Like most film adaptions, This Is Where I Leave You drastically changed Jonathan Tropper’s original novel. The film was released five years after the book hit shelves and starred big names like Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, and Jane Fonda. The story follows a dysfunctional family who returns home after their father’s death to fulfill his dying wish for the family to sit Shiva for a week at their childhood home. The dynamic brings up a lot of unhealed wounds and anger that the siblings have toward each other, especially with the siblings’ current family and marriage situations.
Judd Altman (Bateman) learns at the start of the film that his wife, Quinn Altman (Abigail Spencer), has been cheating on him with hisBoss, Wade Beaufort (played by Dax Shepard, who stars in several movies and TV shows), for a year. At home with his family, he has to cope with his wife’s cheating and his marriage falling apart while also putting up with his siblings. The film maintains the same overall theme and family dynamics as the book, but there are also a lot of storylines that were switched up from how they appeared in the book. While the movie did its best to remain true to the book, some storylines were even emitted entirely.
The Last Name Changed From Foxman To Altman
The family’s last name was Foxman in the This Is Where I Leave You book, but the film changed it to Atman. This seems like an odd and unnecessary change since most movies stay true to book characters’ names. It seems even more crucial for This Is Where I Leave You since the family is a significant theme.
While not every book to film change has an explanation, this one has a pretty reasonable one. Director Shawn Levy struggled to get legal clearances to use Foxman. Levy told Entertainment Weekly that if there are people in the area where the film takes place with a specific name, that name can’t be used. Luckily he and Tropper came up with the name Altman while going back and forth with Jewish-sounding names.
Judd And Paul Altman’s Wives’ Names Were Changed Too
Two more name changes occur with Jen and Alice Foxman. Jen is Judd’s wife in the book, and Alice is married to Judd’s brother Paul Foxman. However, in the This Is Where I Leave You film, Jen’s name changes to Quinn, and Alice changes to Annie. Unlike the last name change, there isn’t much explanation about why this change occurred though it could also be related to legal reasons.
Paul’s Storyline Was Taken Out
One crucial storyline from the book regarding Paul was left out of the movie. In both the book and the film, Paul and Judd have a tense relationship and a lot of resentment toward each other. Part of this is rooted in Paul marrying Annie, who Judd previously dated. However, the book has a much darker storyline. When the brothers were younger, Paul defended Judd against a school bully. As a result, he was attacked by a Rottweiler. The dog damaged Paul’s throwing arm irreparably, which ended his up-and-coming football career. This added a lot to Paul and Judd’s dynamic and justified why Paul resented his younger brother in Tropper’s fictional story. Unfortunately, the This Is Where I Leave You film did not mention the incident.
Wendy Punches Wade In The Film
A small difference between the film and the movie is how the siblings deal with Judd’s boss. In the book, the youngest brother Phillip Altman (Adam Driver), punches Wade. This makes sense because Phillip is immature and incapable of growing up, so it would be he who chooses violence over using his words to defend his older brother. However, the film decided Wendy Altman (Fey) should be the one to injure Judd’s boss instead. Levy said this is because Wendy was the voice of reason for Judd in the film and always gave him advice. So the director thought it would make sense that she’s the one to defend him against Wade.
Wendy Was More Prominent In The Film
Speaking of Wendy, she had a larger role in the film than in the book. In the movie, Fey’s character struggles with her marriage and feels like she has no connection to her husband despite sharing kids with him. She also reconnects with her disabled high school boyfriend, Horry Callen. While these storylines are present in the book, Wendy has more scenes in the movie, including where she punches Wade. She has a lot of one on one talks with Judd as well. The reason behind this was likely to give a bigger perspective from the only sister in the family, and because Fey played the role of Wendy, it would be unfortunate to waste her talent and comedy by only having her play a small part in This Is Where I Leave You.
Horry’s Accident Is Different
Another big difference revolves around Wendy’s high school boyfriend. Horry (played by Timothy Olyphant who played Scream 2’s killer) is disabled in the film because when he and Wendy were younger, they got into a bad car accident. Fey’s character came out alive with no lasting damage. Unfortunately, Horry wasn’t so lucky and suffered permanent brain damage. As an adult, Horry still lives in his childhood home and could never accomplish any of his life goals. Wendy feels guilty that she wasn’t injured in the car accident and went on to live a normal life. However, Horry doesn’t blame her. In the book, Horry also suffers from an accident, but instead of a car crash with Wendy, Horry is hit in the head with a bat during a bar fight, leaving him epileptic. The movie version makes Wendy’s guilt more understandable because she was in the accident with him, but her results differed.
The Film Changes Hillary & Linda’s Relationship Reveal Moment
In the film and book, Hillary Foxman/Altman (played by Jane Fonda from 80 For Brady) moves on from her late husband and begins dating family friend Linda Callen. Linda is Horry’s mother. At the start of the film, there are hints that she and Hillary are together. One of them is when Judd asks Linda why she never found anyone after her husband passed away. The truth is that she’s dating Judd’s mother. This is revealed at the end when Hillary stops her children from fighting with each other by kissing Linda, which gives them something more shocking to focus on. However, things go differently in the book. Hillary is caught sneaking out of Linda’s house, giving away their relationship.
Judd’s Character Is Condensed
Like many other aspects of the book, Judd’s character was toned down in the film. While the This Is Where I Leave You film shows him still reeling from his wife cheating on him and dealing with her now being pregnant with their child, his emotions are deeper in the book. Judd is unhappy in the movie, but the book showcases much darker feelings, which makes sense since he lost his wife and father all at once. While he had many inappropriate and creepy thoughts in the book that were better left out of the film, his book character’s angst was more relatable than the movie Judd, who seems to be handling things pretty well.
It’s fair to say Levy took some creative liberties with the film. It’s a shame that some of the crucial moments that added to the story and its characters were left out, but luckily the overall theme of This Is Where I Leave You stands strong in the film.