It's generally futile business, I think, trying to compare films to the novels on which they're based. Pauline Kael wrote something interesting about this, in her rave review of Stanley Kubrick's Lolita. She was essentially pissed at her friends, who were either fans of the book and claimed that they "didn't get" the movie, or else, having not read the Nabokov, they felt there was no reason for them to bother with the Kubrick. Novels and films are mutually exclusive works of art – why would the correct reading of one necessarily depend on the experience of the other?

As a novel-to-film adaptation, comparing Liev Schreiber’s version of Everything is Illuminated to Jonathan Safran Foer’s seems like a waste of time. After all - and this should be known, right from the start – Schreiber only bothers to adapt about a third of the book, and of the material he does lift, he’s more or less faithful to its content, context and spirit. But it's something I can't seem to stop doing, nonetheless. The distillation of a messy, multi-threaded, self-referential, self-conciously whimsical, and honestly  pretentious work of mostly-fiction into a neatly wrapped 90 minutes does exactly that: it distills. Schreiber lets the rough stuff mostly evaporate away, and what we’re left with is lucid but a little bland. It's refreshing on some level, but I’m not quite sure it hits the spot.