The Painted Veil (Movie Vs. Book)

As the story goes… Kitty (Naomi Watts) has found herself to be quite choosy on who she will choose as a husband.  It certainly it is not from lack of effort on the men’s part, yet Kitty knows she is beautiful and really feels that a woman does not need to have a man in her life to feel complete.  Her parents disagree.

One day, after a particular awkward argument at home when her mother flat-out asks Kitty how much longer she plans to count on her father to support her – Kitty takes a walk and finds herself in the company of a fairly new acquaintance, Walter (Edward Norton).  When out of the blue, Walter proposes, Kitty is taken aback and laughs telling him that she hardly knows him and surely he does not expect an answer.  Upon returning home, she overheard her mother on the phone gushing over Kitty’s sister new proposal and saying that of course Kitty will probably never get married.  Kitty quickly returns to Walter with a “yes, she will marry him.”

As expected, Kitty soon finds that her lack on knowing Walter is a problem.  He in quite introverted, used to accompanying himself only and honestly she finds him boring.  When they attend a party together and she is introduced to Charles Townsend, Kitty finds herself drawn to this man who is exciting, adventurous,outgoing, and really everything that Walter is not.

An affair is soon taking place between Kitty and Charles, never mind that Charles too is married and Kitty is sure that if they could only dump their current spouses that life would be a fairy tale of happily ever after.

When Walter inevitably finds out, he offers Kitty a divorce if only Charles will marry her.  Kitty soon finds herself in a rude awakening that carries her sullen and broken to where Walter is taking her, to a small Chinese village where Walter is to help with the cholera outbreak that is taking the lives of everyone in contact with it.  Kitty is sure that Walter is trying to kill her… but soon finds herself taken in with her surroundings of the poor and the abandoned, and grows into someone she never knew was in her. 

I recently read and reviewed The Painted Veil by  W Somerset Maugham and I was surprised how much I fell in love with this story.  As mentioned in my review, Kitty annoyed me to no end.  She was selfish and stuck on herself.  Even in the end when I thought there may be a turning point in the story – Kitty again let me down.  I can say by the end of the read, I understood Kitty and her weaknesses, but I sure did not need to accept them or like them. 

As per my habit, I have found that I enjoy reading books and then if movies are available to actively search them out.  That is what I did in this case, and added to my Netflix Que this movie. 

Having now seen the movie I have to say, no matter what you thought of the book, the movie is worth seeing.  First of all, you never have to twist my arm too bad to have me watch anything with Edward Norton in it.  I think he is a brilliant actor and he came through again in Painted Veil. 

Book and movie are not the same.  I wish, the book would have been written as the movie was.  Yes, I just said that.  I found the story more heart wrenching the way the movie came together – and I found that in the end, Kitty was someone who truly had grown and became a woman I was impressed with.  She truly found herself literally and figuratively in a monastery for orphans.  And to see how both she and Walter deal with the affair is very realistic.  Truly, Walter is a more likable character too – as the movie gives him more heart and depth than the book did.

I was touched deeply by this movie and encourage you if you have not seen it to really treat yourself to an amazing story.

38 thoughts on “The Painted Veil (Movie Vs. Book)

  1. ditto above!!! it certainly made me seek out all ed norton’s movies!!
    i will admit to not really liking “older” books so maybe that is the problem

  2. I will have to add this to my Netflix queue. It sounds very interesting. Good review! I’ve read some books adapted into movies where I’ve liked characters more in the film than the book.

  3. I think the movie was more romantic and did give Kitty more meaning.
    I liked the book, but read it before I saw the movie. I’m not sure what I would ahve thought if it was reversed

  4. Interesting that the book and movie are so different! That’s wonderful though that you liked them both. Sometimes that doesn’t happen!

    1. I am glad they weren’t the same… I would have still appreciated the movie as I love that they went to China to help people but I would have in the end still disliked Kitty for her weakeness.

  5. I liked both book and movie, too, but I wouldn’t want to change the book because I think it’s powerful in a very different way. And knowing Maugham the way I do, if he’d written out the storyline from the movie, it would have turned out to be very, very cheesy. 😀

  6. I also preferred the movie to the book (rare for me, too). I think it was the redemptive side of Kitty shown in the movie and the chemistry between Naomi Watts and Edward Norton that really enchanted me. The characters seem much more shallow and vacuous in the book. The movie definitely adds a richer depth. Plus, you get to hear the hauntingly beautiful refrain of Satie’s Gnossienne No.1 throughout the film!

      1. I know! I never thought as him as a “romantic” lead before but after seeing him as Walter he really intrigues me in a new way. Thanks for sharing your review, Sheila!

    1. Yay Beth! Of course the book gives you more details in the beginning than the movie does (I always hate that)… and the book describes Walters shyness and introversion better but the overall movie is so much better as in the book Walter remains bitter to the end…

  7. I haven’t read the book yet, but my husband and I loved the movie. Interesting that you liked the approach they took in the movie better! That’s unusual but not unexpected with such a well-done movie.


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