Love and restraint: Thoughts on ‘Five Feet Apart’

Five Feet Apart - pool scene

Eh, so I don’t get out much. And I definitely don’t get to the movies often. But something about the previews for “Five Feet Apart” inspired me to request babysitting for two squirrelly toddlers and arrange a date night for us to get out on a Friday night to see this film.

It’s been a week, and I just keep thinking about it.

On the surface, at least, “Five Feet Apart” looks like another riff on “The Fault In Our Stars,” which I liked but don’t remember loving. (At least, I think that’s the case? Straight-up had to re-read my review, because that was 2014, friends. The ol’ brain ain’t the same post-kids.)

Given I’m prone to anxiety on a normal day, I definitely don’t need to throw existential characters with life-threatening diseases into the mix. But this movie — focused on Stella (Haley Lu Richardson) and Will (Cole Sprouse), teens who meet in the hospital as they grapple with complications of cystic fibrosis — was not depressing. I mean, it certainly had its heart-tugging moments . . . and I was ugly-sniffling, for sure.

But after the lights came up, I was only a mini-disaster. I looked at my husband and thought, I’m a human. I’m alive. I have time.

What am I doing with it?

Five Feet Apart snow scene

In many ways, “Five Feet Apart” is about restraint. Will shouldn’t fall in love with Stella, but he does. Stella wants to let herself fall back, but it isn’t that simple. Their illness requires the pair to stay physically apart, lest they risk life-threatening cross infection.

Six feet (later: five feet, per Stella’s request). No holding hands. No hugging. No kissing. Absolutely no intimacy.

Think about it: two 17-year-olds who are all mixed up under that crazy, amazing, whacky first-love spell . . . and they cannot touch. Stella and Will’s relationship is carried out from a safe, respectable distance or through the modern marvels of FaceTime, though their hospital rooms are just a few doors apart.

Five Feet Apart chatting

There is electricity in the waiting. In the wondering. In the hoping-against-hope — though as an audience, we know this cannot happen. They don’t have the luxury of indulging their feelings. There is no sharp exhale of relief when their lips finally meet. Loose ends cannot be tied.

But man, I wanted them to tie.

Our on-demand, two-day-free-Prime-shipping lifestyles today don’t lend themselves to the restraint and sacrifice required of Will and Stella. That’s what stood out to me: we’re all told to go for what we want and make it happen!, but sometimes we can only be brave in the face of hard choices.

“Five Feet Apart” isn’t perfect; few movies are. The ending felt rushed and over-the-top after such a steady, sweet progression. But that ruined nothing. Sprouse does dark and broody so well, and his character is jaded and vulnerable with an innate goodness that hurts. Richardson’s Stella is nuanced, realistic, sweet and strong. I loved the two together. And I loved this movie.

The film has sparked conversation and controversy in and out of the cystic fibrosis community, and it’s not for me to weigh in. But I will say that I left the theater with a better, if imperfect understanding of a disease I’d known very little about (even working in healthcare marketing, where we pride ourselves on amassing medical knowledge). More than 30,000 Americans have CF, and funding is needed for ongoing research to find a cure.

The moral of the story is one we’ve heard a hundred, maybe a thousand times: life is short. Reach out. Take a chance. Be bold. Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

But “Five Feet Apart” stood apart for me because of the ache in my chest and feel-feel-feelings it stirred up, both while watching and thinking about it again. And again. And again. I often reached over to press my fingers into my husband’s arm, the two of us trading glances that said wow this is good and so sad and man I love you. 

It’s haunting. It broke my heart . . . and healed it, too.

Can’t ask too much more of date night.

 

Advertisements

Monday thoughts on “Begin Again”

Begin Again posterI haven’t been wandering the cool confines of a movie theater much this summer. Declining ticket sales can be explained by not wanting to spend the money and just not having much time, but more than anything? There hasn’t been much I’ve wanted to see. No preview that’s really tickled my fancy.

But at the suggestion of my family, we trekked out to see “Begin Again” on Saturday. I didn’t know what to expect beyond Adam Levine being a bad boyfriend and Keira Knightley singing (?) and Mark Ruffalo being totally down on his luck . . . and maybe that’s why I was completely blown away?

Because I was. I was blown away. It was actually . . . amazing.

Knightley plays Gretta, a young musician who follows her boyfriend (Levine) and his own rising star to New York City. Nervously playing in a grungy bar the night before she’s set to flee home to England, she attracts the attention of a music executive whose recent antics have gotten him ousted from the indie label he founded. Hearing Gretta — even amidst the rude shouting and drunken chatter — reignites his desire to produce music that means something, and the two embark on a journey that changes everything.


That’s the simple version. But it doesn’t tell you anything about how romantic, sweet, inspiring, thoughtful and beautifully shot it is; you need me for that, eh? “Begin Again” is about second chances, moving forward, thriving in the face of loss . . . and it’s just full of emotion, though not in a schmaltzy way. I’m not generally a huge fan of Keira Knightley — nothing personal, I mean, she’s just not a fave — but wow, color me impressed. And Adam Levine as a self-absorbed but loveable pop star? I totally bought it.

I kid. But really, his acting? Singing? Ability to look gorgeous? Not bad.

As you’d hope from a film about aspiring musicians and the ever-changing business itself, the tunes and soundtrack were fantastic. As we were leaving the theater, I told my sister how much it reminded me of the lovely “Once” . . . and then I started to Google and discovered it was directed by John Carney, who directed — you guessed it! — “Once.” (It’s, um, also on the poster, but I didn’t inspect that ahead of time.) Glen Hansard co-wrote a song, too.

When I’m on, I’m on.

The many layers of “Begin Again” are what made it work so spectacularly for me — and more than anything, it’s an homage to falling in love. With a person or a place (New York City, indeed), yes, but also a passion and a calling. The whole film is about passion, really, and it moved me. I can’t pinpoint another recent movie I’ve loved as much — so much that I’d run back out and see it again tomorrow.

I’m pretty much in love with “Lost Stars,” one of the signature tracks, and have played it more than I’d care to admit to you before we’ve all had our coffee.

So. Yes.

That’s pretty much what I wanted to talk about today, mostly because I’m heading into one of the busiest work weeks of my year and my brain is pretty much guaranteed to be crispy like a fried-green tomato by Friday evening. I kind of want to just think about “Begin Again” like a fangirl, eat lots of marshmallows and hide under my desk, but I am 29 now. Guess I’d better go put on my sensible work heels and hustle.

Or maybe I’ll keep watching the video instead.

 

‘Gatsby’ continues to glitter

Leo in Gatsby


Taking a break from my regularly-scheduled Wednesday photo posts to talk Gatsby. Honestly, can one have too much Gatsby in their life?

I doubt it, old sport.

Like so many teens, my first exposure to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic came in high school. The Great Gatsby was assigned reading my sophomore year — and though I’ve always been a reader, it took an introduction to this work to get me excited about literature. Gatsby was a gateway drug. I sprang to Austen and Dickens after this 1925 classic, devouring Shakespeare and Welty in turn. Heck, I even humored Hemingway. I was addicted.

Gatsby book coverBecause Gatsby is accessible, entertaining, absorbing and all-around fantastic, I didn’t spend my time as a student afraid to approach Great Literature. I wasn’t scared off by serious tones and symbolism. The Canon of Fabulous Works didn’t intimidate me. My obsession with reading launched my English studies in college, which sharpened my writing skills, which led to my career as a writer and editor.

Can I thank Gatsby for that?

In a way, yes.

But as a lovesick teen girl, I wasn’t focused on the corruption of the American dream or costs of decadence. At 15, I became enamored with the Jazz Age classic because I considered it a love story. (And maybe it still is.) Gatsby’s pursuit of Daisy seemed unrelentingly optimistic and just . . . sweet. Ignorant to the book’s messages, I read it purely as the story of a man who could never forget his first love. Convinced he need only money and luxury to lure Daisy away from the privileged, “careless” life she shares with Tom Buchanan, Gatsby sets off to make it big. And win Daisy back. Her green light is a beacon of hope — one that declares he can have anything he’s ever wished for . . . if he never eases up.

It’s interesting now, examining the story as an adult. I’ve read the book three times and am halfway through a fourth. We went to see Baz Luhrmann’s latest film adaptation on Sunday . . . and I became obsessed with the story anew. No matter how many times I hold Gatsby up for inspection, analyzing his motives and means and parts, I can still uncover more layers. Almost a century after it landed in the hands of its first readers, we still have so much to talk about.

Gatsby posterThat is the magic of Gatsby. Of Fitzgerald’s writing. Of that particular era of history, the 1920s: so rich and vivid and compelling. Despite some lukewarm to derisive reviews of “The Great Gatsby,”
I loved the film. I loved it so hard. Leonardo DiCaprio was a charismatic, convincing Gatsby, and I viewed his pursuit of wealth and the so-called American Dream with fresh eyes. Daisy’s portrayal by Carey Mulligan was the perfect mix of disaffected ingenue and fragile mess, which I adored, and I despised her all over again.

And can we talk about the music? I know people are all over the place with this one. Executive produced by Jay-Z, the film’s soundtrack features eclectic music — hip-hop, alternative rock — and modern tunes punctuate some of the movie’s most pivotal scenes. As Gatsby and Nick fly in that iconic car and the New York skyline comes into view, a haunting bar of Alicia Key’s “Empire State of Mind” caught me off-guard. But I liked it. It took what could have been a staid  interpretation of an iconic story and turned it around. I downloaded Lana Del Rey’s “Young and Beautiful” from bed the next morning. I just . . . couldn’t get it out of my head. It’s so haunting.

The whole film is haunting.

The modern feel isn’t for everyone, I know. And that’s okay. But even the departures from Fitzgerald’s text — notably a framework where Nick is telling Gatsby’s story from a sanitarium, where he’s being treated for alcoholism and depression, among other ailments — just added to the narrative; for me, it didn’t take anything away. I like that Gatsby is still provoking us to imagine things differently, to ask questions and draw the text into the current world.

Gatsby and DaisyDid I think the movie was flawless? No. Nothing ever is. But I didn’t go into “The Great Gatsby” wearing my critical glasses. I wanted to be transported, entertained and dazzled — exactly what I’d expect from a Luhrmann film. And I was. As the credits rolled and the lights came up, I blinked in the dim light. I felt disoriented. Even knowing precisely what was going to happen didn’t save me from feeling breathless throughout the movie, and somehow still shocked by its close. I wanted things to be different.

When I got home on Sunday, I dug through my bookshelves until I found my tattered old copy of Gatsby. It’s underlined and highlighted, dog-eared on pages where a passage or two struck me, and worn around the edges from getting stuffed into book bags and purses. I’m 100 pages into my latest reading. Despite being such a relentless lover of literature, I never re-read books. Ever. Seriously, Gatsby is the only book I’ve ever read more than once — and being on a fourth reading is sort of ludicrous. But seeing the film provoked so many new questions . . . and I wanted to be able to compare the film and book after a fresh reading of the text.

But I can’t really do that. Not really. It’s not fair to intricately compare a book to its cinematic counterpart; they’re two different ways of storytelling. Overall, would I declare the film “faithful” to the beloved text? Yes, I would. And if I agree with some of the quibbles about Nick’s role, for instance, that doesn’t dampen my overall enthusiasm. Gatsby moves me like no other story, and “Gatsby” on the big screen was an incredible experience.

I loved it. And if you love the story, too, I trust you’ve got your tickets.


So I finally saw ‘The Hunger Games’ . . .

. . . And it was awesome.

Even with my love of the series, I’m not one to debate all the similarities and differences. I recognize that adapting a book to a film is an extremely difficult process, and it would be impossible for movies to completely echo their literary counterparts. What works in print can’t always work in film. Other ways must be discovered to convey certain messages, certain ideas.

That being said, I thought they were darn close. And close in all the ways that mattered.

I’m going to be honest: as I was reading, I was always Team Gale; he was the strong, silent type, and maybe I just tend to like brunettes. Peeta seemed weak and dull. The baker’s son? Even after the bread-throwing act of mercy, I wasn’t really endeared to him. But I couldn’t help but be swept up in their story, constantly asking myself a central question of the series: does Katniss really fall for Peeta? Or is it all a game?

When the final credits began to roll, my sister began to ask questions. My dad asked to borrow the second book, wanting to continue the story, and I spent dinner discussing the Suzanne Collins’ Panem and world-building, plus where the plot was headed in as spoiler-free a way as possible.

My boyfriend was brought into the fold, too, for noting the “steampunk”-like style of the Capitol. And the craziness of its denizens. Me being me, of course, I had to ask, “Did you get the disparity there? Between the ridiculousness of the Capitol — the pink dogs; the outlandish costumes; the gluttony — with the people starving in District 12?”

They did. I thought that was very well done — from the futuristic music laid over scenes of the Capitol’s silly residents to the Dust Bowl-like grittiness of District 12 in present-day Appalachia. You definitely got the sense that people were starving while others were fat and happy, blowing their wealth on lush “costumes” and crazy makeup. Others, like Katniss, were just trying to survive.



{Image via Salon}


Considering I read The Hunger Games two and a half years ago, I was shocked at how easily the details came flooding back. It was heartbreaking to see Katniss and Rue’s bond, and haunting to hear the melody carried by mockingjays through the woods. Though I knew how it would all play out, I was literally on the edge of my seat — or covering my face with one hand, peaking through the slats of my fingers during some of the difficult scenes.

After we got up to go, my sister spoke first. “That was one of the most intense things I’ve ever seen,” she murmured, wide-eyed. And I agree.

There’s a reason this series — and, now, the film — is so successful: it’s a poignant, horrifying story that can’t help but make you sit back and think, This could actually happen. “Kids killing kids,” my sister whispered at one point. “This is sick.” And it is. Horrible, ridiculous — actions so shocking that you can’t help but think, Really? This is entertainment?

It’s more than that, of course. It’s punishment, too. But it makes you think.

Can one life story have two authors? Giveaway of ‘Being Flynn’

Can one life story have two authors?


Based on the memoir by Nick Flynn, Being Flynn is a new film I’m excited to see — and I’m pumped to have a copy of the book on which it is based up for giveaway. The movie stars Robert De Niro, Julianne Moore and Paul Dano — woo, wee! — and sounds like an emotional, fascinating ride. Here’s our premise:

Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) is a young writer seeking to define himself. He misses his late mother, Jody (four-time Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore), and her loving nature. But his father, Jonathan, is not even a memory, as Nick has not seen the man in 18 years.

Jonathan Flynn (two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro) has long defined himself as a great writer, “a master storyteller.” After abandoning his wife and child, Jonathan scrapes through life on his own terms, and ends up serving time in prison for cashing forged checks. After prison, he drives a cab for a number of years, but with his drinking and eccentricities now accelerating, he loses his job. Despite the occasional grandiose letter to his son, he has remained absent from Nick’s life.

Suddenly facing eviction from his apartment, Jonathan impulsively reaches out to Nick and the two come face-to-face. The older man is eloquent and formidable; overwhelmed, Nick nonetheless prepares to integrate his father into his own life. But, as quickly as he materialized, Jonathan flits away again.

Moving on, Nick takes a job at a homeless shelter, where he learns from Captain (Wes Studi) and Joy (Lili Taylor) how to relate to the guests who arrive night after night. Seeing the homeless — some permanently, some temporarily so — and hearing their stories, Nick finds purpose in his own life and work. He also sustains a romance with a co-worker, Denise (Olivia Thirlby). Then one night, Jonathan arrives, seeking a bed, and Nick’s senses of self and compassion falter. To give the two of them a shot at a real future, Nick will have to decide whom to seek redemption for first.

Evocatively told, ruefully funny, and moving in its depiction of the ties that bind, “Being Flynn” tells a story that reveals universal truths.


Writers! Family drama! Evocative stories! I’m in.

Want to win a copy of the movie tie-in book edition and $25 worth of Fandango bucks, all courtesy of the publisher? You’ve come to the right place.

Entries are limited to U.S. residents only, please. Contest is open today, March 16, through 12 p.m. EST on March 21. One winner will be randomly selected via Random.org and emailed by Meg for their shipping address.

Check out the film’s trailer below — it’s in theatres now.

EDIT on 3/21: Congrats to Bonnie, our randomly selected winner! I’ll be emailing you shortly.



‘Home Alone’ wisdom: Or why you should go ahead and use those crayons. Or wear the Rollerblades.


Of all the seasonal movies I remember loving as a kid, “Home Alone” — and its awesome successor, “Home Alone 2: Lost In New York” — stand above all the others. Though I’ve always considered myself a weird, too-philosophical-for-my-own-good sort of kid, “Home Alone 2” really helped solidify my role as an obsessive thinker.

I’ve heard some wise things in my day. Beyond the customary books that topple over with their enlightened principles, religious overtones and inspirational advice, I’ve formed my own mantras for getting through the day with (most of) my sanity intact. My favorite is “Be Here Now,” a thought expressed on a print I recently bought and plan to hang in my room.

No philosophical uttering has impacted me more than the thoughts of one Kevin McCallister, though. The warm words he exchanged with a bird lady in the rafters of a symphony in New York City have never left me. Lost and away from his family over Christmas, Kevin is shuttling around the Big Apple blowing his dad’s cash on private ice cream bars and plotting the downfall of two bumbling crooks still smarting from having been outwitted by the little guy the previous year.

When he’s not craftily getting out of crazy situations, Kevin is befriending random folks — and is totally wise beyond his years. Any 10-year-old able to check into the Plaza Hotel and keep up the charade for days isn’t your average dummy.

So I shouldn’t be shocked when Kevin teaches the brokenhearted woman one of the most important lessons of my young life.


Bird Lady: I’m just afraid if I do trust someone, I’ll get my heart broken.

Kevin: I understand. I had a nice pair of Rollerblades. I was afraid to wreck them, so I kept them in a box. Do you know what happened? I outgrew them. I never wore them outside. Only in my room a few times.

Bird Lady: A person’s heart and feelings are very different than skates.

Kevin: They’re kind of the same thing. If you won’t use your heart, who cares if it gets broken? If you just keep it to yourself, maybe it’ll be like my Rollerblades. When you do decide to try it, it won’t be any good. You should take a chance. Got nothing to lose.


I spend a good deal of time sifting through options until I reach just the right conclusion. Sometimes I’m so afraid of making a wrong decision that I do nothing — itself a choice. I try to be practiced and careful. Measured. An example of careful planning.

But that can be exhausting.

When I was 10 myself, I got an art set for my birthday. At least, I think it was my birthday — I’m not even sure anymore. We’ve gone through our childhood belongings countless times, donating to charity what we no longer want or need, but somehow this set has survived every purge.

Opening it for the first time and gazing in at the neat rows of colored pencils, pastels and crayons, I was euphoric. The possibilities! I thought. The beautiful possibilities! I was so enamored with this set that I never wanted to use it, and I certainly wouldn’t share it with my little sister. She just didn’t have any respect for my belongings, you know? (Younger siblings rarely do.)

When I wanted to color or design an art poster, I reached for my well-worn boxes of Crayola Crayons rather than the gorgeous, clean kit at my elbow. The colored pencils stayed sharp. The Crayons were unbroken and pristine in their packaging. Water never struck the watercolors, and no page was ever adorned in acrylic smears.

Everything was new, clean. Perfect and unchanged.

Years went by. I stopped coloring. Though I often talk about how I can’t wait to have kids so I can do stuff like draw again, guilt-free, it’s all a very long way off.

I think of coloring and I smile: I mean, who can dislike the electricity of changing a black-and-white image to Technicolor? It’s like owning the first color television on the block. Discovering Lucille Ball is a redhead. Following Dorothy as she swirls from Kansas and lands in effervescent Oz.

And then I thought, Why am I delaying my happiness? Why am I denying myself the free, innocent fun of something like coloring? Who cares if I’m 26. If I’m an uncoordinated artist with no talent for art. If I’m awful at staying in the lines and developing color schemes.

I wanted to color.



Katie found my art set, tucked inside a neat shelf in my mother’s crafting room. I’d purchased a set of color-your-own postcards on a whim this month and wanted to work on my project while watching “Christmas Vacation.” My fingers were itching to color, to blend hues and textures, and my sister slipped me a grin when handing me the set. “Well, you could always use this,” she said.

I opened it again — 10, 15 years later. The markers, usually the first to fade and wither, were my first target. I dotted the back of my left hand with purple circles, testing to see if they would still work. They’re all still capped. The markers mark. The pencils and crayons are still sharp, the ruler still nestled tight in its bed.

My set is clean and orderly. Planned. And though my instinct was to keep them just so, I swallowed it down. I fought it.

Why shouldn’t I wear my Rollerblades outside?

Why shouldn’t I press every Crayon down to its oily beginnings?



I colored one postcard, then another. Then I found a Christmas coloring book and drew in that, too. I pushed hard on the pencils, dulling them, and sketched long lines across blank sheets of paper. I mussed them up. I used them. I used them in a way I would never allow my measured, careful 10-year-old self to use anything.

It felt so good.

It’s almost Christmas and I’m tired, stressed, a little worried. Sometimes so much seems beyond my control — hard to explain, hard to process. Like everyone, I have the slivers of fears that wake me up at 5 a.m., tossing and staring at the shadows on my ceiling.

But I know one thing, something stronger than I’ve ever known: I don’t want to be the type of person who only wears her Rollerblades in the cushy comfort of her childhood bedroom. I don’t want to unearth an art set in two decades to discover I never created any art at all.

Use the crayons. Ride the bike. Take the trip. Eat the expensive chocolate. Drink the fine wine.

Enjoy your life.

“Embrace the bonfire,” a classmate wrote in my high school yearbook, “without fear of being burned.”

And that is all I want to do.


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.