THE SUNDAY [BOOK & MOVIE] REVIEW | THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU – JONATHAN TROPPER

Let’s start with the exciting part. Thanks to Karen over at One More Page who frantically tweeted me last weekend telling me to wake up and get my act in gear, I was able (just barely) to enter Indigo Events‘ contest for tickets to an advance screening of This Is Where I Leave You. Which was perfect, since I was about 20 pages away from finishing the book in anticipation of the film hitting screens!

So, on Wednesday night, I headed to the theatre and settled in to watch the much-anticipated tragicomedy based on Jonathan Tropper’s novel. For those of you who haven’t read the book or seen the trailers, this is the story of a family of grown up kids who are sitting shiva for their father. The film stars Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Adam Driver, Dax Shepard and Jane Fonda – all of whom know how to deliver a witty line with perfect timing and create great on-screen chemistry.

In contrast to the book, it is this chemistry and humour that stands out in the film, despite the sad situational elements. Bateman’s character is one of the less charismatic, but more believable characters. All the other characters orbit him, and they each bring a distinct flavour of wit that creates a rich set of relationships. Relationships that are complex, full of history and depth that allows them to layer on top of one another creating a satisfying portrait of an estranged family in mourning.

I loved this film, and though there were a few teary moments, there were many more that made me laugh out loud (along with the rest of the theatre). I don’t think it’s necessary to read the book before seeing the film, but if you have read it, the film won’t disappoint. It took the best and most entertaining parts of the book and added a few new quirks and wrinkles that made it even more compelling. Likewise if you found the book a bit too heavy, you’ll like the film’s comedic focus.

If you’re a fan of Judd Apatow’s films (Bridesmaids, Superbad, Knocked Up, The 40-Year-Old Virgin) or just looking for some laughs as the summer wanes, this will fit the bill. Apatow has developed a reputation for films that are darkly humorous with quirky characters and realistic conflicts. This film will not disappoint fans of Apatow, the main actors or the book.

Check out the trailer:

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Now that I’ve reviewed the film, it’s time to share my thoughts on the book. That’s right, this is a two-for-one edition of The Sunday Review!

The death of Judd Foxman’s father marks the first time that the entire Foxman family—including Judd’s mother, brothers, and sister—have been together in years. Conspicuously absent: Judd’s wife, Jen, whose fourteen-month affair with Judd’s radio-shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public.

Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the demise of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch’s dying request: to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family.

As the week quickly spins out of control, longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed, and old passions reawakened. For Judd, it’s a week-long attempt to make sense of the mess his life has become while trying in vain not to get sucked into the regressive battles of his madly dysfunctional family. All of which would be hard enough without the bomb Jen dropped the day Judd’s father died: She’s pregnant.
This Is Where I Leave You is Jonathan Tropper’s most accomplished work to date, a riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind—whether we like it or not.Goodreads

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As mentioned above, I finished this book a week ago, just in time to head to the theatre. In fact, the whole reason I chose to pick up this book right now was because I wanted to read the book before watching it come to life on-screen – and after watching the trailer, I had high hopes for this one. This wasn’t, however, the first time I’d heard of it. I originally picked it up after seeing Red reading it in an episode of Orange Is the New Black (which, btw, is chock full of literary references and a great place to find your next read!).

The book starts with Judd’s wife cheating on him, progresses to his pathetic life post-break-up (living in a sad, rundown basement suite with sagging furniture and a clear earshot of his upstairs neighbours’ bathroom activity) and then moves along to his father’s tragic death. And it doesn’t really improve much from there, as Judd and his siblings are forced to spend a week trapped in their childhood home, reliving agonizing, awkward and better-left-forgotten moments of their childhood as they sit Shiva for their father.

We soon learn all about Judd’s family and the personal drama each is facing: his mother, who has dealt with his father’s illness by “enhancing” her breasts and investing in a skimpy wardrobe; his older brother Paul who runs the family business and is married to Judd’s ex-girlfriend who can’t seem to get pregnant; Judd’s sister Wendy, her workaholic husband Larry and their three children who seem to exist in barely controlled chaos and mutual antipathy towards one another; and finally, Phillip, the baby of the family who has a history of pretty much every bad decision you can imagine and arrives with much older girlfriend in tow.

There’s a lot of friction, a lot of stored-up resentment and way too many people to fit under one roof. The story progresses by simultaneously telling the story of the week of imposed familial intimacy and weaving in tangential memories that provide back-story on the complicated relationships that make up this family.

I won’t give away any of the plot twists, but I will say that if the summary of the story thus far seems complicated to you, your head will spin by the end of the book. I enjoyed the writing style, and found the characters compelling and entertaining. It did drag a bit in places – mostly because the situations that drive the plot are generally on the dark side – but overall there were enough humorous moments that I didn’t feel bogged down.

Comparison:

While I enjoyed both the book and film, I will say that if you’re in impatient reader or if you have trouble sticking with plots that aren’t full of sunshine and happiness, you might find the book challenging. That said, you’ll probably love the movie, which consolidates the lighter moments and multiplies them, along with some really great character acting.

Overall, though I hate to say it, I think I did enjoy the film more because of the added details and focus on the funny side that made it easier to become immersed in. It’s likely to become one I re-watch when I’m feeling blue while indulging in some ice cream.

Book Title: This Is Where I Leave You
Author: Jonathan Tropper
Series: No
Edition: Paperback
Published By: Plume
Released: July 6, 2010
Genre: Fiction, Family Drama, Humour
Pages: 339
Date Read: September 2-15, 2014
Rating: 7.5/10

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