Susan Speaks: Nick and Norah, Book versus Movie


If you read my review of Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist over at Rocks ‘n Reads, you’ll see the story of how I came to read this book last week.

I was looking over my Netflix queue a day or two later and I realized that Nick and Norah, the movie, wasn’t going to be available for instant watching much longer. In fact, I had something like a day left. So, I interrupted a fine evening outside in the dark, watching the clouds go by, to come inside and fire up the Instant Viewing. Good thing; I had mere hours left before it was gone.

Let me say first off that there are very few movies I like better than the book. Joyce Maynard’s To Die For is possibly the only book that wasn’t as good as the movie. No, not because of Nicole Kidman or Matt Dillon. Because of the power of the visual at the very end. (Saying anything more will spoil it. Just go watch the flick, will ya?)

Now, Nick and Norah had some very good visuals to endear the movie to me. The sight of Nick’s old, beat-up Yugo. And New York itself, looking every bit as good as it did when I roamed it on similar nights (never as long and, regrettably, never with a potential love interest of my own) during my own college youth.

But… the book is a million times better. Not just because we get to hear Nick and Norah’s internal monologues, but because many of the changes made by the writers were poor.

Okay, the whole bit about Nick’s Yugo being mixed up for a taxi was funny. And yes, I howled out loud when the enraptured (ahem) couple actually paid him for the lift.

But the change in the subplot involving Caroline? Like I didn’t see the cell phone being dropped a mile away… it wasn’t funny. It wasn’t even realistic that once she picked it up, it worked.

And the gum? Oh, man. That never lost its ick factor (and if that means I’m old, don’t tell me!).

You may not believe this, but I hated the scenes in Electric Lady Studios. It stretched disbelief that Hendrix’s guitar is sitting there so casually, on a guitar stand and not mounted to be preserved (although, having never been in Electric Lady, it very well could be). But for Norah to tell Nick to go and put it on and try it out? And then to take it into the studio and make music with it? She’s just met this guy, for crying out loud. There are all these trust issues between them, and she hands him a guitar worth millions?

And the tape recording their little tryst on the couch… same thing as with Caroline and the phone. It took away from the beauty of the story, which was these two kids learning to let go, to rise above, and to reach for the possibilities of what lies ahead.

Which means I really missed the book’s scene in the Marriott. There was so much more to that scene than to its replacement, the one in Electric Lady. (Not to mention the subtext introduced by the scene happening in the building Daddy owns and is famous for.) It was a real moment of growth for Norah. We lost all of that, only to be given that horrible sight of the soundboard, recording away. That, too, introduced themes and ideas that don’t belong in this story of newfound love.

One last rant: Nick had a cruel streak to him that, in the book, had belonged to Norah’s boyfriend. It didn’t work for Nick to call Norah frigid. In fact, it made me want her to slug him and walk away, playlist suddenly and inalterably finite.

A lot of the reviews of the book mention the issue of the language. You guys know the word FUCK doesn’t bother me in the least. It didn’t bother me in the book. To me, it helped create atmosphere and authenticity. The sad part is that these critics (as many do with Fat Kid Rules the World, which you know is one of my all-time favorite books) are allowing something so simple to obscure their view of a truly beautiful story.

Stick to the book, folks.



  1. Ang D.

    June 28, 2010 2:27 pm

    Thanks for the review … I read the book way back when I was working at a bookstore and we got an advance copy, and ADORED it. Glad to hear now that the movie isn’t worth wasting the time on – though it is sad. Why can’t people ever do proper justice to books in the movies?

    I will say that one rare exception where I like both film and book equally, despite their differences, is Practical Magic. Both versions have their high and low points, and even though they’re completely different, I’ve enjoyed each of them repeatedly. 🙂
    .-= Ang D.´s last blog ..The Serial Novel Has Begun- =-.

  2. Patricia

    June 29, 2010 10:58 am

    Your point about movies missing internal dialogue is something I had considered before–but so true. A character’s internal dialogue is often one of the best things about many really good novels and most movies just chop that right out.

  3. carol

    July 1, 2010 1:30 pm

    I haven’t read the book or seen the movie, but I agree that books, nine times out of ten, are better than the movies based on them.

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