Couch Potato Review: ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - We have murder, we have a jumping timeline and an unexpected twist at the end.
We’re talking about “Where the Crawdads Sing,” of course.
“Where the Crawdads Sing” follows the life of Catherine Danielle Clark, who goes by the nickname Kya. But the people in town, except for a select few, only know her as the “Marsh Girl.” So when a murder takes place in the marsh, you already know who they’re pointing fingers at.
This is more than just a movie review though. We both read the 2018 novel, so this is also a book to big screen comparison.
First of all, and most importantly for me, this was one of the best book to screen transitions I have seen. No big development in the book was left out of the movie.
I decided to give the book a try after seeing Taylor Swift wrote a special song for the movie because it was one of her favorite books. If it’s good enough for T-Swift, it’s good enough for me. At this point the trailer for the movie hadn’t come out yet, so I wasn’t really sure what I was getting myself into.
Just like the book, the movie begins in 1969 with the murder of Chase Andrews. And like the book, his body is discovered by two boys next to an abandoned fire tower in the swamp. And don’t you dare think swamp and marsh are the same. Movie and book Kya makes sure you know they’re not.
Honestly, I don’t know why it’s important to know the difference (yes, I understand it’s important scientifically, but we’re talking about a movie). Maybe because the marsh is sacred to her and would never be tainted by something like murder?
Once Chase Andrews is discovered and everyone learns there has been a murder in the small town of Barkley Cove, North Carolina, we have the same timeline change as in the book.
Now it’s 1952 and we are introduced to 6-year-old Kya. At this time she has a Ma that dotes on her, two brothers, two sisters, and her Pa. We quickly learn her Pa is an abusive alcoholic. We see him smack Kya in the face for playing in his boat. A young boy comes to her aid and we find out that is Tate Walker. The novel is a bit more in depth about how Tate was Kya’s brother Jodie’s friend growing up, but honestly this point wasn’t necessary to the movie.
Either way Pa doesn’t like Tate now because he isn’t a fan of people standing up to him. We quickly see that when Ma stands up to him for hitting Kya and she is quickly knocked on the ground by her husband. By the next day Ma’s bags are packed and she is heading down the dirt road in front of their marsh view shack with her alligator skin shoes on just like the book.
Soon Kya’s siblings Murph, Missy and Mandy also leave. Kya is sad they are gone, but the one person leaving, besides Ma, that hurts her the most is her brother Jodie. Now we just have young Kya and Pa alone in the shack.
We get to a point where Kya starts learning to cook grits so they don’t starve and Pa even quits drinking for a spell. He and Kya go out fishing in the boat and actually start to bond.
At this point they take the boat into town to get some supplies. This is where some of the movie is a little different from the book.
For starters, Kya and Pa never go to a restaurant in town to eat. I would have enjoyed this because it was one of the few nice things Pa did for Kya, and it was also one of the first times we see how poorly the town’s people treat Kya. In the book Kya is outside the restaurant when the preacher’s wife gets on to the 6-year-old for being near her daughter. She basically calls Kya dirty and feral, and I just really wanted a face to put with the person I disliked.
While in town we also get to meet Jumpin’. He owns a bait shop where you can get necessary supplies and gas for your boat. In the movie, Jumpin’s wife Mabel also works in his bait shop. In the book she is rarely in his shop, but this was a necessary change to speed up the storyline for the movie.
Eventually Pa leaves and little Kya is left on her own. She quickly learns to drive the boat and takes it out. She gets lost on her way, and again comes a young Tate to the rescue. He is alone in his boat because apparently it’s cool in Barkley Cove for young kids to be alone in the marshy water.
Now young Kya is digging up mussels in the early morning hours to trade to Jumpin’ for supplies and more gas for her boat. This becomes her routine for years. Over the years Mabel also brings clothes and shoes for Kya that were in the church donation box. She also gives Kya seeds and teaches her how to garden so she can grow food. I love Jumpin’ and Mabel in the book and their movie versions don’t disappoint.
The movie still switches between the past and the future. In the book most of the future happens through the eyes of the town’s sheriff. In the movie we see it through the eyes of Tom Milton, Kya’s future lawyer and one of the only people we see be nice to young Kya in the movie. I actually preferred this change.
In the movie Tom is hearing everyone say it had to be the Marsh Girl. He is retired, but you can tell he isn’t happy with the accusations being thrown around. We also quickly learn that there was no foot prints next to Chase’s body in the swamp, red fibers were found on his clothes during the autopsy. He wasn’t wearing anything red, so everyone assumes the fibers are from what his killer was wearing. That is, if he was even killed since there’s no evidence to suggest this wasn’t just a freak accident of him falling off the fire tower and hitting his head.
We switch back to the past and Kya is now a teenager. She has taken up the hobby of collecting bird feathers, shells, leaves, just about anything she finds in the marsh. One day a feather is left on a tree stump for her near her house. Then another time a milk jug with spark plugs for her boat motor and seeds are left along with a feather and a note. Kya decides to give one of her precious feathers to this mysterious friend. She awkwardly runs into Tate who was the one giving her the things all along. She also has to tell him she couldn’t read his letter.
Tate begins to teach Kya to read and before long she is reading biology books, and basically creating her own books about the marsh. She draws pictures of the items she finds in the marsh, catalogs them with their scientific name, and a bunch of other smart things.
Kya and Tate get closer and eventually he kisses her. After the kiss she asks if that means she is his girlfriend now and he says yes. I didn’t realize it was this simple to get a boyfriend!
Time flies because they’re having fun and it is time for Tate to go to college. He shares Kya’s love for the marsh and biology and decides to pursue it further. He gives her a list of book publishers before going and says she should contact them and make a book about the marsh. In the book he doesn’t give her this list until he is back from college.
Kya is sad Tate is leaving for college and scared he will leave her. He says he won’t leave her. Turns out Tate is a lying liar. Time goes by, FIVE YEARS to be exact, and Tate is just a painful page of Kya’s past. Now we have Chase Andrews entering her life.
Now Chase is pursuing Kya and from the get-go, he is way out of line. He takes her on a picnic as their first date and immediately is pushy and inappropriate. She shuts that down and he asks for a second chance. Kya is lonely and gives him a second chance.
They begin a relationship and book or movie, I never find one thing in Chase I like.
We also find out someone has been surveying Kya’s land to build on it, possibly a hotel, and this makes her wonder if she owns her land. She finds out she does own her land, but there are back taxes that need to be paid. To her horror, anyone who pays the $800 in back taxes would legally own her land. So she begins the process of contacting editors about her book. This part of the movie is backwards from the book. She is actually already a published author when she finds out about the back taxes and immediately pays them, but that isn’t dramatic enough for the big screen!
Movie Kya gets a book deal and pays off the back taxes and is now the proud owner of around 300 acres of marsh. She also pays to have electricity and plumbing added to her house as well as a few upgrades to the inside. Her first book was a hit and her editor wants her to start on the next one.
At this point she and Chase have gotten serious and he has started talking to her about the house they will have after they are married.
Word has started getting around town about Chase and Kya, well because Chase himself has spread it and not in a kind way. Soon Tate, who is back and graduated from college, hears and is upset. So Tate heads out to Kya’s marsh to tell her she’d better protect herself and stay away from Chase and his lies.
Tate is met with rocks to the face being hurled by a rightfully angry Kya. Of course, they make up and become friends again. Turns out Chase has been lying about something big, which causes Kya to lose trust in him. Guess she should have listened to Tate... Chase also tries to assault her, even going as far as hitting her, and she has to run and hide from him.
Not long after the incident with Chase, Kya receives word from her editor that he will be in a town that is only bus ride from her. She has never traveled out of town on a bus by herself, so after hesitation she decides to go. There she has dinner with her editor, stays in a hotel, has breakfast with her editor the next morning, then takes the bus home to Barkley Cove.
Why do these details matter? Because Chase Andrews dies while she is gone. Kya, who we saw get arrested at the beginning of the movie, is now on trial and Tom Milton comes out of retirement to represent her. The trial follows closely to the book, to the point we even see Kya’s brother Jodie in the courtroom to support his sister.
The trial wraps up, and I will not spoil if it goes in Kya’s favor or not, but remember she is in a trial before a jury of her peers, and the town is not very kind to her. But what was going to be a make it or break it for me was if the movie ended differently than the book. I am pleased to say the same twist at the end of the book is exactly how the movie ends and it is everything I wanted it to be.
For me the movie was well worth the watch. I would even go as far as to say you could watch the movie without reading the book and not be confused at any point.
Paige’s score: 🥔🥔🥔🥔🥔 out of 🥔🥔🥔🥔🥔
I, as most people I have spoken to, did not expect a book/movie titled “Where The Crawdads Sing” to be a murder mystery. So first of all, I ask that no one judges it by its title.
The story begins with the murder of Chase Andrews and his body being found in the swamp near a fire tower. However, there seems to be no evidence of how he got there - no fingerprints or footprints.
The timeline jumps back in the movie as it does in the book to introduce young Kya.
Kya was once a happy child with parents and siblings living in Barkley Cove, North Carolina. That was until her father began drinking and beating her mom and siblings. A boy by the name of Tate Walker tries to defend Kya but ends up getting hit too.
One by one, they left the house because they could not stand to live with him. However, no one thought to take 6-year-old Kya with them.
Once Kya is left with her Pa, she quickly has to learn how to take care of herself since Pa can barely keep himself alive. There is a moment where Pa sobers up, takes Kya fishing, and to Jumpin’s bait shop to get supplies.
The bait shop is exactly what I imagined from the details in the book. An added bonus - Jumpin’s wife Mabel works at the bait shop which is not a fact in the book. In fact, she’s introduced much later but I enjoy the fact that she’s there from the beginning in the movie.
Pa only lasts so long before he leaves as well and Kya has to pay for her own survival. She starts by digging up mussels and delivering them to Jumpin who gives her supplies in return.
At that point in the movie, Mabel also tells Kya she has some clothes from the church donation box that may fit her. This happens much later in the book. My problem with the clothes that we see Kya wearing as she gets older is that they all look like brand new clothes right out of J. Crew. They just don’t seem to fit Kya’s situation.
Back to present time, and we see Tom Milton representing Kya in the trial of Chase Andrew’s murder. We are shown parts of the trial such as the red fibers that were found on Chase’s clothes. Milton argues that the fibers could be from anyone at anytime and could have nothing to do with Chase’s death - as there is no proof it was a murder.
There are some details from the trial missing in the movie that I really wanted to see such as the witness who saw Kya in her boat the night that Chase died. I feel like that was a significant element to the trial especially when it is suggested that Kya could have traveled back to Barkley Cove from Greenville to kill Chase.
We jump back in time again and Kya has lived alone for many years. As a teenager, she has discovered her interests are exploring the marsh and collecting feathers, shells, different plants, rocks - anything she can. I really love how they displayed her collections around her house. That was also done exactly as I had imagined it from the book.
One day, Kya finds a feather on a tree stump. She leaves one in return, and comes back to find another with a note. The next time she goes to the tree stump, she finds Tate leaving something for her. That’s when she tells him she couldn’t read the note.
And so it begins…
Tate decides to teach Kya how to read. They spend almost every day together. After a while, Kya is able to document her collection not only through her drawings but through their names and other identifiers to create a catalog.
After some time passes, Tate is ready to leave for college which of course upsets Kya as Tate is all she has at this point. Before he goes, Tate gives Kya a list of publishers because he believes in her so much.
In the book, he gives this list to her when he returns from college. This change does have an impact on how Kya becomes the owner of her house and the land she lives on.
Developers are looking at her land at one point, probably to build something like a mall on it so she’s set on not making that impossible. It turns out, she already owns the land but does need to pay some back taxes. This is what motivates her to send her catalog to publishers, so that she can use the money to pay the taxes.
So I guess I would say my only problem in the change is that she doesn’t care about being published until her home is in danger and not just for her pure love of the marsh and the creatures that inhabit it.
Tate tells Kya he would come back for - specifically on the 4th of July - but does he? No, he sadly does not. At that point, Kya just tries to continue her life without Tate by doing what all girls do when it comes to heartache - retail shopping. She spends the money she gets from her first book to redecorate her home and it looks amazing, to say the least.
And soon enough, Chase Andrews enters her life. Chase is very confident and basically goes into asking Kya out on a date already knowing she will say yes. I will say, his confidence is what makes him intriguing initially but that soon fades when he tries to force himself on Kya at that first date.
She decides to give him another chance even though she isn’t sure whether she likes him or just likes the company. As time goes on, Chase and Kya get pretty serious to the point that he brings up marriage.
Tate eventually returns from college and is, of course, upset about Chase and Kya even though he has no right to be. Tate tries to visit Kya to apologize. Kya is apprehensive at first as everyone in her life has left at some point.
Eventually, Tate and Kya become friends again. They walk through the marsh and Tate tries to warn Kya about Chase. There is an important detail in this part of the movie. When they’re walking through the marsh, Kya makes a point to cover Tate’s footprints. Now remember - at the crime scene for Chase’s murder, no footprints are found.
Later on, Kya goes into town and runs into Chase and his friends. Chase does introduce Kya to them but he also introduces one of the girls as his fiance. Chase has been lying all along about his intentions with Kya.
This has also been changed in the movie. In the book, Kya finds out through an announcement made in the newspaper. I do like the change made in the movie because Chase gets to see her initial reaction.
Kya spends most of her time from then on trying to hide from Chase but he eventually finds her.
They have a confrontation where he, again, tries to force himself on her. Kya fights back, gets away and continues to hide from him.
Outside of the boy drama - Kya gets invited to Greenville by her editor. As mentioned earlier, the time that Kya is in Greenville is the same time that Chase is murdered. After taking the bus to Greenville, she has dinner with her editor that night and breakfast with him the next morning.
Back to the murder trial, remember, in the book a witness claims to have seen Kya in her boat that night. Something else that’s left out of the movie but that’s in the book is that witnesses claim to have seen someone in a disguise on a bus back to Barkley Cove the night of Chase’s murder.
As for the rest of the movie? It ends pretty much exactly as it does in the book and the real killer is revealed.
However, there were several scenes that I wanted to see being played out at the end of the movie that were not. Those images were important to me and I was a little disappointed not to see them.
The movie overall was everything I could’ve hoped for when it comes to a book adaptation. I think anyone who goes to see it would truly enjoy it whether or not they have read the book.
Nancy’s score: 🥔🥔🥔🥔 out of 🥔🥔🥔🥔🥔
If you’re interested in reading the book, you find it on Amazon and get your movie tickets here.
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