Saturday, November 7, 2009

Review: Election, by Tom Perrotta

ElectionMy rating: 2 of 5 stars
I am sure I would have liked this more had I not recently re-watched the movie. For some reason, last week my sister broke out the 'ol VHS tape, popped it into our combo player and we plopped down and watched that familiar favorite. And for some reason, I had the urge to read the novel on which it was based.

Too soon. The two versions are rather similar and the occasions on which they differ tend to favor the movie. I get the impression of "touching up," as if the people behind the movie were mostly happy with the story but still felt it needed some tweaking. I am inclined to agree with them. The ending especially, the part that they reworked the most, was very weak and disappointing in the book. I suppose I like it that Mr. M and his wife stayed together but I am glad they cut the whole section on his career as a car salesman. I won't even mention his reconciliation with Tracy -- what was Perrotta thinking?

The book has nothing to offer that is not in the movie. Usually, in the old "Film Vs. Print" never-ending battle, the book has the advantage of length. It can flesh out, expand on concepts and scenes that the movie people are forced to glaze over or leave out completely. But this is a very short, light read, in which Perrotta leaves the philosophy to the old dead guys.

And -- dare I say -- I feel some things were handled much better in the movie. The characters, for example, sparkle more on-screen: we see just how big of a cut-throat bitch Tracy really is, Paul is even dopier and more naive, and even Mr. M gets a shot in the arm from Matthew Broderick's worthy performance.

It is still a good story, but I can't shake the feeling that this book was written mainly for the opportunity of turning it into a much better movie. Hindsight, you know.

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