Saturday, January 24, 2009

One Book--Two Movies

The mark of a good book and I guess a good movie is that you keep remembering the characters and the stories. At the oddest of times you think of him or her or them--the good things and the shadow sides, the heartbreak and the wonder. Sometimes late at night I find myself wondering: "I wonder what happened to..."

Marilynne Robinson's book Home moved me greatly. I had tried to read her previous novel, Gilead and finally got through it. I found it hard to follow and painfully slow. The ending was wonderful but the book I did not like even though it won the Pulitzer Prize. But her latest book, Home gripped me from the start. Some of the same characters found in her previous novel appear in this book. There is the aging-preacher-father whose daughter Glory comes home to look after her old father. And the preacher's son who has been gone for 20 years and did not even come home for his mother's funeral suddenly appears. Like Gilead before it, the book moves slowly--maybe as slowly as all our lives move most days. We all wonder if these days or months are going anywhere or if anything of consequence is really happening. This book is like that. Glory and her wayward older brother reconnect and the book is the story of that reconnection. It is also the story of family secrets and relationships and love and death and faith. As I read it I kept thinking of the prodigal son in that other story. Jack is a modern-day prodigal who comes back home to confront his old father and the sister, Glory whom he hardly knew when he left. Home made the think about many people and my own home back there and my home now. I recommend it highly.

I have seen two movies back to back. Doubt is an incredible film about a priest played brilliantly by Phillip Hoffman. The old Mother Superior, played by Meryl Streep is unforgettable. She suspects that the priest has seduced one of his altar boys and confronts the priest. The movie moves back and forth never really answering if the priest is guilty. But the relationships in this movie are strong and gives us much to ponder about faith and betrayal and doubt.

The other movie I saw was Revolutionary Road. It is a fifties story about a couple and two children. They have moved to a house in the suburbs. He is a commuter. She is a housewife. They both feel stuck and spin a wonderful dream of leaving it all behind and moving to Paris. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the husband and Kate Winslet plays his wife. You don't easily forget these characters who are struggling with their lives and their relationships and meaning in life. We have all felt trapped from time to time in some job or some place. The movie clearly outlines the frustration of a woman who had few options in her life. Thank God there are more avenues for fulfillment now than in the fifties--but in a sense this story is still with us. Perhaps one of the reasons for so much anger in our time is the desperate feeling of having few options. Just today I read where two of Alabama's Senators would not vote for this new bill which promises equal pay to women who do the same jobs as men. Couple this reality with a world of foreclosures, job layoffs and shaky economic times for everyone--this film is worth seeing.


  1. We saw two movies this weekend too. One I cried from laughing so hard -- Hotel for Dogs and the other I cried because it's true, not the movie but the human situation. After Slumdog Millionaire these words welled up inside--Man's evil is surpassed only by his goodness. I Googled them and apparently I'm the first to say them.

  2. Crash
    I bet I think about this movie two or three times out of every week.