Everything is Illuminated

[Screenshot]It has been said, many times, that great books, or even good books, make bad movies, and few are the exceptions to that dictum. Certainly much of what makes a good book good, like strong narrative style, emotive writing, evocative description, and stylistic freshness translates poorly to the screen (what does translate well to the screen is a story of limited scope with flat narrative and description: bad books, in other words).

What, you might ask, does all this have to do with Everything is Illuminated? Well, it’s based on the book of the same name. And while the jury may still be out on whether Jonathan Safran Foer’s debut novel was great or even good, it definitely possesses some of the literary qualities common to good books which make bad films: an inventive literary style with idiosyncratic narrative voice, alternating and convergent storylines, and a plot which is not nearly as interesting as the narrator’s perception of it. So, one might reasonably expect this film to be terrible, which it is not. It is merely mediocre. It captures all the whimsy of the book, but nearly none of the wonder, so one is left with a hollow, unsatisfied feeling when all is said and done. The lead actors do their best with what their given, but Elijah Wood’s dead-eyed contempt for everything starts to get old after a while. It sort of works with the highly neurotic character given in the film, but the character of Jonathan as given in the book isn’t closed-off so much as in over his head. It gives the whole interpersonal relationship development a lot less warmth and a lot less room to grow, and makes the film seem unbearably static, because nobody and nothing really develops.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

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About Jake
I'm a mathematics professor at the University of Louisville, and a geek.

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