Wednesday, December 16, 2009

36. Animal Husbandry by Laura Zigman

I really like the movie Someone Like You, which is based on this book. Ashley Judd is gorgeous and charming, and her wardrobe is fantastic. Hugh Jackman is very appealing. And Marisa Tomei has never played a better sassy best friend. So I was a little apprehensive about reading the source material -- would I like it as much as the movie? What if I liked it better than the movie and didn't watch to watch it again? I actually put off reading it for a few days after I got it from the library! Shrug -- it was a little silly, but whatever.

Animal Husbandry  is about Jane, a TV talent scout who falls madly in love with and is then unceremoniously dumped by a new co-worker. After the break-up, Jane moves in with Eddie, another co-worker and post-love survivor. She is desperate to understand the why -- why did he leave, why didn't he love her as much as she loved him? Why? In order to cope, Jane throws herself in to a new theory about men and their inability to commit. She finds research to support her hypothesis that men have the same instincts as male animals -- they have the same "copulatory imperative" as well as the urge to move on to better pastures after mating, so to speak. After obsessing about her theory and lost love, she eventually recovers from the break-up and moves on with her life.

I didn't dislike the book, but I appreciate the story more in movie format for a few reasons:

In the book, there was too much foreshadowing at the beginning. The "if you'd asked me then" and "if I'd known then what I do now" portion dragged on a bit. A simple and brief voiceover at the beginning of the movie was more effective.

There is actually a lot of scientific information in this story. If you know me, then you know that this isn't really a selling point for me. Each chapter of the book began with an excerpt from a book or magazine with scientific facts about that stage in Jane's theory. To be honest, I think I only read one. So boring! I thought the use of the scientific facts that Jane uses to support the theory were used more effectively in the movie -- mainly shared in Jane's conversations. It was almost as if the theory was a character in the book, and it was a bit more secondary in the movie.

In the book, Jane commiserates with a gay male friend who is just as perplexed as she by male behavior. This character was cut from the movie and replaced with a sister and brother-in-law who are trying to have a baby. I liked this change a lot. Jane's friend in the book didn't really add very much to the story (I don't even remember his name). I really liked how in the movie, Jane is completely caught up in her "men are animals" theory, and she realizes toward the end that she hasn't given proper credit to her brother-in-law, who is good man and a very caring husband.

I felt that the movie explained Jane's obsession with the theory better. Eddie is appalled by her research, and demands to know why Jane can't just let her ex go. She replies that if the theory isn't true, then men don't leave all women -- they just leave her. It's a fairly powerful moment, which I think the book was lacking.

The main difference between the book and the movie lies in Jane's relationship with Eddie. In Animal Husbandry, Eddie and Jane are roommates and friends, somewhat united in the battle to recover from their break-ups. At the end of the book, they have managed to heal somewhat and move on with their lives. In Someone Like You, Eddie and Jane are roommates and friends, somewhat united in the battle to recover from their break-ups. And at the end of the movie, they fall in love. I admit, I prefer the romance of the movie to the reality of the book.

In the end, I think the story is better told in the movie format. Or maybe I just prefer that version of the story, I'm still not sure. I am relieved that I will still want to watch Someone Like You occasionally, I really do like it a lot. Colin watched it with me after I was done reading the book, and he claims that he liked it. I'm waiting to read his review, though. He's a little behind on posting movie reviews on his blog, so I'm not sure how long until that will be.

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