Written by Jonathan Tropper in 2009, the novel chronicles the Foxman family, who is forced to come together for a week of sitting "shiva"--a Jewish tradition where the family greets mourners for 7 days--when the patriarch of the family passes away.
Judd finds himself renting a shoddy room from an Asian couple, while still paying the mortgage on the house that his wife Jen and Wade are now living together in.
The cast also comprises of Wendy, the oldest of the children and only girl, who's husband is a business only executive and is starved for attention... Paul, the eldest brother, who stayed behind to help the now deceased father with an electrician business... and Phillip, the youngest, the wildest and considered the family screw up. Phillip seems like a good guy, but can't stay away from women and trouble.
The mom, Hillary, is the author of a parenting book from a way, way long time ago, who used her own children as examples in the book of dos and donts, of which all four kids suffered humiliation from classmates because of it. Across the street is Horry, an old flame of Wendy who suffered an accident some years ago, and has brain damage. Horry lives with his mom, Linda, who is very close to Hillary.
The spouses join the cast too.. Barry, the aforementioned hubby of Wendy, and Alice, Paul's wife, who is a bit flaky and is desperate to get pregnant. As for Phillip, well he shows up with his girlfriend, a mid-40s therapist knockout named Tracy. And finally, there is Penny, a close friend (with benefits) of Judd's from his teenage years, who still lives in town and who Judd develops an eye for.
Got all that? Good.
The cast of characters is marvelous. Tropper does a great job of giving each one their own distinct personality, their own sarcastic streaks and their own soft spots. As wise-cracking as Wendy is, she has a couple of deep, touching chats with her brother Judd, while Paul, seemingly the even keeled brother of the family, nearly comes unglued at the end due to several past and present incidents.
The book is filled with comedy--and language--and many heart warming moments as you can see the dysfunction of the family from the first few pages, as well as Judd's life completely falling apart one by one. His discovery of Jen, the wife, and Wade, the boss, in his own bed is one thing... how he reacts is both sad and hilarious at the same time.
The book is not one long plotline... there are several subplots along the way--how does Wendy really feel about Horry? Where does Linda fit into all of this? What extreme measure will Alice go to to have a baby?--but it flows nicely, and I found myself eager to get to the next chapter... and a day after finishing it, I kinda wished it had gone a little further.
The movie version has a steller cast... a bearded Jason Batemen is perfect for Judd Altman (changed from "Foxman"), as his body language and reactions are just as great as his vocals... Tina Fey plays Wendy, and though she seems a bit more sardonic and mean spirited in the book, I do love me some Tina Fey, so I was happy with it... Corey Stoll, a character actor in movies and some TV shows, takes on Paul, and does fine, while Adam Driver, who you might know from the HBO show "Girls" (I wouldn't know, because I don't watch it) but you may have heard about because he'll be a villian in Star Wars Episode VII, coming December 2015, is absolutely brilliant as Phillip.
Jane Fonda is nearly perfect as the oversexed mother of the clan, Hillary. Then, bring in Connie Britton, who is gorgeous, as Phillips older, saddened lover Tracy, Timothy Olyphant as a quiet Horry, Dax Shepard as the very unlikable jerkface boss Wade, Kathryn Hahn as a subdued version of usual antics as Alice, and Rose Byrne as Penny, and you've got yourself a great cast.
Kathryn Hahn intrigues me, because in the movies I've enjoyed watching that she happens to be in, like "We're the Millers" or "Anchorman" or "Wanderlust", she's all over the place. She's loud, screechy, annoying and many times, dressed down or fluffed up where she's nearly unlikable. I've now seen two films, the very good "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and this film, where she is wonderfully loveable. I hope this continues. I like normal Kathryn Hahn.
And while my Hollywood girlfriend is Amy Adams (whom I'm in love with), if I ever decide to take my affections across the pond, I'm not sure who'd win between Emily Blunt or Rose Byrne for my affections. Just sayin.
The book goes in directions that it's obvious the movie cannot go, hence it risk a very hard R, or even an NC-17 rating... that's not to say the book is dirty, but... Alice, who wants a baby so bad she can't stand it, does one thing in the movie to help her have a baby... and in the book, does that very thing, but ten times worse. Judd's reaction to finding Jen and Wade together, while both are upsetting, are markedly different between the book and the movie.
Plus, there is an entire subplot that outlines the chasm in the relationship between Paul and Judd in the book that the movie never even approaches... probably for time, but it's a great story told, and it gives you a little more understanding into both characters.
Overall, I loved the book. Loved the way it was written, loved the story it told and how it told it. I can tell you that I liked the Paul in the book better than the Paul in the movie, but I would have loved to have seen this cast performing the book itself. Tropper did write the script for the film, and did a fine job, but of course, the book has more.
Glad I read the book, may never read it again... glad I saw the movie, will probably watch it when it comes on Starz in Batement in July of 2015--I mean, Rose Byrne, Tina Fey and Kathryn Hahn? I say yes.
And soon enough, I just saw "Gone Girl", and I'm halfway thru the book (though I stopped it over a year ago, so I'll likely start at the beginning again)