Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Out to the movies: Atonement

The other night Husband came up with the idea (all by himself) to have Sophie spend the night at her grandmother's so we could go see Atonement, which he knows I've been wanting to see. When we go to movies, we always go get a bite to eat first, so I asked him where he thought we should go. He answered "I don't know. Somewhere local. Like maybe right here at home." I said I would call to see if we could get a reservation and reported back that there were no tables available. So out we went to a cute wood-oven pizza place across the street from the theatre.

I was looking forward to the movie because I liked the book so much. (I'm all over the map on McEwan in general: I didn't really like Black Dogs and was only lukewarm on Enduring Love and Saturday (like parts very much but not the entire thing), but just loved Amsterdam—a real kick in the pants.) I agree with the Salon review that given the complexity and subtley of the book, this is a film adaptation that could have really screwed it up. But it didn't. And it was everything I want in a movie: epic drama, big ideas, fantastic period costumes, and good acting. I like comedies, but in my mind the real world's funny enough. When I pay $10 a ticket and arrange for child care, I want something more.

But my mother-in-law, who I thought would enjoy it because she loves Masterpiece Theatre and saw The Queen something like four times, did not love it. And she had some questions, which she thought I could answer given that I have read the bool.

"What was the deal with the mother when he was in the war?" "That was a hallucination." "Oh. I knew that."

"What about that French man Briony was talking to in the hospital? Who was that??" "He was just a soldier in the hospital." "But they knew each other!" "No, they didn't. He was suffering from a major head injury and was hallucinating as he died. She was just going along with his hallucination that she was someone he had once loved." "But they knew the same people!" No, they didn't. He named all the people." "Oh. Well, it just seemed kind of strange. " "It was, but it was an important scene because it showed Briony learning as an adult how to feel compassion, which only then allowed her to comprehend her destructive actions earlier in her life." "Oh. Well, I didn't really like it. It was too intense."

It is intense, but it's a beautiful story of a life lived dominated by regret, striving for atonement but knowing it is out of reach.


Girlfriend J said...

Just wanted to let you know I loved Atonement, the movie, too (though not as much as the book) and I read your blog almost every day, so keep it up. Good tip about the bread yeast. I made yeasted waffles and yeasted pumpkin rolls recently and suspect this might be part of my less than stellar results. The waffle batter smelled downright boozy and nasty! Girlfriend J

Erin said...

Interestingly, I liked them movie better than the book (which never happens). I think I got to the end of the book and felt ripped off that I'd invested all that time just to read a bummer ending (trying not to give anything away) where the movie was just much more about the tone and emotion of Briony's regret.

I love Joe Wright -- he can do no wrong in my book.

First time commenter, btw, and fellow East Bayer (though I'm over the hills).

Cindy said...

Hi, Erin. Welcome to FLC!

That happened to me with The English Patient--I actually felt I understood the book better after watching the movie.

Wasn't Vanessa Redgrave as the elderly Briony excellent? What an expressive face.

Erin said...

"Wasn't Vanessa Redgrave as the elderly Briony excellent? What an expressive face."

Yes, she was. And she nailed it all -- the whole scene, the revelations, etc. -- just perfectly.