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Liz Loves Books

I love to read and to talk about books. I review many of the books I read. I do not accept any author/publisher submissions for reviews. I do not read or review ARCs. I do not enter any giveaways or contests. I obtain the books I review by purchasing them at the same price they are offered to the general public at the time of purchase. My reviews are intended for the use of my fellow readers. They are not advertising or promotion. They are not beta reads or constructive criticism or editing or advice to the author. My only obligation to the author is to pay the price charged for the book at the time of purchase. My reviews are sometimes critical and I will not stop posting critical reviews just to spare delicate authors' feelings. I am happy to make new friends, but friend requests from authors or promoters who have few or no books (and/or friends) in common with me and write or promote categories I do not read (especially new adult) will be ignored. I used to read more self-published books. After recent meltdowns by self-published authors, I now only read self-published authors I've previously read or who have been recommended to me by fellow readers I trust. I also used to read young adult/new adult books but rarely do so now.

30 Day Book Challenge, Day 14 - A Book Turned into a Movie and Completely Desecrated

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt 



... SEEETHE...


John Berendt's semi-fictionalized account of his time in Savannah, Georgia and his love affair with that city

and his possibly-unrequited love for one of its more notorious citizens, Jim Williams,

(show spoiler)

happens to be one of my favorite books of all time.  Berendt did an wonderful job of showing the quirky side of Savannah and this book is probably most fondly remembered by readers (both those who liked it and those who didn't) for its secondary characters.  But I was sucked in by the love story between the lines.  So when I heard that Clint Eastwood was making a movie version of it starring two of my favorite actors, Kevin Spacey and John Cusack, as the two


(show spoiler)

leads, I was all a-squee.  I obnoxiously chattered about how excited I was for this movie from the second it was announced until the day it opened and I went to see it.


And then my heart was ripped out and chewed to shreds by Mr. Eastwood, who either completely misunderstood the book or deliberately chose to remove the plot and replace it with one involving his daughter as the Berendt stand-in's love interest.  In doing so he not only destroyed the whole point of the book, he also changed the character Ms. Eastwood was playing from one I really liked to one I wanted to smack over the head with the book and the one Mr. Cusack was playing to ... well, just to someone completely unrelated to the character in the book. 


Mr. Spacey played his role well, but he should have known Eastwood had removed half of his character's motivation.

(Williams appears to have been toying with Berendt/Kelso the whole time and manipulating him.  I just can't tell if he returned Berendt/Kelso's feelings and I haven't read enough gossip to be sure on that point and out of respect for Berendt, I quit even looking for info.)

(show spoiler)

  Although ... sometimes when I re-watch (yes, I am insane and I keep expecting it to somehow be what it should and it never is!!!) I think I catch him mocking what the movie turned into.  I do think that of everyone involved he is the one person I feel fairly sure understood that

Berendt/Kelso was in love with Jim Williams

(show spoiler)

. But then sometimes I am less sure of that.  As for Mr. Cusack ... (whom I have loved since ... oh, 1985 or so) I just don't know. I try not to think about it too much.

This is the first of two movies he's starred in in which the sexual orientation of the character he has played has been changed. The other is Martian Child. I don't have any evidence that the changes were caused by him, though.  Considering his politics, he doesn't seem like the kind of person who would be a bigot.  The thought that he might be kind of makes my head feel like exploding.

(show spoiler)


There are clearly a lot of people who read the book who did not pick up on the real reason Mr. Berendt/Kelso stayed in Savannah and became so ... involved.  It's very obvious from the reviews and that's why I've sprinkled spoiler tags throughout the post. I am assuming some people don't want to know. Maybe Eastwood, Cusack and Spacey are among that number?  I hope so.  I would rather think they just didn't get it than that they did this deliberately.  Then again, having watched Mr. Eastwood ramble irrationally at an empty chair, I have concluded he has periods of insanity.  Perhaps he was experiencing one throughout his production of this movie.


Since the book is semi-autobiographical, I respect that Mr. Berendt wanted to keep his own thoughts and feelings out of it.  It's harder to do that with a movie version and he may have played a part in the changes that occurred between book and movie.  (But it could have been done! They could have not given Kelso a love interest at all!) I still feel like the book was desecrated by the movie.  I also wonder if it would be remade differently if it were remade now.