Book vs. Movie: Eileen

We’ve all heard it said before: “The book is better than the movie!” But why is this popular opinion formed? Is the book really ALWAYS better?

When a new film comes out that’s based on a book, the world of movie critics seems to hugely expand, and there are many reasons listed as to why the book is usually the winner of the contest. Once you read a book, you automatically create your personal perception of its contents. This includes your vision of what a character looks and sounds like, stand-out scenes that deserve ultimate attention, and ideas of the appearance of the setting. I can’t count how many people shared that they wished they hadn’t read the book Dune before the movie came out because they would have more deeply enjoyed their cinematic experience instead of nitpicking the film for perceived flaws.  Writer John le Carré once stated, “Having your book turned into a movie is like seeing your oxen turned into bouillon cubes.” Perhaps he was referring to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy?

For this contemplation of Book vs. Movie, I’m diving into the deliciously twisted mind of writer Ottessa Moshfegh and her 2015 book, Eileen. Moshfegh is perhaps most well-known for her book My Year of Rest and Relaxation, and similar to Eileen, none of her books shy away from disturbing themes that center around self-delusion, repulsion, loneliness, and dark humor. The book takes place in the 1960s and centers around an isolated and mentally precarious woman working in a boys’ youth prison and living with her difficult, alcoholic father. Eileen’s world is suddenly flipped upside down by an intriguing new woman who begins working at the prison. The woman’s presence alongside Eileen’s personal discomfort and glum lot in life lead her to commit a crime from which there is no return, creating a path fraught with mystery and suspense throughout the novel. Moshfegh’s character development is like no other; Her ability to wrap you into the murkiest inner workings of a character like Eileen propels you forward to know her better, despite her extreme unpleasantness.

The film version of Eileen was released in 2023 and stars actresses Thomason McKenzie and Anne Hathaway, and we’re in luck as it just became available on our library shelves! Rolling Stone Magazine vouched in favor of the movie, stating in one review, “What is certain is that Moshfegh’s exploration of secrets, lies and liberation plays well on the page, but works even better on the screen. Good luck in getting this movie out from under your skin.” I’d suggest watching the film only if you’re in the mood for a gripping psychological thriller; Not much about this storyline contains a feel-good factor.

If you have read or watched Eileen, let us know what you think in the comments! And, as always, check out our library catalog or visit one of Mesa County Libraries’ eight locations to discover your next movie/film combination.

Posted in General, Reviews and Recommendations, Staff Picks.

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