First and foremost, let me say that I am one of those people who very seldom likes a movie as much as a book. And, I've adopted a self-imposed edict that a movie may not be watched (by me) unless I've read the book first. I know I'm weird...but, that's just the way it is. It is important to know this about me though before you take my review to heart.
It's probably important to read my review of the book first as well...you can find it here.
What I liked:
The scenery - nature, the environment, place to place was a hugely important aspect of this novel, so I was very glad to see the movie makers took the time to make sure nature was at the forefront of the movie as well.
Graphic scenes - please don't get me wrong...I didn't like the graphic scenes...but this is war...there should be graphic scenes...anything less than graphic softens history for each generation removed from the actual events. As graphic and hard to watch as some of the scenes in the movie, I felt the book descriptions were even more so. Again, those scenes were not intended for shock effect...but a true depiction of the circumstances.
Attitudes - when the men hear that war has been declared, they begin jumping around hooting and hollering about going to war...as if they're going to wrestle a few rounds with the fellas down the street. Young and old drop everything, leave everyone and go to fight...they truly think they'll be back quickly...and most of them never return at all. I think these scenes are important because as bad as things were, ever are, or ever could be again, the tragedies of the Civil War were not seen as such from the beginning. What is war? How can you guess if you never been there? How can you guess even if you have been there? The men and women who went to Vietnam never expected the horrors and atrocities they suffered there either nor how they would be treated when they returned. The men of the North and South never expected such lawlessness as what they left behind...how women and children and helpless families were taken advantage of...and the examples could go on and on.
War should never be taken lightly...with only fist pumping and going over to kick someone's a#$$. Is there really ever a "winner"?
Ruby/Renee Zellweger - almost a flawless portrayal I think...hardcore, a spade a spade, realistic to the bone, hard-worker, smart, country, and independent. The following is a perfect introduction to the character Ruby:
Jude Law as Inman - at first I wasn't sure...and I wasn't completely comfortable with his accent, but his acting overshadowed that for me...and that's really saying something. His plight...a young honorable farmer, off to war, attracted to Ada, a war he doesn't believe in even from the beginning, the violence, wanting to go home, his perseverance, his inability to walk away from someone else in need, standing up for what's right while at the same time trying to be loyal...Inman is probably the most complicated person in this novel/movie, and Jude
Law nailed it.
The end - a very important part of this story is the way it ends. The final scene was not my favorite in the movie and was much more meaningful and emotional in the book. However, the actual ending "event" was done very well...even if you know what is going to happen (and I did), I felt the anticipation as Inman tracked down the fleeing member of the guard...I even caught myself hoping that the inevitable somehow might not happen. That's pretty good movie-making, folks.
What I didn't like:
Nicole Kidman as Ada - I was a little nervous about the Nicole Kidman thing from the very beginning. She just didn't fit my brain's image of Ada as I read the book. While I felt she gave Ada her best shot, there were moments, especially at the end in the snow, when she looked like she had just put on blush and lip gloss. That bothered me...I also couldn't help but wonder about her harsh portrayal of a woman with progressive ideas. In the book Ada is much more believable...I'm not sure I'm really explaining this well...and maybe my doubts were about Kidman rather than her portrayal of Ada. Kidman's best scene was the one where she is under the house hiding and the rooster attacks her. Kidman looks like a crazed woman who literally has reached a point of nothing else to lose. Perfect.
Changes to the story - As expected there were certainly some smaller scenes that were left out...and a few minor changes to the story or characters...and while I notice those, I can deal with them. However, there was a major shift for Sally Swanger's character. That I did not understand at all...living with Ada and Ruby after the brutal slaughter of her family...no voice...Did I miss something? With that big of a change, I felt there should be some outstanding reason, some other part of the story developed...but there wasn't.
Romance as a bigger theme - The movie was made much more into a love story than the book. In the book Inman and Ada hardly knew each other when he left. Their "love" grew from an idea of wanting what they had before the war took it all away. The movie portrayed them somehow as the love of each other's lives from the very beginning, and I just didn't see it that way when I read the book.
My Overall Response
I liked this movie enough to buy a copy and keep it in our DVD library. It was not as good as the book, but what movie ever is? I enjoyed looking for clips to share for this post which makes me think I will definitely watch it again.