Sweetbitter: Book vs. TV Show

As I’ve previously done comparisons of book-to-screen-adaptations for the likes of Still Star-Crossed and Famous in Love, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to talk about the book I just finished – Sweetbitter. The way this goes is pretty self-explanatory. I will talk about the shared plot and then compare the two. Here goes nothing!

General Plot

Tess was not happy with her life and ventures to New York City to pursue life. She doesn’t have a plan, she doesn’t have any kind of aspiration of what or who she wants to be, she simply wants experiences. Soon she finds herself in the midst of the tumultuos life as a backwaiter in a prestigious restaurant and all the drama that comes with being part of the staff.

Book

Sweetbitter

CW: excessive drug and alcohol consumption, sexism, racism, verbal/physical abuse, sexual harassment

I was first drawn to this book and story because when I was younger I used to be a server as well. Granted, I didn’t work in fancy restaurants but upscale hotels instead, still, the overall gist of things seemed similar enough to me. I had my first real job in that line of work when I was 15 and up to about 20% into the story (and aside from the heavy drugs), it really felt like an accurate representation of my daily life back then.

A lot of critics (for both the book and the show) didn’t understand that not everyone is looking for something bigger and better at all times. I get really defensive whenever I read stuff like that, because we need to get rid of the notion that there is anything wrong with working a job like that on the long run. Yes, it wasn’t the right thing for me personally. The plates were too hot, I couldn’t even relax when I was asleep because I constantly dreamed about messing up orders and running back and forth between the floor and kitchen, but overall I loved chatting with the guests. I loved making that connection with strangers and through that making their experience at our hotel a better one. Some people are content and actually happy to work as a server and consequently their way up the food chain in a restaurant or similar establishment and that is perfectly fine.

Having said that and really having appreciated that look behind the curtains of what life as a server (especially in training) can be like, that is where my love for this book ends. Tess is your typically lost 20-something pretty girl and that’s not to say that we don’t need stories like that either, but the way she went through life was infuriating. I am really not someone who gets judgy about whether people drink or don’t drink alcohol, but drugs … it was tough reading about that topic so nonchalantly. While Tess definitely has her low moments, the part of drugs or even so much as a consideration of stopping to take drugs is never addressed.

What bothered me the utmost about the book were all the toxic relationships though! I don’t think a single person ever said a tender thing to anyone aloud ever. They “joked” about how women were only good for cleaning and men were foolish if they ever believed a word a woman said. Bosses slept with employees for favours and even led them to mental breakdowns. But worst of all was Tess and Jake’s “relationship”. It was one of those where the girl obsesses over the super pretentious guy and he ignores her unless it suits him. He treated her terribly, brought her to tears on several occasions and even roughed her up during sex to a point where she had bruises all over her body. It was revealed that he was damaged by some events in the past, but that doesn’t excuse his behaviour!? And still, after everything, Tess just wanted to save him.

I got more and more furious as I read on and then there was this clear lack of structure or cohesion to the story overall. Again, I wouldn’t mind reading about someone wanting to make it in the service industry, but this was just a manic depiction of manipulative people and a young girl making the same mistakes over and over. Did she learn from them? I don’t even know.

Fazit: 1.5/5 stars! (click on the cover to get re-directed to Goodreads!)

TV Show

 

Usually when Starz has a new show, I get really excited. I hadn’t yet finished the book and thought this could be a really interesting show. Was it lacking in diversity from the looks of it? Definitely, but I was willing to give it a shot nonetheless.

It turned out that maybe I was a bit too overzealous? The running time for the episodes is barely half an hour and there are only 6 (?) episodes planned for the first season. With a slow paced story like this one, that seems a fairly odd choice. You barely get to tell anything or start a thought before the episode is already over again. If I were to make a mini-series of six episodes only, I would definitely make them longer. That is not to say that they don’t plan on more seasons in the future, but critics haven’t had too many good things to say and I don’t think ratings were all that great either so far …

Stephanie Danler, who wrote the book, was involved in the adaptation. She tried to make it accessible to non-readers and wasn’t afraid to change the narrative here and there, but I am not sure how much she really succeeded. I think an issue with the show is that she makes references to more or less important parts of the story that the viewer simply cannot understand, because it’s only mentioned in passing while it was fully described in the book.

To me there is just no time to explore the more sensual parts of the story because we are rushed through the experience with food and people and events all packed into such a short running time. Maybe it would work better if you binged the episodes, since it wouldn’t rip you out of the atmosphere every single time you just got used to what was happening?

Conclusion

I cannot really advocate for either of those two? I am sure there are people out there who appreciate the relatable and quite frankly mostly accurate portrayal of work as a server and just starting out in that industry. Whereas other shows and books mostly focus on what’s going on in the kitchen, it is nice to know there is content for what’s happening in the front of the house as well. If only they refined the show a little more …

Have you read or watched Sweetbitter? Do you have any thoughts on it? Let me know in the comments below!

Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List (Movie Review)

A month or so ago I wrote about the trailer release of Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List and I can’t believe it’s already time to talk about the movie itself. There are not really any Spoilers in the review itself, but as always, I can’t promise the same for the comments!

naomiNaomi and Ely are best friends and they are both into guys. The “No Kiss List” (a list of guys neither of them is allowed to hook up with) has been their insurance against a Naomi and Ely break-up for all their lives. Yet everything changes when Ely kisses Naomi’s boyfriend.

So let’s start with the basics:

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance
Length: 89  minutes
Cast: Victoria Justice, Pierson Fodé, Matthew Daddario, Monique Coleman, Ryan Ward, Danny Flaherty, …
Director: Kristin Hanggi

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I am just going to say it again: I have read the book of the same title written by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn, but it’s been a while. I mostly remember a ton of emojis that replaced words and that confused me sometimes, but other than that I am not sure I could give the most accurate account of what happens in the book. However, I will try and mention things that were different if I noticed them.

So, now to the real review. I LOVED IT! I even liked it a whole lot more than the book. While the different POVs weren’t as balanced and more focused on Naomi, it just all felt right. I very much liked the casting (and not just because Matthew Daddario is absolutely swoon-worthy). While Naomi was never my favourite character, Victoria Justice really showed her development and there couldn’t have been a better Ely than Pierson Fodé. Bruce 2 was adorable and Ryan Ward looked exactly like the Bruce 2 in my head. I forgot everything about the Robins, and even though I would have liked to see them more, they were a great addition as well. The rest of the people from the apartment complex were just hilarious as well.

As any story written by Levithan and Cohn, it was a sort of love letter to New York City, showing off its quirks and awesomeness. The music was great and for real hardcore fans like me, take a closer look at the T-shirt of the drummer from Gabe’s band – he wears a “Where is Fluffy?”-shirt from Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. I wasn’t sure they’d connect the stories like they did in the books, but I almost shrieked when I saw it.

I think I hugged my pillow during the entire movie and really felt with the characters when their relationship seemed doomed. I don’t know why exactly, but it just touched me a whole lot more than it did in the book. It portrayed the complexity of friendships and that change is inevitable. Yet, it managed not to be heavy at all. If I could change one thing, I would want it to be longer. It would mean more time for the Naomi-Gabe-story to develop and maybe more glimpses at the adorable awkwardness of the Robins.

Fazit: I loved it! And while it may be short, it’s definitely sweet and worth a watch.

Have you read or watched Naomi & Ely’s No Kiss List as well? What were your thoughts?

Fall Review: Manhattan Love Story & Happyland

I’ve reviewed a lot of shows for this Fall Season and I am finally about to see an end on the horizon. Today I’m talking about MTV‘s Happyland and ABC‘s Manhattan Love Story! After that I’m only planning on reviewing Jane the Virgin and (the show I am most looking forward to) The Flash. If you still want my opinion on anything else, let me know in the comments below!

Happyland

Have you ever read Dream Factory by Brad Barkley and Heather Hepler? Because this show reminds me so much of the book! It’s basically also about teens that work in an amusement park or theme park that is very similar to Disney’s and about falling in love, the illusion of fairy tales and happy endings. The show definitely diverges on some other topics, because parents are barely involved in the story in the book, but are really important to what’s happening in the series.

I have to admit, that I’ve seen stronger pilots this season. Happyland, while interesting on some level, didn’t grab my attention like other shows managed to do. The actors are alright (and include: Camille Guaty, Shane Harper, Katherine McNamara, Cameron Moulène, Ryan Rottman, Bianca A. Santos, Chris Sheffield, …), but the premise is nothing I haven’t seen before in multiple soap operas. It’s difficult to relate to the fact that your crush seems to be your brother and other than that they are just building on a lot of more love triangle-related drama. I can’t really tell where the show intends to go, but I think I won’t follow it for too long.

Manhattan Love Story

Analeigh Tipton seems to be everywhere these days and I certainly don’t mind it. There really isn’t much to say about Manhattan Love Story; it is a fun sitcom that takes on the difficulties of dating and relationships in New York City. If you’ve watched the Trailer above, you’ve pretty much seen the entire first episode. The main cast isn’t that huge and consists of the aforementioned Analeigh Tipton as well as Jake McDorman, Jade Catta-Preta, Nicholas Wright, Kurt Fuller and Chloe Wepper.

So, this isn’t the smartest of shows or something like that, but people like Romantic Comedies and this one is a pretty standard example of one. Besides the extensive thought voice-overs (which are just too much for me), I really don’t find a flaw in it. The show is sweet and fun and that might just be enough.

What are your thoughts? Talk to me in the comments!

Begin Again or Can a Song Save Your Life?

Why would I call Begin AgainCan a Song Save Your Life“? Does it have something to do with the movie? Well, yeah, it sort of does, but it’s also the German title. You’re confused? That’s not German … I know! I’ll never get why they rename certain movies, but stick to English titles in German speaking areas. Why can’t you just leave it the way it was, if it’s going to be in English anyway. But I’m drifting away from the main topic. This post isn’t about why certain movies are called the way they are (although that could be an interesting topic), it is about the great music drama Begin Again.

There’s a lot I have to say about this movie and I think since the trailer gives you a good overview of what the movie is about (music, family, friendship, love) I’m just going to jump to my beloved listing of thoughts, because it has worked so well in previous posts.

  • The music is gorgeous! There’s nothing to add to that, expect that it is true that music can make ordinary moments special.
  • I think you may have to be in the right mood for the movie to fully enjoy it, but Iwas and I loved it. I went out of it happy and full of music. Isn’t that exactly what’s supposed to happen when you go and watch a film? You should carry away some sort of emotion and that definitely happened with me.
  • Admittedly, I’ve expected a different sort of storytelling, but I liked the style they chose.
  • I’m not the biggest Keira Knightley fan, but I loved her in this movie. She was funny and charismatic, but maybe I am just really glad this wasn’t a period drama. I did not expect her to be able to sing. I don’t know why, but I guess I just never imagined her as a singer.
  • Mark Ruffalo … I loved him before this movie and I like him even more now. The way he gets his act together and is able to create something so special is just great to watch.
  • Although Adam Levine plays sort of a jerk, I can’t deny that I don’t mind seeing (and hearing) him on the big screen.
  • This movie features the best date ever! Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley listen to music together, walk the streets of New York City and dance and enjoy the city. There’s something magical about it.
  • The only thing that sort of bugged me, and you really shouldn’t listen to me on this point, is that it didn’t feel like a buddy movie to me. I felt chemistry and romance between Greta (Keira Knightley) and Dan (Mark Ruffalo), but clearly they weren’t meant to ever get together (in a romantic way). This movie isn’t so much about romantic love as it is a love letter to music and New York – which is great! – but I am a hopeless romantic and I just wanted to mention that I saw their relationship go in a different direction.
  • This movie gives you a reason to stay all through the credits, so stay!

So, to summarise this, I would say that the movie ended way to quickly in my opinion. I wanted more, because it was so beautiful and also profound in a way. Actors/actresses I didn’t mention, but who also appeared in the movie were: Hailee Steinfeld, James Corden, Mos Def, Catherine Keener and many more. What did you think of the movie?

I know this seems unrelated, but after watching Begin Again, I am really excited for Laggies. We’re going to see Keira with an American accent, Sam Rockwell who is just always amazing and the lovely Chloë Grace Moretz. I guess I just like those movies where the main character gets a little lost. What do you think of the trailer? Are you excited as well?