This is one of the few films that not only successfully translates from a novel but, in my opinion, far outstrips the book. Where Rick Moody's original text relies too heavily on references to the 70's and the social peculiarities of the time, Ang Lee simply uses the era as a backdrop for what is essentially a story about the way we ignore our families and the pain this causes them. In what is a very strong ensemble piece, it is the female characters that stand out, with Joan Allen in particular giving an incredibly moving portrait of the cuckolded wife who has been turning a blind eye to her husband's affairs. The greatest achievement of the film is demonstrating the effect of parents bad choices on their developing children without any of the usual cliched teenage rebellion scenes that hollywood produces. This film doesn't have a happy ending but provides a reassuringly accurate portrayal of the family for anyone who didn't have the perfect childhood.
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