I read the book before I watched the movie. The book was cool. I didn’t understand why it had to end the way it did. But I liked the book.
The movie on the other hand…
If you know the book you know that this is a story narrated by O (Blake Lively)–short for Ophelia–a girl who doesn’t like her Shakespearean name so she shortens it to its opening vowel. In the book she is also O (as in oh-oh-ohhh!) because of her active pursuit of carnal pleasures; in the movie she seems to prefer O because, as played by Ms Lively, Ophelia is too baked to remember her full name.
So anyway, O tells us about her relationship with Ben (Aaron Johnson) and Chon (Taylor Kitsch), two pot growers in California who fall afoul of a Mexican drug cartel headed by Elena (Salma Hayek) and how the boys have to make some tough choices when Reina’s scary henchman Lado (Benicio Del Toro) kidnaps O to make Ben and Chon see the wisdom in doing business the cartel way.
You see O is in a romantic relationship with both Ben the caring, save-the-world-through-social-work genius botanist who refined the herb to a point where everyone wants a taste of his product; as well as Chon the scarred war-vet with a talent for violence. Oh yeah, this is an edgy movie people! Those with small minds are not welcome here.
Mr. Stone, in his cinematic interpretation of the book, seems eager to muddy the waters in every area that was otherwise clear in the book. He suggests (through a character in the movie of course) that perhaps Ben and Chon actually love each other the most. He changes the ending–which I’m not really against because the way the book ended left me unsatisfied–and he cast Ms Lively in a role that might have been better served by an actress with a little more going on behind the eyes.
Also the film looks like it took too many editing and post-production cues from the later films of Tony Scott, not to mention that the new ending seriously calls to mind the finale of True Romance.
On the positive end, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Kitsch deliver solid performances, Mr. Del Toro is suitably menacing (or maybe it is just his scary haircut that does all the work for him) and Ms Hayek wears that unforgiving wig with aplomb.
Final analysis: Mr. Stone leaves money on the table by taking the edge off the film.
My advice: Skip the movie, read the book.