We finally got around to seeing the movie last night, so it’s time to blog about it. I had read the book back in late-December through early-January and was chomping at the bit to see the movie. I’ll break this up into a couple of parts.
Let’s start with the movie:
I liked the movie. I had heard that many folks who have read the book don’t like the movie, and I totally understand why. But I still liked it and am glad to have seen it.
That said, perhaps it’s a shame that I read the unabridged version of the book. It would have been nearly impossible for even a 2 1/2 hour movie to compete with the 17 1/2 hour audible book in terms of detail. They had to cut, cut, cut all over the place and even so the movie felt frantically paced! Speaking with Jodi after the movie, she admitted that there was so little screen-time given to some of the important characters — and the pace at which we were whisked through Sayuri’s life, bouncing back and forth between all of these supporting characters — that she wasn’t entirely sure who some of the folks were… even at the end of the film.
<not really spoilers here, but don’t read if you want to read the book and be surprised>
But what got me the most was that they made a bunch of changes to the plot. I was particularly surprised and uncertain about why they changed the terms of Mameha’s deal with mother, for instance? All it did was make Mameha look more selfless than she was in the book, and it raised early questions about “what was in it for her”… questions that lead too early to the Chairman. The second big thing that frustrated me was the constant presence of the Chairman throughout, to the almost complete exclusion of Nobu. I realize we had to wrap up the happy ending very rapidly without lots of explanation, but even I (having read the book and knowing what it was supposed to be portraying) had a hard time following the combination of several events (separate in the book) that led to Nobu disappearing from the story.
Things I wish had had more focus in the movie:
- Nobu and his decades-long relationship with Sayuri
- The problems Hatsumomo caused during Sayuri’s apprenticeship
- The lead-up to war and wartime
- Sayuri’s move to America
Ok, enough about the movie. Let’s talk about the book!
I really liked this book. A lot. It’s quite likely my favorite book I’ve read in the last year. It was one of those books where by the time it’s over, you end up really “missing” the characters for having finished. This was made even worse for me, by the realization that since it was not published until after Sayuri’s death, there is not a single person who plays a direct/named role in the book who is still alive today. That made me very sad.
But all in all, a very good read and an engaging story. Highly recommended.