25 May 2009

Snow Angels

I bought Stewart O'Nan's Snow Angels about a year ago intending to read it before watching the movie. As anyone with a massive TBR mountain knows, it's all about good intentions.

Kat got the movie via Netflix (she also had intended to read the book first, but never managed it) so Media_zombie and I went over, had some chicken burrito goodness, and watched Snow Angels with Kat and Aaron. It's a good movie, well-acted particularly on the parts of the actors playing Glenn and Annie (Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale), Amy Sedaris was fantastic in a non-comedy piece, and the movie seemed to be well-adapted but I couldn't be sure since I hadn't read the book. My only complaint is that the set dressers and stylists seemed to be doing a "retro revival" version of the 1970s because the sets and costumes looked eerily similar to modern retro 70s fashions and household items. None of the cars looked particularly period, Kate Beckinsale so did not have seventies hair (actually, none of the female characters did), and the Chinese restaurant didn't look terribly 1970s (and was run by a Russian? Greek? eastern European?). There only seemed to be hints of the 1970s - the television shows, vinyl and 8-tracks, the picture people at the mall, and the fact that everyone smoked (and everyone smokes in the boonies anyway, so that really didn't pin-point the era); a reference to putting fast food in the cafeteria makes the movie sound more 1990s but out in the sticks.

So I came home, dug out the book, and sat down to read a few chapters. Four hours later, at 430am, I finished the book and passed out for the night/morning. It's a good book; O'Nan really has a gift because he can wrap up a sad situation with everyday mundanities and make it compelling (Songs for the Missing was also like that). The characters are real, they all make mistakes, and they all have to feel their way through the muck of life with the rest of us. The three couples in the story act almost like a circle showing the destructive path of the relationships - Arthur and Lila are finding themselves and starting a first relationship; Arthur's mom and dad are in the process of divorce with the possibility of working things out or things may not work out at all; Annie and Glenn have a relationship that is irretrievably broken but they must still interact because of their daughter. There are beautiful passages where Glenn is praying, but the passages are also disturbing because the mind revealed in the prayers is not sound.

In contrast to the adaptation, the book is actually narrated by a grown-up Arthur and while that worked for the book I'm glad they didn't try to add that as a layer to the movie because there would have been too much distance between the audience and the characters. Other than that, David Gordon Green stuck quite close to the book's original plot line, beginning with the gunshots and backing up to tell the story leading up to that moment (Green has one major divergence with a plot line, and I don't quite like it now that I've read the book, but it's a spoiler and I won't be able to talk about it). The book is far more anchored in the 1970s with more pop-culture references, sports figures, music groups and the fixed time-period lends an understanding of how situations are handled. I find the movie endearing, not because of the horrifying aspects of Glenn and Annie's relationship, because Arthur is a band geek and Lila is a geeky girl and they are really, really cute together (I have a partiality to band geeks because I was one myself).

I really need to read some more O'Nan, particularly Last Night at the Lobster because that's been recommended to me more times than I can count, so he definitely goes on the front burner. I also highly recommend the motion picture adaptation of Snow Angels; it might be hard to watch if you're a mom but I think the acting performances are great and worth watching. This is an instance where I don't think it's necessary to read the book first.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. I read Songs of the Missing and wasn't too fond of it; however, based on your review and description of Snow Angels, I may just give Stewart O'Nan another try.