Sunday Movie Review – #MiniSeries – Olive Kitteridge

Welcome to my Sunday Movie Review. Yes, a movie review is what I have for you this week as I have found that reading four books at one time isn’t a time-saver, lol. But, I’m into them and if I would’ve stopped bouncing around books and finish one, I’d have been prepared. But I do have a movie review – or shall I say, a four-part mini-series review for Elizabeth Strout’s –  Olive Kitteridge. The book garnered a lot of attention and I’d had it on my TBP (to be purchased) list and then I came across the mini-series on HBO and was hooked. I will preface my review below by saying this is a character-driven movie  (book), not plot-driven. Why I emphasize this is because some readers who leave bad reviews for a book of this calibre, clearly miss the point that this is a character depiction story, not a thriller. You have to go deep on this one, which I enjoy, but for some who felt disappointed because they weren’t wowed, and left sad reviews, I suggest checking out the genre and gist of a book before buying it and punishing the authors with lousy reviews.


Do keep in mind, this is the movie version I’m reviewing. But I will say, despite my rule ‘if I’ve seen the movie I don’t read the book, I am still going to read this book. And before I review, I will demonstrate my comment above about the difference in reviews for same book:

Reviewed in the United States on July 14, 2018

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Ron Johnson

Reviewed in the United States on May 24, 2016

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Movie Blurb:


In a voice more powerful and compassionate than ever before, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character: Olive Kitteridge.

At the edge of the continent, Crosby, Maine, may seem like nowhere, but seen through this brilliant writer’s eyes, it’s in essence the whole world, and the lives that are lived there are filled with all of the grand human drama–desire, despair, jealousy, hope, and love.

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance: a former student who has lost the will to live: Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life–sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition–its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

People • USA Today • The Atlantic • The Washington Post Book World • Seattle Post-Intelligencer • Entertainment Weekly • The Christian Science Monitor • San Francisco Chronicle • Salon • San Antonio Express-News • Chicago Tribune • The Wall Street Journal

“Perceptive, deeply empathetic . . . Olive is the axis around which these thirteen complex, relentlessly human narratives spin themselves into Elizabeth Strout’s unforgettable novel in stories.”—O: The Oprah Magazine

“Fiction lovers, remember this name: Olive Kitteridge. . . . You’ll never forget her. . . . [Elizabeth Strout] constructs her stories with rich irony and moments of genuine surprise and intense emotion. . . . Glorious, powerful stuff.”—USA Today









WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE • The beloved first novel featuring Olive Kitteridge, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Oprah’s Book Club pick Olive, Again
“Fiction lovers, remember this name: Olive Kitteridge. . . . You’ll never forget her.”—USA Today
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR BY The Washington Post Book World • USA Today • San Francisco Chronicle • Chicago Tribune • Seattle Post-Intelligencer • People • Entertainment Weekly • The Christian Science Monitor • The Plain Dealer • The Atlantic • Rocky Mountain News • Library Journal

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life—sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition—its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

The inspiration for the Emmy Award–winning HBO miniseries starring Frances McDormand, Richard Jenkins, and Bill Murray


My 4 Star Movie Review

Every story isn’t for everyone, but if you like deep character study type movies which evoke emotions from short dialogue and physical expression, leaving us as the viewer (or reader) to feel and ponder from each character, and for those who appreciate a protagonist’s lack of displaying emotions, sometimes even pissing us off, which is a sign of good writing and not a reason to hate a book, you’ll like this movie or book.

The movie is portrayed in 13 different vignettes of casual incidences in the lives of small town county people in Maine, interconnected with Olive’s seemingly humdrum life, demonstrating how the things that happen in people’s  lives either affect – or don’t affect them. A study of the human condition and how events, status, values,  and circumstance contribute into forming people’s behaviors and patterns.

Olive is as complicated as she comes across simple and unemotional with a contrary personality, yet, she’s concerned for others’ welfare. Somewhere inside her there’s a caring person who just doesn’t know how to evolve. She’s judgemental, witty, efficient and a do-the-right-thing type of woman, and probably much more if she allowed herself to reveal herself to herself.

Ordinary lives are accentuated by their vulnerabilities and fragile egos, despair, joy, heartache, loss and grief. Much of the emotion demonstrated by any character in these stories are evoked through actions, non-actions and expression. No, there’s nothing fast-paced here. Each vignette had me paying close attention – hanging on each sentence and observing expression, sometimes without dialogue.

The story casts a darkness in some scenes. But if you are the type who likes to observe character and human nature, and enjoys listening to conversation, you’ll enjoy the story. We’ll get to know Henry, Olive’s pharmacist husband with his big heart – a polar opposite to his wife when it comes to demonstrating compassion, and we’ll learn only near the end about how Olive felt about her husband. And there are plenty people in-between who either love Olive or try to stay far away – like her son Christopher. Truly a story to make us think about the things that happen in our lives having a profound effect on our behaviors.

The reason I took one star away in my review was because I didn’t feel that I learned what had happened in Olive’s prior life to make her so matter-of-fact and expressionless. I think she loved and cared but she couldn’t show it – or displayed in a way that wasn’t blatantly apparent, and as a reader/watcher, I would have liked a bit of back story revealing reason for her lack of demonstrative empathy. I simply wanted to learn what happened or didn’t happen to Olive in her past that made her the unemotional and flawed person she was. But I’ll also add that Frances McDormand did an outstanding performance portraying Olive. And despite the author leaving us to our own interpretations of Olive to evaluate, I highly recommend!




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52 thoughts on “Sunday Movie Review – #MiniSeries – Olive Kitteridge

    1. Oh, happy to entice you Toni. Frances was excellent as always. In fact, she was so great, at times I wanted to shake her and tell her to REACT, but she remains in character playing the role conveying her flawed self, just as the writer intended. ❤


  1. I love these films. People are disappointed because there is no all-encompassing drama, but there is so much more. We can never know enough about the human condition, and personally, I find the subject fascinating!


    1. Thanks so much Anita? Jaye? No doubts you will love the story. You said it – there’s so much more! Readers who like to dig deep and study character will no doubt love this. ❤


  2. Thanks for the comprehensive review Debby and also highlighting the different responses with regard to reviews. When I am sharing reviews for a book I am also amazed by the points raised by those with 1 and 2 star reviews and I wonder why and how they selected the book in the first place. I know the books that I am drawn to and whilst I would say thrillers and adventure.. I am more engaged if they have strongly drawn characters. But I also enjoy character led plots and I have seen this series around and will probably watch first.. hugs ♥


    1. Thanks so much Sal. I know silly reviews are a bone of contention with many writers. And yes, as I said, it’s a character-driven film and book. Although because it’s written in vignettes there is no plot continuation – rather ‘theme’, as each scene focuses on a particular occurence. It’s not hard to see if one picks up the book without reading what it’s about, they will be disappointed if they are looking for high action, because it’s not that type of book. ❤ xxx


  3. What an insightful, balanced review, my lovely. You make valid points, as it’s all too easy to leave a review on a screen, without thinking that a person created this from their heart and soul. ❤ ❤


  4. My kind of movie and book. Perhaps in the book more of her backstory comes out. There is only so much they can include in a movie. I think casting Francis McDormand was brilliant. Thanks for the great review. I must add this to my TBR list of books. One of my favourite books is Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel and this sounds similar.


    1. Wonderful Darlene! Yes, I did some snooping, I don’t believe there is any backstory as the movie and book both, are done in scenes – vignettes, just capturing essences of the events in each scene. Still a great character study type film. 3


      1. Couldn’t resist Darlene’s mention of Margaret Laurence’s The Stone Angel – looked it up – just to look, you know… annnnnd… too late!! Bought it Grrr! LOL – toppling TBR pile but who cares!


  5. This looks great, Debby. What a cast of actors. The characters and their relationships look interesting too. It would be difficult to choose between the media. It sounds like both will be great, either to read or view.
    I like the way you spelt MiniSeries in your title. It’s the way it should be spelt, I think. I remember years ago when one of the first MiniSeries was shown here, it was spelt miniseries and I struggled to work out what it was. I was pronouncing it min-is-er-ies. What’s a min-is-er-ies? I asked. I had no idea. Finally, I realised. 🙂


    1. Lol Norah. I hear you! And I’m glad you found this book/movie of interest. Like I mentioned, I don’t usually read a book after the movie, but this one I will too. Frances McDormand is a wonderful character actress. 🙂 x


  6. This sounds like an interesting mini-series; I think my wife may have read the book. I’ll see if she is interested in watching it.

    I also liked how you called out reviewers for leaving bad reviews of a book because it was not the type of book they were expecting. Seems totally unfair to the author…


      1. Many years ago I had a two stars because the postman squashed the book into the letter box. Was devastated until I saw the funny side of it. Wanted to recommend she had a bigger letter box but stuck to my self-imposed rule of not replying to a review. Just !!


  7. I know what you mean about character-driven vs plot-driven. Readers want action and forget that growth in a person is action. It reminds me of Old Man and the Sea. Not a lot of action there but tons of drama!

    Great that you pointed this out, Debby.


  8. It is interesting the way people will review a book or movie based on a criterion that doesn’t necessarily apply. It would be like complaining that The Notebook didn’t have any gunfights. Lol. It sounds like the movie delivered what the blurb promised. Thanks for the review… now, if I can only convince my husband that it has a gunfight. Lol


  9. This is so great to hear, Debby! So many movies and TV shows put a premium on kinetic energy to retain our interest and attention — think superheroes, Star Wars, etc. — but I’ve long hoped for more television that teaches us to be comfortable with moments of quiet and to have the patience to listen, and to actively observe behavior over passively watching action. I’m really going to look forward to both reading the book and watching the miniseries adaptation!


    1. Wow, hi Sean. That’s amazing to hear. And that’s a real cross – genre for you too, lol. But I’m sure from a screen-writing perspective you would find the character study interesting. I felt very drawn to Olive, trying to get in her head. I look forward to your thoughts after watching and/or reading. I too look forward to the book now. 🙂


  10. Hi Debby – I think I’d love this mini-series and I’ll definitely watch it one day with its really good casting. The book too sounds interesting … I’ve noted for the future – take care – and thank you … Hilary


  11. Debby, this book has been on my radar for a long while and yet not quite been convinced owing the mixed reviews. Your superb review of the HBO film has won me over – and I just wish I could see it for myself! However, I’m now eagerly going to purchase the book and look forward to reading it soon. I do wonder if the novel itself will cover more about her previous life and I agree, that would feel like a flaw in the film to me as well. It needs to be well-rounded to understand the motivation for her present behaviour.


    1. Hi Annika. I’m happy to inspire you to want to read the book now. From the (valid) reviews I’ve seen, I think it can only get better. Although, I don’t believe anything new regarding Olive’s past would be there either, from what I found on my digging around. It’s quite possible that was the intent of the writing style by the author, possibly because the story is set up in scenes, focusing on a situation, rather than as a novel that follows one particular storyline. That’s what I think. But happy to enlighten you. And remember, when you see bad reviews among a sea of over 3700 5 star reviews, read the bad ones, and you’ll often find the review isn’t even relevant to the story. ❤ – Majority of the time! 🙂


  12. You’re reading four books at a time! You go, girl! 🙂

    Great review, Debby, and it seems that the movie is a perfect adaptation of the book, based on the blurbs and reviews. This appears to be more like a European-style movie than a Hollywood one, obviously. I think one can learn a lot from slower movies and in-depth characters, especially authors. I’d be curious to watch this series. Not sure about reading the book, though, as it sounds like a long one and my TBR is also only getting longer.


  13. European-style, as in foreign movies and their nominations; films where characters play a more important role than plot and where directors do an incredible job constructing enticing scenes and situations, where dialogue is more important than setting… 🙂


  14. An interesting review, Debby. Your comments about the genre of the book and reviews of it also interested me as I often see reviews that almost seem to conflict in their commentary. It just shows how one man’s meat is another man’s poison.


  15. Hmmph–must have missed that HBO blurb. Oh, we do watch our share of mini-series there. You can’t get better than Frances McDormand for character. HBO does a great job of making characters come to life. Great review.

    Yes, movies/mini-series ARE often different than books. I never can remember the name of that (PBS?) show where the guy (who recently passed away, I think) interviewed actors, directors, et al. One time he had a guy on who had the rare privilege of the screenplay for his own book. He fully explained how the two dramatic forms differ–in some detail and why people may have divergent responses. Although in his case, he did at least have an opportunity to maintain some artistic consistency.


    1. Yes, I too know who you mean, and for the life of me, can’t remember his name either lol. Yes, often the book is better than the film, but from my observations, it seems the series did a good job of taking from the book. I do intend to read the book and the sequel – Olive Again. 🙂


  16. This was a really interesting review, Debby. I have neither seen the movie nor read the book, but I have heard different opinions about it. Yours is very insightful, and I’ll bet there are a lot of people out there who wished they had read a review like this before going to see a movie they might not appreciate or understand. I love the way you portray the protagonist, and my first question as I read your review was, “How did this woman get to be that way?” I think backstory is essential in a character-driven story.

    Great post, as always. And I love that I’ve learned about writing from reading your review of a movie. ❤


    1. Hi Amy. Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I’m happy to hear you appreciate my style of reviews. I do try to convey the essence plus the warts when reviewing. I guess Olive will remain a mystery LOL 🙂 ❤


  17. This sounds fascinating, Debby, and I really like your excellent reasoning for holding back on that fifth star.
    The trailer displays the excellent acting essential to pulling off a story of this nature, and while it really isn’t the sort of thing I would normally watch, I may well take a look.


    1. Well, I’m happy to enlighten you. And I’m not surprised you’re on the ‘same page’ with me, lol. And yes, the trailer gives us a sneak preview of Olive’s blase, almost monotone character in those scenes, depicting the lack of emotion. A good watch for studying character. ❤


  18. I’ve read great things about the book, Debby, and I also have it on my list (the neverending one), but didn’t realise there was a series. I love Frances MCDormand, and I am always drawn to strong characters, so this sounds like one for me. Thanks for the recommendation, Debby.


  19. Debby, aside from your excellent review of the movie I appreciated that you called out a reviewer for such a bad review of the book. I particularly liked the explanation which you provided regarding a character driven book versus a plot driven one. Of course, the reviewer has a right to prefer plot driven books. But just because the reviewer doesn’t like character driven books doesn’t make it a bad book as is so clearly pointed out in the number of good reviews, let alone picking up the Pulitzer Prize. Sounds like a good book and mini-series.


    1. Hi Carol, thanks so much for adding to the conversation. Hey, you know me, I have to point out injustice. I hate to see irrelevant reviews slamming the work of a writer because the reader made a wrong choice. Just sayin’ 🙂 I look forward to your thoughts if you watch or read the book. Thanks. ❤


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