Battle: The Leftovers

When I read books, I usually turn them into a movie or TV show in my head. I have the characters visualized, I have the setting, and I even imagine cool cinematic features. I have made some really good movies in my head. If you were to ask me to create the movie in my head in real life, I would not know how to do that whatsoever.

Translating a book into a visual media is hard. There’s just so much that doesn’t carry over well. At the same time, there is soooo much you can add in terms of effects and motifs (I learned that word in freshman English in high school while watching the movie Rebel Without A Cause).

I decided I want to do books vs. movies/TV show. Most people automatically choose books, but I’m gonna give them a fair chance.

First battle: The Leftovers by Tom Perotta

For those of you who don’t know the premise of the story, it’s about a good percentage of the human population who just disappear for no fathomable reason. People go wild, joining cults and having mental breaks. I would too if my entire family disappeared, as was the case for one of the main characters.

The TV show:

I’ll start with the TV show, because that’s what I watched first. The Leftovers is an HBO show directed by Damon Lindelof (who also directed Lost, so I was sold) and stars Justin Theroux, Amy Brenneman, Christopher Eccleston, Liv Tyler.

Here are the Pros:

  • Beautifully shot. I love grayish tv shows and it set the perfect tone for the seriousness of the subject matter. The images were really stunning.
  • Bomb soundtrack. When I listen to music to focus, I often listen to tv/movie soundtracks and this one, from all seasons, is frequently played (right under the Memoirs of a Geisha Sountrack)
  • Really good acting. And bonus that they found a way to incorporate Regina King and other black women (including a black woman mayor of a small white town)! It was a diverse cast that aren’t just made of token characters.

Here are the Cons:

  • Some of the side storylines were unfinished. Why was that baby even important???
  • Kevin and Nora’s relationship. They were awkward and unromantic. I get the purpose of making them that way, but it was still disappointing.

The Book:

The show had a lot of deviations from the book. A lot. And it threw me off because I watched the show first. The cover is cool. It’s a pair of shoes with smoke coming out of it. Like the people who went poof (that sounded more insensitive than I meant it to be, especially since the times we are currently living in).

Here are the Pros:

  • Kevin, the main character, is the mayor. I think this was a good perspective to see a leader of the community deal with tragedy, not only on a community level, but also a personal level. I feel like it humanizes leadership.
  • It’s about realistic people and not so science fiction-y. I’m not a huge fan of fantasy or science fiction, but because it is about ordinary people, it felt good to read. But not in a way that freaked me out that something like this would happen in real life.
  • Internal dialogue. In the book (and in books in general) you can get more of characters motivations and intentions than you can through film. Without being overly cheesy anyway.

Here are the Cons:

  • Another white book. No character diversity which sucks.
  • Too happy. I guess the show messed me up in thinking that this was going to be as dark and dreary (like I love). I mean, it’s not like people were happy, but they had too much hope and optimism for this kind of situation. How dare they be so resilient??

Conclusion: The Winner

I would have to say the show wins. Sad things are just so beautiful to me and they speak to me more about the human condition than something that is positive. And the cast was diverse and portrayed diverse experiences. You should definitely read the book first, but you HAVE to watch the show!

1 thought on “Battle: The Leftovers”

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