their plot. Some movies have good ideas but they don't write good dialogue or scenes to go with it, but this movie really capitalized on its good idea. It was hilarious in every scene, and it even gets funnier when you watch it again to catch for jokes you missed. Overall, it was enjoyable on many levels. It was funny yet it had a good message.
But man! Budweiser must have contributed a pretty penny to the film. They were mentioned EVERYWHERE. That and Pizza Hut...
If you are a person who enjoys comedy as a genre of film, this is a must-see. You won't regret it.
So what do you think of The Invention of Lying?
Friday, February 26, 2010
Sundance films always intrigue me. And, movies that include Kevin Spacey also intrigue me. Thus, I picked up Shrink and in the end, I really enjoyed it. I respect the films that Kevin Spacey selects ever since he starred in American Beauty. For those who enjoy his work, this is quite an interesting piece to view.
Shrink is about what it sounds: a psychiatrist. Kevin Spacey plays this psychiatrist, Dr. Carter, who lives in Hollywood and treats patients from movie stars to high school students. The irony lies in the fact that Dr. Carter really has his own issues--his wife killed himself, and to handle it, he smokes all the time. His friends try to intervene and stop his drug abuse, but he rejects them and tries to continue on his own path of coping.
Meanwhile, his book about happiness (which was really just a self-exploratory way of trying to cope with his depression) is selling well. The movie branches out to focus on other characters, those that Dr. Carter is helping. Their story lines connect throughout the film.
One subplot has to do with Patrick, a movie agent who deals with famous actors and actresses, two of which are treated by Carter. One is Jack, played by Robin Williams, and another is Kate, who deals with her rock star boyfriend who cheats on her. Eventually, Kate and Carter run into each other enough outside of the workplace that they start to have feelings for one another. Although this is not exclusively developed, the viewer is left with the feeling that these two will pursue a relationship, giving Carter some closure on his dark past.
Another subplot focuses on Jemma, a struggling teenager whose mother has just committed suicide. She starts skipping school and pursuing in questionable behavior; thus the school forces her to see Dr. Carter. She has a difficult time opening up to him, and they both do not realize at first that they are fighting with the same issue within themselves: losing someone to suicide and not understanding why. In the end, they both discover this secret, and they both read the suicide notes left to them together. A strong bond then forms between them.
One of the movie's bigger subplots has to do with Dr. Carter's friend Jeremy, a struggling screenwriter who was closely related to Carter's wife. He is the only friend who accepts Carter after he denies help from his addiction. Jeremy gives a screenplay to Patrick, but since he is so busy, it is intercepted by his assistant Daisy. The two of them begin to see each other after that encounter. However, Jeremy's screenplay is similar to another film that is coming out, so that piece of writing is basically useless.
Jeremy then flounders and wants to succeed. For some material, he breaks into Carter's office and steals the case file on Jemma. Interested in the dark material he finds, he befriends her and hangs out with her. He then writes a screenplay on her life. Jemma soon finds this screenplay and yells violently at Jeremy. Once Carter finds out, he starts a brutal, vicious fight with Jeremy. Now Carter must stop seeing Jemma AND his friendship with Jeremy is in question.
However, meanwhile, Daisy forwards the screenplay to Patrick, who loves it. Daisy is promoted to being a producer and will start on this film. The movie ends with Patrick, Jeremy, Carter, and Jemma in an office talking about making the film. It seems as if all loose ends are tied up.
And, since Carter recently got into a drug-induced accident and saw his life flash before his eyes, he quit smoking. He even went on live TV and denounced his book, coming clean to the world. Characters all seem to have closure.
Overall, it was a smart film. I think it is smart writing when so many subplots can tie together and eventually weave into one. We start to see characters individually and undertand their background, and then we can better understand their decisions and actions once they all come together. It's a nice build up to try to understand their motives and to see their character development.
The film also had nice themes. Sometimes we can receive help from the strangest of places, those we don't expect to help us perhaps. Sometimes they are the most unlikely candidates. People need to come to their own conclusions to find peace. It can't be shoved down their throats--it can be a self-exploratory process. But, one must confront the past and the issue in order to overcome it. Numbing the self will not help get over it; it will just prolong the internal conflict. And, one must pursue his or her passions; otherwise, won't we always wonder, what if?
Kevin Spacey engaged in some fine acting, let me tell you. His character was different from others. He wore the pain of his character on his face. He always seems to impress me, no matter what kind of film he does. Even in Fred Claus, he still was brilliant.
I can see why this film did well at Sundance. It's a good one. If you like independent films, Kevin Spacey, or are interested in psychiatry, screenwriting, or itnernal conflicts, this is a good choice. It's not the most popular film, but some of the more popular films are quite boring and are just too over-the-top blockbuster predictable garbage. Yup, over-the-top blockbuster predictable garbage.
That's why I most enjoy indie films, Sundance films, the step right beneath big blockbusters. Focus Films. You get the picture. Any recommendations if I like these kinds of films for future views?
So what do you think of Shrink?
Monday, February 22, 2010
Alright, this blog is a bit overdue and out of date, but I wasn't in my full swing of blogging at the time of its newsworthy height. But still, I need to vent because the issue still angers me: Conan was essentially kicked off of The Tonight Show.
Being the avid Conan fan that I am, it seems natural that I would get this livid over this issue. Of course I rise to the defense like a mother whose child has been cheated or slighted. It's hard to put into words how much of a travesty this entire fiasco really is, but I keep trying to tell myself that Conan has bigger things in store for him. I really do believe that everything happens for a reason, so hopefully this will only launch Conan to greater heights. If NBC is going to treat him this way after working for them collectively for over 20 years, then maybe he doesn't deserve them after all.
So we all know the Conan story. I wonder if I am being too biased or wounded over the whole thing. As my father said to me, "How can you feel so sorry for a guy who got paid MILLIONS of dollars to walk away? It's not like he's totally left in the dust screwed." Fair enough. I know he got good compensation, but it seems that it's not about the money to Conan. It never was. It was about "having fun on television," which is what he always claimed. He has fun making comedy and making people laugh--I am sad that he isn't doing that every day.
But, I want to know Jay's real side of the story. I haven't seemed to find it or run across it yet. Does anyone know what his deal is? To be honest, I can't understand why he would want to come back. He doesn't need it anymore. Isn't it selfish for him to take it away from Conan forever just because he wasn't succeeding on his other show? And what is this ridiculous NBC/Jay Leno love affair anyway? Why not just cut him loose? Why is Leno choosing to end Conan's career? I'm sure he has other options!
When I first heard about it, I thought it was a total joke. How can they actually kick Conan off? And then the issue suddenly started to snowball into the disaster that it became. I then watched Conan avidly, hoping for the news to change. It feels like he only just arrived in LA, and now he's been ditched. He left his whole life on the west coast to come out here, and not even a year later he is kicked off the show. What a mess.
I thought Conan's jokes the whole week prior to the last episode were hilarious in terms of giving digs to NBC. Especially his bit on spending a lot of money to piss off NBC--that was gold (even though it really wasn't wasting that much money). In any event, it saddened me because everything on his show worked so well. His band. His writers. His sidekick. The jokes. The bits. Everything meshed SO well, and I'm afraid that, from now on, he might not get that back again. What if he doesn't get everyone back? What if he isn't picked up? Now I sit and fret! I miss watching Conan and hearing his hilarious perspective on the world.
But I do think Conan will get picked up though. He's so popular and has such a wide fan base. I just don't know if there is a venue for him, and if those who are willing to have him can pay him what he deserves.
Conan's heart-felt speech at his last show almost brought me to tears (just like it did him). He's right about not being cynical; I'm trying not to hate NBC for it. He really is lucky to have worked every comedian's dream--the host The Tonight Show. It's just sad that it had to end so quickly. I bet it's partly because Conan is so out there, he's not as safe as Jay. He's more like Leno, causing a controversy every now and then. Oh NBC, take risks!
In any event, I've written more than I've wanted to because now I'm just making myself want to watch him even more! Does anyone know any rumors of his future or why Leno has decided to take his show?
What do you think of Conan leaving The Tonight Show?
Sunday, February 21, 2010
Yesterday I saw a movie that really stuck with me: The Burning Plain. The preview kind of locked me, even though it seemed like it belonged on Lifetime Movie Network, but it still looked poignant and deep enough to be somewhat enjoyable.
Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger drew me to it too. They tend to make decent decisions in selecting movies to star in. And this one wasn't bad. In fact, it's still resonating in the back of my mind, showing me that the message is a good one, that the writing is really effective, that the story was pretty interesting.
What I really liked about this film was the way the story was pieced together. Nothing was in any sort of chronological order. You had to constantly piece together who was who, what this plot had to do with this plot, how this murder happened, etc. The writing gave enough clues for it to still be interesting yet you still had to continuously discover and identify plot points and characters. That is interesting writing. That is smart writing. That is hard writing to do.
The story itself was interesting, yet kind of sullen and depressing at the same time. All in all, when it's told in chronological order, it's about a teenage girl who discovers that her mother is cheating on her father with a Latino man. (They live somewhere in Arizona or New Mexico). They get together in an abanadoned trailer in the middle of nowhere and build a small life together out of their true love. Well, this teenger named Mariana gets really mad one day and follows them there. Only meaning to scare them out of the trailer, she lights it on fire. However, the gas leaks and blows up the trailer, killing them both. She did not mean to do this, but is now scarred forever.
Mariana is somewhat stalked by the cheating father's son, Santiago, and they soon become close friends as they try to figure out their cheating parents' affair. Soon, they fall in love and start making love. Their families find out and get really mad. Mariana finds out that she is pregnant. They run away to Mexico where she has the baby and abandons the family.
This plot then cuts to the future where Mariana has run away (Charlize Theron) and works at a fancy restaurant. She sleeps with any man she sees. She feels so much regret for her life and feels nothing. She has no respect for herself really; she probably doesn't even feel like she deserves to live. With a role model of a cheating mother (one that she destroyed) she then turns to promiscuous sex herself, perhaps trying to hold onto what she has left of her mother.
Santiago, in the future, gets into a plane crash. He asks his brother and daughter Maria to find Mariana and bring her to them. Santiago will survive but with bad injuries. This brings the family back together after some intense struggle, and the plot ends before we get the satisfaction of seeing the family together once again.
Santiago was a great single parent who always seemed to be waiting for Mariana to come back. That is his true love, and he was a good soul who was stuck in a bad situation.
Overall, it was a very smart film. I really enjoyed it. Of course, all of that was pieced together in fragments which made it more interesting.
The acting was really good too. Therone and Basinger played really damaged and confused women. I bought it. They put on two very powerful performances.
It brings up many questions: What is true love? What do we do with such heavy guilt when we can never take back what we have done? What do you do when you cannot share something so painful that you have done? What if you aren't ready to change or to grow up? What if you don't have a parent to identify with or their characteristics are so terrible that you don't know who YOU are or who to be? What do you do if you know your parent is cheating? What if you have so much pain that you just don't know how to live?
Even though those are heavy and harsh topics, they are interestingly splayed in this film. It is an emotional film, but it's worth the watch.
So what do you think of The Burning Plain?
Saturday, February 20, 2010
Milkweed: A decent tale about the a Jew's perspective from the Warsaw ghetto. Milkweed is a young adult novel told from the perspective of a Jewish orphan who is not one hundred percent keen on the politics and horrors striking around him.
The story is told from the point of view of Misha, the orphan, and is quite scattered and confusing since the narrator is both confused and in-the-dark about what is going on around him. At times, it was a little difficult to piece together what was happening, but since I have done a great deal of study on the Holocaust and World War II, it wasn't that hard to piece together what he was talking about. However, if I didn't know as much as I did about this time period and what was going on, I might have been just as confused as Misha, given I was a young, middle school reader--the audience of this novel.
First Misha is told to be labeled as a gypsy. They were also targets at the time, not just Jews. Jews are called very nasty names throughout, to show the utter discrimination and level that they were brought to by the Nazi Party and surrounding Germans. Misha, being an orphan, must steal food to stay alive. In his attempts, he comes across a young girl named Janina who is also Jewish. They become good friends and he steals foods for her.
Soon enough, Jews are forced into ghettos. Misha and Janina are both penned into the Warsaw ghetto, and ghetto life is thus depicted here on out in the book. There is little food and warmth--all trees are cut down around them. Walls go up around them to keep them in. People are crammed together to live. People are shot or hung daily; bodies of all ages lie in the streets. It is a shocking life for these young children.
More horrors come: Janina's mother dies of typhus, Misha's friend is hung in the square with a sign over his chest warning others not to steal, and then the deportations come. People think they are going to a peaceful place to live. They think that when people mention "ovens" that food will be baked in them. We all know otherwise. It kills me that there was so much optimism in such a dark time, when in actuality, the brutality and horror only got worse once they boarded the trains to be sent to concentration camps.
But can we blame them? Isn't it honorable to keep thinking the best of things in such a dark time? Or, is it better to try to be realistic? But how could they be realistic? How could they see that things could get even worse and darker? Who would have thought that man could stoop to the level of creating labor camps with the aim of mass killing an entire population? Could that even be imagined or dreamed? We can see this in retrospect, but we cannot assume or blame them for not thinking this. It is too cruel to think this of human nature. It's not something you see everyday.
Back to the book: Misha is warned from an old orphan friend of his named Uri, who escaped and claimed a false German identity, to run because the trains led them to bad, bad places. Misha tries to take this advice, taking Janina away from her family. Janina refuses to leave her father and runs to the trains, thinking they will take her to a candy land. Trying to save her, Misha is shot and left for dead.
However, Misha is not killed. His ear was blown off, but he is much alive. He runs into a farm which keeps him for the next three years. He works there until it is safe to venture out into the world. Misha never does reconnect with Janina--we can only assume that they were killed in the concentration camp. Misha tells his tales on a street corner where he meets his wife and has a baby. She leaves him afterwards though because she cannot get over his psyche and strange habits, being damaged from this period of his life.
The book ends with him working in a grocery store. His daughter comes with her new daughter and asks him to provide a middle name for his granddaughter. Not surprisingly, he comes up with Janina.
The title Milkweed comes from Janina and Misha's conversations about angels and heaven. It's hard for them to grasp the concepts, but it's good to hold onto something light and positive during this time. The image of the milkweed seeds floating into the air is not only on the cover, but it is described throughout the book. It's the little things, the little beauties in the world to hold onto even when the rest of the world turns its back on you. There still is beauty amongst a surrounding world of hate and destruction.
This book was a very quick read, an easy read for a middle schooler. Some of my students are currently reading this for a project. I can see why some students might not like this--the ones who know more about this time period will have an easier and more enjoyable experience with this book. Personally, it didn't grab or excite me, but that could just be the material.
Overall, I would recommend this to a younger population, particularly males. But, that's not to say a girl would not enjoy this. The chapters are broken up so it is easy to pick up and put down in multiple sittings, or it could be read quickly in just a few short hours.
So what do you think of Milkweed?
Friday, February 19, 2010
Since I'm on my Jodi Picoult run, I had to read her most popular book, My Sister's Keeper. I also wanted to read it so that I could compare it with the movie out that is based on the book. Yuck, what a joke that was.
The book was not a mistake to read. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I thought the characters were well crafted, and I liked reading from each perspective. Each one had his or her own voice that was interesting to see. Especially with such a controversial topic, cloning, and when there are sides to a story, it was very cool to get inside the head of different people on either side of the story.
Essentially, My Sister's Keeper is about a thirteen year old girl named Anna who wants to become medically emancipated from her parents. Anna was created by means of cloning so that she could donate parts of herself to her older sister Kate who has leukemia. Unfortunately, as Kate's disease progresses, she becomes in need of a kidney. This is when Anna seeks out legal help from Campbell Alexander who takes her on as a client.
Anna's mother Sara is appalled, always being the advocate for Kate, and decides to fight against them since she is a lawyer. Brian, the father, has a difficult time pleasing both parties as he does want his daughter to survive but he also wants his other daughter to have a choice. The oldest son Jesse struggles with being recognized. Starving for attention, he sets houses on fire to try to get people to recognize him and to try to mask his suffering. Ironically enough, his father Brian is a firefighter, and he soon catches him and puts a stop to his attention-seeking behavior.
In the midst of the case and the trial, a guardian ad litem is appointed to Anna. Her name is Julia Romano, and she is the old, first love of Campbell Alexander, ironically enough. The two of them have to work together on the case, and even though it starts out rough and heated, they slowly fall back into love. The twist with Campbell is that he is driven on his career and has a service dog named Judge. What he needs the service dog for is unknown until the end. When people ask what it is for, Campbell makes up a different lie every time to shield himself from his actual problems.
In the end, Campbell reveals his problem when he has a seizure in court. It is then learned that he has epilepsy, and his main reason to take on Anna for no financial gain whatsoever is that he realizes what it is like to have no control over your body. Hm. Interesting.
Anyway, the ending really through me off guard. First, Anna expels why she brought this all the way to trial: Kate wants to die. The only way for Anna not to give her kidney to Kate would be to literally fight off her mother with a lawsuit. Kate is sick of fighting for her life and just wants to slowly give up and let the disease overrun her body like it's been doing for the past fourteen years. She wants her family to start living their lives instead of revolving theirs around hers. What an intense scene that was!
After that twist, the judge discusses it with Kate and grants the victory to Campbell and Anna. But, here comes the REAL twist: on the way home from the trial, Campbell and Anna get into a horrific and fatal car accident. Campbell walks away hardly harmed, but Anna is left braindead. The doctor asks for them to consider organ donation... Just like Kate needed. It is then decided to save Kate with Anna's organs since Anna has no chance at a real life.
Woa. Never saw that one coming. Kate ends up living on instead of Anna, what we all pictured. I don't know if it's genius to write the exact opposite ending that we envisioned or what. I don't know if I love it or hate it.
You know, thinking about it, it's probably the best way it could have been done. Instead of going with the predictability of the leukemia patient dying, we go with the healthy thirteen year old. No one expects her to die. She lives her life without thinking of death and has no attention paid to her, yet she is the one who dies. It makes her parents think about all of the time and attention and devotion paid to Kate when they actually spent far less time and focus on Anna, the one who really does die. If anything, this is the way their parents truly do learn. And then Kate gets a new perspective on life and starts living for something since she was granted this second chance. Not too bad, now that I really ponder it.
And maybe I've come to this conclusion because of the filthy, trashy, atrocious excuse for a movie they created out of this. Yuck, what a waste of time. Not only were their Blockbuster choices for actors horrible and off-base (I mean, who buys Cameron Diaz as Sara let along the HORRIBLE choice of Alec Baldwin as Campbell; I love Alec tremendously, but he's no bachelor lawyer of Campbell--try Jude Law maybe), but the differences were overwhelming. They left out so much and twisted the plot so much that it hardly resembled the book.
First of all, Jesse had no issue with burning down houses. His character was too soft in the movie and looked too young and hurt. Jesse is supposed to be angry and not give a damn, not look like a wounded puppy. He smokes cigarettes, drinks, drives around random places, makes scenes, and burns down houses. The Jesse in the movie looked like a nice kid in the back of the classroom. Poor choice.
Then, they didn't even include Julia Romano's character. Julia makes Campbell interesting. Now we just have a lawyer who cares, not one who is struggling over the past and future. Why not throw a romance into it? Julia was central to the book, but they edited her out to add more unnecessary scenes to the family. Barf.
Lastly, THE ENDING??? I don't know where to begin here. What an atrocity! The ending was the COMPLETE opposite of the book's ending. Instead of Anna dying, they have Kate give up and die in the hospital. This COMPLETELY changes the meaning of the book, which in turn is a slap in the face to Jodi Picoult and her message. How did she let this happen?
I discussed previously the original ending's message. With this new ending, it's giving way to what we all thought originally. BORING. Not only that, but it excuses the parents' behavior to isolate and focus on one child. They don't learn anything by their daughter dying of cancer. It's the easy way out for their characters. There's no growth. It's easy, it's expected, it's Blockbuster. In the book, the parents go through depression and their own problems to cope, which they eventually will come out of. They realized their mistakes and are trying to cope and figure out life's true meanings.
By having Kate tell the story, in the epilogue of the book, we FINALLY hear her voice. This is the first and last time we hear from her, which is symbolic in itself. She now can speak, is heard, and wants to live. Instead of giving up on life, he fights to stay alive. Kate has a new perspective on life. She doesn't want to commit suicide; she now wants to live. By the moving killing her, it's basically okay-ing her suicide plot which should NOT be the message of the film. That is a horrible message to send to viewers. That is not what the message was intended to be.
Spoiler is over.
If you've read the book, don't even bother watching the movie unless you want to become critical or angered, like I have here. I wonder if Jodi Picoult had any sort of voice towards this film or if you just sell your rights to your book and whatever happens happens. If that's true, I'm very disturbed.
The book was well done, but not the movie. Tsk Tsk.
Stay tuned for my ideas on Change of Heart which will come soon. Hopefully I can find more time to write as I am now bogged down in the world of having a real job. Hopefully I can pick up this blog habit that I do so enjoy. Smile.
So what do you think of My Sister's Keeper?