Finally, a version of ‘Sundays At Tiffany’s’ I don’t hate

Last year, I read a little book called Sundays At Tiffany’s by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet. The premise sounded really sweet: little girl has an imaginary friend who “abandons” her as a child, then reappears later in life . . . in the flesh. And just at a time of great flux and turmoil in her life, proving that maybe first loves can be more powerful than anything.

Yes, friends, I had high hopes for that story — especially with Patterson’s name splashed across the cover — but it turned out to be utter drivel. Poorly written and lacking any possible nuance, I found it condescending and actually ridiculous. I would have been willing to set aside the completely improbably plot without difficulty had the book just not been awful. But it was. To date, it is the only book I’ve ever read and reviewed to get a one-star rating. And I think that was generous.

So it was with a certain amount of trepidation that I hunkered down with my mom and sister last week, watching Mom page through her DVR looking for a good holiday movie with which to unwind on a quiet weeknight. She stopped on a title that was was familiar to me — and my lip actually curled in disgust.

“How about this one — ‘Sundays At Tiffany’s’?” Mom began, looking over at my sister and me. Katie was on the floor wrapping a mountain of gifts; my nose was, as always, in a book.

I briefly looked up from my copy of The Love Goddess’ Cooking School to offer a look of utter contempt. “What? They seriously made that into a movie? That was the worst book I’ve ever read.”

I wasn’t feeling too charitable that Tuesday.

“Oh.” Mom looked away, stunned at my vehemence. “Well, I think it looks good. And it has Alyssa Milano in it.”

Not wanting to be a Negative Nancy, I figured I’d said my piece and would leave the ladies to their film . . . which, if it was based on that stunning work of literature, would be awful. I returned to Melissa Senate’s Blue Crab Island and the luscious world of Italian food, figuring I’d just ignore the Lifetime Original Movie glittering in the background.

Which, it turns out, was hard to do.

Considering how much I despised the novel (and have I mentioned I despised it?), the movie was actually . . . really cute. Alyssa Milano plays Jane, the theatre manager still stuck under her mother’s thumb and struggling to make any sort of wedding plans during her engagement to a self-absorbed actor. Michael is her erstwhile “imaginary friend,” a little boy who knew her better than anyone and swept her away from the tedium and loneliness of being her controlling mother’s daughter. They once enjoyed afternoons with her mother at Tiffany’s and made up “stories” about the people around them, wondering what their lives were like, and Jane dreamed of being a writer.

And now Jane spends her time trying to please everyone but herself — and Michael can see that. He appears after twenty years away, dropped onto a New York street and unable to process why he’s suddenly alive and feeling things. And visible. Jane believes she’s going stark-raving mad, of course, and thinks Michael is some sort of crazed stalker out to capitalize on her engagement to a famous man.

Well, he’s not. He’s there to impart some lessons. Show Jane how to love again, trust again, and so on and so forth.

What didn’t come across in the book — any real sense of connection or camaraderie between Jane and Michael; any heat or romance or passion between them — was definitely present in the film. Our movie version shows a pretty, successful but vulnerable Jane, a woman I actually liked and respected, while Michael is the innocent, kind and thoughtful opposite to Jane’s ridiculous fiance. Their chemistry was definitely there and very appealing, and the movie proved to be a sweet escape.

Like all adaptations, the film and book differ — but, you know what? I was completely fine with that. The movie drastically improves upon a story I found silly and boring, and the film was beautifully shot and well acted. A very cozy way to spend a few hours, and my Patterson-hating heart may have twisted a bit several times. Who doesn’t love a good Christmas movie?

It’s rare you’ll hear me (or any other literature lover) saying this, but skip the book and watch the movie. It’s airing now on Lifetime in the U.S.

Book review: ‘Sundays At Tiffany’s’ by Patterson, Charbonnet

sundays_at_tiffanysThe set-up is interesting enough: a young woman falls in love with her imaginary friend Michael, a man who served as the only constant in her sad, lonely childhood. On her ninth birthday, Michael is forced to part with her . . . only to find her again two decades later in New York City, looking beautiful but just as lost as she was as a kid.

Jane is now a writer/movie producer thing (I couldn’t honestly tell you, I didn’t care) still under the thumb of her domineering, whimsical mother Vivienne — a character who is more of a caricature than an actual person. After a brutal break-up with actor Hugh, Jane goes out to treat herself to a diamond ring at Tiffany’s — and then finds herself gravitating to a restaurant she frequented as a kid. It’s there that she sees a man who looks remarkably like Michael, her childhood companion . . . only other people can see this guy, too. It takes a half-second of deliberation for her to march right up to him, and then this “whirlwind” romance begins.

Oh, this one crashed and burned for me. The complete lack of nuance immediately had me rolling my eyes — there was absolutely nothing to grasp between the lines. I felt like the characters had a giant metal bucket used to repeatedly beat me over the head with the horribly, horribly obvious plot. The writing was pedestrian, uninteresting; I was emotionally removed from the storyline.

What should have been romantic — or at least interesting — was made ridiculous by the poorly written conversations and so much telling and no showing. For instance, instead of telling us that Michael and Jane had these sparkling, life-changing conversations, why can’t we actually hear them? Why does everything have to be spelled out as though we’re a group of third graders, completely incapable of processing an emotionally fulfilling relationship? (And it would probably insult third graders, too.)

If Patterson’s name hadn’t been slapped across the top, I can’t imagine who in the world would have picked this one up for publishing, crying, “This is it! This is the one — our international bestseller!” Because, wow. No. I’m very sorry, but no.

Honestly, there isn’t much more to say. Terribly disappointing!

1.5 out of 5!

ISBN: 0385341245 ♥ Purchase from AmazonAuthor Website