Ove vs. Otto (DOG EAR)

Ove vs. Otto (DOG EAR)

loved the book. I even liked the Swedish movie (even through they couldn’t quite do some of the critical scenes right (for instance, the cat was buried in a snow drift, not simply laying in hypothermia)). But the American version with Tom Hanks? Meh.

BTW, I’m talking about A Man Called Ove which I reviewed Here. In a nutshell, it’s about an old man and his reasons for being angry and bitter with everyone in the world. He just wants to be left alone so that he can kill himself. But his nutty, humanistic neighbors and a battered old tomcat won’t give him the chance. In the end, they show his value and he maintains his own soul. He’s maybe a little less cranky, but Ove is still Ove. I stained the pages with my tears (admission).

Now comes the American version with Tom Hanks. Ove is now Otto. It was… okay… but they got it wrong over critical points. First off, Ove was the way he was because of his entire life and some of the events that took place. The book made it clear and the first movie managed to cover it quite well. For Ove, everything was about his father, the whiteshirts and his wife. And she was an angel. And so even when he is dragged from the brink of suicide (to live as a grumpy yet reluctantly-helpful recluse) he is still Ove.

However, the Hanks’ movie goes light on the backstory. Otto is really nothing more than a “get off my lawn” cranky sort of guy. In the end, the pregnant mother from across the street saves him and suddenly, during the credits, we see photos of him sharing everything from vacations to holidays with that family. He’s been adapted as a curmudgeonly grandfather, loved by all and loving everyone. In his, his entire backstory, his griefs and frustrations, and absolved. He is both reborn and invalidated.

The kids. Since this is an Americanized productions, you gotta love kids, even if (like these ones) they are ill-behaved terrors who scream in hospital waiting rooms and bash their wrestler action figures together. Americans view their offspring as “little pals” and so this sort of thing is fine – like Ove, I am not endeared to them, no mater how loud they are. In the original works, they are quieter and more in control. On the night when Ove babysits, he bonds with the oldest because she has a house-building program on her computer. Ove sits with her and has a frank Ove-grownup discussion on the elements of house-building. He grants knowledge from his life. She listens and incorporates these lessons. They bond. I love it. But no, nothing in the crazed uncontrollable nature of the Americanized “cousins” gave me any reasons for Otto’s transformation.

If there was a moment that really pissed me off, it was the “truck buying” moment. In the original story, Ove and his friend love different types of cars. Ove loves his Saabs (a very conservative, basic and Swedish car) while his friend Volvos (another Swedish car) – bad enough – but this friend’s later purchase of a BMW signifies the end of integrity and, directly, their friendship. The cars mean something. The later version, from the Yankee telling, it is Chevys (Otto”s choice) and Fords. Later, when Otto becomes a Disney grampa, crusty and cute, he buys a huge Chevy pickup (“the one you always wanted,” screams on of the kids). Really? So why would Otto deny himself a tool (a pickup) if he “needed” it. He was getting along fine with his various Chevys. Otto (or rather, the original Ove) only desired things off the lower base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (security, safety and love). Certainly foolish and impractical consumer purchases (i.e. this hulking product placement that serves no function in Ove’s practical, austere life) breaks the back of the character. Ove was his own man. Ove had values that he rigidly followed with clock-like order. But suddenly he has a desire for an inexplicable product? Possibly this figures in the character of a typical red,white, and blue consumer hero of Hollywood movies, but for the dower Swede, it counters the entire character. if anything, this was the moment I turned my back on this movie.

So there you have it – my thoughts, not only on a wonderful book and its West Coast corruption, but my own Ove-like observations on its shallowness and stupidity. Clearly this is why I love my neighborhood, my small cars, and not living in The Villages. And as I write this, through my open window of my old house, I hear the kids playing across the street. Screaming. Running around like banshees. And I frown.

It’s who I am. And no Chevy FUV is going to change that.