Wednesday, February 27, 2008

No Country for Old Men (copy)

I am so psyched! One of my favorite books, No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy, did very well at the Academy Awards by winning four Oscars. One Oscar in particular, Best Adapted Screenplay, was well earned. We went to see the movie this past fall, and it followed the book word for word. I actually mouthed dialog as the movie proceeded, and once, aloud I said, “It’ll do till a mess gets here.”

I find it odd that a book I read in the summer of 2005 can be so recent in my memory. I hate to admit this, but sometimes I cannot remember the last book read; usually, because I am already deep into another. McCarthy’s book made quite an impression since I remembered the plot and dialog two years after reading it. Unfortunately, something did not stick.

There was an inconsistency in our memory and the movie’s ending. I’ll not tell you the ending, but let’s just say we had a totally different one in mind. So, too, did the audience in attendance that night. There were plenty of confused faces with discussions from different groups as we made our way to the exit. Most of the people we mulled through had not read the book, yet remained perplexed by the ending.

We rushed home to consult the book which had precisely the same ending. Why the discrepancy in our minds? I say “our” because hubby also read the book and could not remember the ending. Well, after four months of ruminating, I have the answer.

In our reading, we both choose to accept the book as a work of literature and not a genre piece. By this I mean, we were reading a critically acclaimed author where one expects thought provoking prose, instead of a pure western genre such as Louis L’Amour or Zane Grey. In addition, we focused on the main character Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, who narrates the book, instead of the bad guy Chigurh. I think this is where the movie and book differ.

I want to reiterate the movie followed the book exactly; unfortunately, the emphasis was placed on the bad guy. This misplaced emphasis led the movie into a genre piece and away from an artsy work. The problem lies in the literary (artsy) ending where the audience is waiting for the genre’s trademark, happy ending. A finale complete with hero on horse in the sunset’s silhouette.

The movie might have enjoyed one more Oscar for Best Leading Actor had the emphasis been placed on Sheriff Ed Tom Bell. But, hey, four Oscars are nothing to sneeze at.