Posted in adaptations, discussion

Book To Movie Talk | The Miseducation Of Cameron Post

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*This post contains spoilers*

The first time I heard about The Miseducation Of Cameron Post was on Twitter the day after it won the highest honour – the US Dramatic Grand Jury Prize- at Sundance Festival. The person who had posted about the announcement tagged on their own declaration of “why is nobody talking about the fact that a YA adapation with a female/female relationship in just won the biggest award at this massive film festival?” And rightfully so: why exactly was no one talking about it? This lead to discussions in the online book community about the differences in how YA stories with Queer female relationships are marketed in comparision to Queer male relationships. When the film finally had the rights bought off the back of its big win, I eagerly picked up the book – of the same name- by Emily M. Danforth and started to read. Sadly, the limited showings meant there wasn’t one in the vicinity and so I was left waiting for a DVD release. Imagine my surprise when I logged on to my Netflix account to see it staring right back at me.

The Miseducation Of Cameron Post follows a girl  called Cameron who is sent to a christian gay conversion institution after being caught having a sexual moment with her female best friend, Coley Taylor.

The book is told in linear and spends over 300 pages delving into Cameron’s family life and how her relationship with Coley starts to blossom. Over half of the book is done before Cameron even steps foot into the center whereas the movie is entirely set in this place, using flashbacks to filter in the backstory the viewer needs. I absolutely understand why this conscious decision was made. Films have time constraints and with a 500 page book being turned into a 90 minute film, of course amendments will happen. I ended up loving both the book and its adaptation for different reasons. I like the angle of the movie and how it leaves a lot of things open to interpretation; instead focusing mainly on the moment Cameron and Coley got caught as a return point throughout. It feels a lot more present. I also love the book for the depth of backstory given and how readers grow to love and care for Cameron that when she ends up being sent away it feels like the reader is experiencing the betrayal too.

The only real issue that I had with this film comes down to the framing that, coincidentally, I just praised. Cameron links her parents death to  her first kiss with Coley and punishes herself a lot for it as religion plays a part in her daily life. Cameron is given a lot more sexually and Coley doesn’t want anything in return which builds up a cycle of constant rejection the protagonist feels, there’s Cameron’s boyfriend Jamie; all of which don’t play a part in the movie. Cameron becomes more of someone who thinks the system is rubbish than something who takes the process seriously. I just felt that a lot of what makes her such a well-rounded, detailed character was lost in that translation.

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While I went into this experience slightly biased as I pictured Cameron as Chloe Grace Moretz, she does an amazing job of holding the film together. Every scene she’s in has the viewer hanging on her every word and movement and the emotional scenes had my heart just aching. I’ve seen a few of Chloe’s films and this is definitely one of her best performances. The surrounding cast is also perfect. Sasha Lane as Jane Fonda and Forrest Goodluck as Adam were just wonderful at bringing the side actors to life; to created that outlet for Cameron to talk to someone who was on her side without fear of repercussions and their friendship felt natural; like one of those destined to last for years to come. A personal favourite for me with Erin played by Emily Skegg. I adored Erin in the books and it was impossible not to feel for Emily’s potrayal of this character so desperate not to admit that she’s struggling.

The bitter pill to swallow with this story is the realisation that gay conversation places still exist. It makes the particularly graphic book scene with Mark (which is very toned down in the film) have even more weight to it than just a fictional character viewers have grown attached to, A lot of the film is centered more in what isn’t said than what is; creating a depth of its own.

Aside for characters, the cinematography is gorgeous and the lingering frames allow plenty of time of time for viewers to feel familiar with the surroundings. The screenplay is so well crafted that scenes just flow into each other perfectly and when the film reaches its conclusion, there’s a sense that something really special has been put out into the world.

The Miseducation Of Cameron Post is a gem I will continue thinking about for a long time.

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Posted in adaptations, discussion

Losing Characters To Adaptations

I have always been the person to read the book before seeing the film. Regardless of whether it’s something I’ve heard of before like Harry Potter or something entirely new like Divergent,I always have to pay a visit to the original material. I love comparing the two as my Book-To-movie segment on this blog will verify. While hard to stomach at times, everyone has different interpretations when they read the same story. As we seem to have entered a new phase of book adaptations called -only by me- the “YA Contemporary era” with Everything, Everything and  Love, Simon on the big screen, and The Hate U Give and To All The Boys I’ve loved Before soon to follow suit, it’s left me thinking once again about the power of adaptations.

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More recently, I saw the adaptation of Becky Albertalli’s best selling novel Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda. Despite having read it back in 2015, I revisited it so that I could do a book-to-movie talk. When talking to a friend after seeing it, I mentioned that when Nick Robinson was cast in the staring role, I was a bit put out as, after all, he didn’t LOOK like Simon to me. My friend said that she didn’t think Logan Miller was the right person to play Martin. However, to me I thought it was a perfect casting.

Reader, it was like I had  a sudden epiphany. I realized that the reason I always feel I have to read the book first is that an adaptation is someone else’s interpretation of the source material. Stories are streamlined, events are changed because films have a much tighter time constraint than its paper counterpart. As for characters, reading that book before seeing the film, if it’s one you truly love is the last time to see those characters in your own way before the film essentially taints your own perspective.

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I remember when I started reading the Harry Potter books and I cried when I saw Daniel Radcliffe in the lead role. (Yes my mum had a lot to deal with and admittedly I was eight at the time) Now whenever I re-read the books, I always picture him as Harry. The film actors now occupy the pages. Peter Pan has me imagining Jeremy Sumpter as the boy who will never grow up and captain hook as an amalgamation of Jason Isaacs and the Disney cartoon.

The only exceptions tend to be when I’ve seen the trailer so already picture the actors as the characters. Examples for this include The Maze Runner, Divergent and City of Bones. When I joined the fandom for the latter I was instantly asked what I thought of Jamie Bower as Jace and was met with screeches when I said that he was “Jace to me.” Apparently it was a sore subject for a lot of book fans.

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Looking back, I can’t help but feel like I had a little bit of magic stolen from me. But then again,without some of those films, I may not have discovered characters.
and worlds I loved so deeply.

But there’s nothing wrong with wanting to picture them my way… one last time… right?

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Posted in adaptations, discussion

Book To Movie Talk | Love, Simon

“You get to exhale now, Simon.”

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*This post contains mild spoilers*

Love, Simon is an adaptation of the bestselling novel Simon Vs The Homo sapiens Agenda, written by Becky Albertalli. When I read the book, I instantly fell in love with it and held the story close to my bisexual heart, having related so much to a lot of Simon’s narrative. Naturally, like many readers, I was over the moon to hear that it had been picked up for a movie and secretly prayed that it would eventually make its way onto the big screen. (Given there are many instances of rights being bought and things never happening)

It’s a coming-of-age and, well, coming out story of a gay teenage boy called Simon Spier who is threatened to be outed by a school bully, armed with screenshots of private emails between Simon and the mysterious Blue.

This film is so important for many reasons that you’ve probably already heard about a million times. To be “that adult”, if I’d seen this film when I was a confused 13 year old girl, maybe my own story would be different  But anyway, back to the film. I liked that it emphasised that no one comes out once. There’s always going to be friends you have yet to tell, new people in your life and every time is met with the same hesitation; Simon even uses the “I’m still me” line. Every scene is met with the same intake of breath as he waits to hear their response and I felt it so deeply.

I was unsure about Nick Robinson as Simon when the casting was announced, but I didn’t need to worry at all. Simply put: he is Simon. I was completely invested in his portrayal from every little smile when reading his emails, to every laugh and cry. The “that was supposed to be my thing” scene hit me like a ton of bricks. You could just feel the pure rage oozing from the character and the following sequence left me quietly sobbing into my popcorn. Katherine Langford, known for 13 Reasons Why, was another stand out for me. Leah is a quiet force in the overall drama of the story but Katherine managed to capture the essence of her character: feeling lost, overwhelmed with the possibilities open to her. But when she gets her big moment, my god she shines.

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I loved the contrast between the first and second halves of the film. The former felt slightly darker and like there was a restraint to Simon and the interactions he had with his friends. As Simon’s mother (played by Jennifer Garner) points out: it feels like he’s holding his breath. In comparison, the latter feels much brighter, Simon smiles more, he feels closer to his family and friends. After his first coming out scene, when he finally lets go of that breath, his character moves in a different direction and it’s beautiful to watch.

I also really like how Blue’s email sequences were littered with a different person each time, alternating with whoever Simon suspected to be Blue based on little things he dissected from the emails. It kept it interesting and tried to give a face to the person behind the emails before it’s eventually revealed.

From an adaptation point of view: it’s solid. The best internal narrative bits of the book are littered in voiceovers and all the major plot points are there. There is a big addition to add more drama to the story but it makes sense in the context of the film. The book is a quiet story, and on screen it needed that extra push to keep viewers interested. I was fascinated to see how the emails would be shown and it’s pretty much like in the book: you’re reading them along with Simon which I thought was a nice touch. You really are following Simon on his journey. I don’t feel that Martin was emphasised as much as he was in the book. One of the main points of his character was that he didn’t know/understand that people cared about other people’s sexualities and the result his actions would have. (Not that it excuses his idiot behaviour) In the film it felt like he very much knew what he was doing and trying to take the heat off himself. Which, I guess in its own way, kind of worked. The essence of Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda is in very single frame of this film. If you love the book as much as I did, you’re not going to be disappointed.

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However, this film isn’t without its faults. The “trying to be down with the kids” head teacher is a trope that I’ve never been able to get behind in teenage comedies, and in Love, Simon it really took me out of the film. It was just forced humour that didn’t really work and the most hilarious moments happened in a more natural way; they just felt part of the conversation. The beginning is very disjointed, like we’re rushing to establish Simon and his relationships. The film really finds its feet when Simon sends his first email to Blue and after that it’s plain sailing.

The stand out scene for me was Simon and his mother having a heart to heart after he comes out. It’s heartfelt and beautiful and apparently Nick Robinson didn’t know that Jennifer Garner was going to cry as it wasn’t scripted… which then made him cry in the take. But I mean, who wasn’t crying by that point?

The ending fell to some romantic, teenage cliché but you know what? As Jacques a dit: everyone deserves a good love story.

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Posted in adaptations, children's fiction, discussion, review

Book To Movie Talk | Wonder

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*This post contains spoilers*

Wonder is another one of those books that I’ve heard about on and off over the past few years but never really had any desire to delve into it… until I saw the trailer for the film adaptation.

The story follows ten year old August Pullman who has been living with a facial disfigurement from the day he was born. He’s been home-schooled but his mother can only teach him so much and decides to enrol him in fifth grade as August will not be the only new kid starting. August battles through stares, whispers and outright abuse while gaining true friends along the way.

Having just read the book, the content was still very fresh in my mind. So straight away from an accuracy point of view, Wonder is the most accurate book to movie adaptation that I think I’ve ever seen. It can seem like a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but straying too much from the source material is the easiest way for an adaptation to lose me completely. Wonder was also directed by Stephen Chbosky who wrote and directed The Perks Of Being A Wallflower and there are many stylistic similarities between the two.

A film with a focus on child actors always makes me nervous as  a bad child actor can really derail a film. The role of Auggie is played by Jacob Tremblay (known for his lead role as Jack in Room) and he blows the part out of the water. He captured the true essence of Auggie’s personality and in the sadder moments, it was almost impossible to believe that he was just a child acting and now actually crying his heart out.  The absolute standout actor for me was Noah Jupe who took on the role of Auggie’s best friend Jack Will; who was my favourite character from the book. Noah did a brilliant job of facial acting and his chemistry with Jacob made the friendship between these two characters feel believable.

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I had a lot of issues with the use of multiple perspectives in the book and that’s one of the few aspects where I think the film did a better job of executing the intention. The different narratives are explored through voiceovers while the characters go about their day and the combination of that with the aerial, third person view of the film aided the experiences of the characters. For example, it was a lot easier to pick up on Viv being pushed aside as her parents focused on August in the film than in the book because the viewer can physically see Viv being side-lined and lounging around in the background.

Other actors that surprised me were the Owen Wilson and Julia Roberts who played the parts of Auggie’s parents. A clip of Owen Wilson in the trailer, along with an interview he did, are what really pushed me to devour this story and he pleasantly surprised me in this film. He is the typical, almost cliché “funny dad” there to break the tension at just the right moments and he really portrayed the loving father just trying to do the best to help out his child, along with paying Viv some attention unlike the preoccupied mother. When I looked into casting, Julia Roberts was the first one that I wasn’t I recognised but wasn’t too bothered about. Again, she surprised me and I found myself caring out – and appreciating the efforts of – the mother a lot more. Her chemistry with Owen did a great job of projecting that happy marriage and it was nice to see scenes of them together without the children.

I know that I’ve focused a lot on my thoughts surrounding the character portrayals, but in a heavily character driven story it’s too easy to focus on their efforts than anything outside of that. I will mention that I did love that the helmet featured a lot more in the film as it was an extra little thing to reflect Auggie’s character development throughout the story.

I left the cinema feeling emotionally drained but also overwhelmingly happy and satisfied. This adaptation keeps the real spirit of Wonder alive and showcases the importance of just being kind to others.

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Posted in adaptations, discussion

Movie Announcement | The Hate U Give

Edit: Since making this post, there has been a recast and I have updated this accordingly.

The Hate U Give was always going to be big. Given the current political situation and an ever growing push for diverse books in Young Adult, when Angie Thomas burst onto the scene with her debut, it got people talking. The book crashed onto the New York Times Bestseller list in the top spot and, several months later, still remains on the list.

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The story is about a teenage girl called Starr who witnesses her best friend get shot by a police officer. In the media frenzy and outrage from the community that follows, it is down to Starr to stand up, seek justice, and more importantly make her voice heard.

So let’s get into the current casting:

Starr Carter played by Amandla Stenberg 

 

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Amandla Stenberg was the first actor to be cast for this film. In fact, they were cast in the lead role before the book was even released. Which shows how much Fox believes in the source material. When I first saw them as Rue in The Hunger Games I could never have predicted that they would be a child actor that goes on to have a real career in acting. But with their recent role as Madeline in Everything Everything, it seems that Amandla may well be someone to watch. I have to admit, when the news broke that they would be taking on the lead role I did a fist-pump. I cannot wait to see them bring this character to life.

Lisa Carter played by Regina Hall

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Taking on the role of mama Carter is Regina Hall, most known for her role of Brenda in the Scary Movie franchise. For the moment I don’t really have an opinion on this announcement as I haven’t seen any of her TV or film work. But I really hope she does the character justice.

Big Mav played by Russell Hornsby 

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Daddy Carter comes in the form of Russell Hornsby. He’s most known for his roles as Hank in Grimm and Lyons in Fences. I’m a little unsure, since at this point I can only go off his look unless I decide to venture into his previous works, I just pictured the father to be a little older for some reason. But again, both parental figures in the film could really prove me wrong.

Seven Carter played by Lamar Johnson

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And finally, completing the line-up of the Carter family is Lamar Johnson. Yes. Quite simply, yes. In terms of credentials, Lamar is due to play a role in the upcoming X-Men film X-Men: Dark Phoenix so he’s another one worth keeping an eye on! I cannot wait to see him bring one of my favourites from the book to life.

Chris played by K.J. Apa 

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A recast sees K.J Apa taking on the role of Starr’s boyfriend. His main credit is Riverdale which, admittedly, I haven’t seen a single episode of. But after Fox took the decision to remove the previous actor from the film, I’m interesting to see what K.J brings to the role.

The fact that this book is being turned into movie and definitely going to hit screens -unlike many YA adaptations that end up stuck in the mud – is so important. I feel like this film, given the current state of the world and raw, brutal, honesty of its message will really get people talking. Hopefully, talking about change. Because things really do need to change. And this being put out there in a visual format may finally get the conversation moving in the right direction. And with conversation comes action.

Let me know your thoughts on the casting. Who would you like to see take on the role of Khalil or Starr’s school friends? Are you looking forward to seeing The Hate U Give on the big screen?

 

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Posted in discussion, review

Book To Movie Talk | The Book Thief

*not spoiler free*

 

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The Book thief is based off the historical fiction novel of the same name by Markus Zusak and is without a doubt one of the greatest books I have ever read.

The story is narrated by death and follows Liesel Meminger, a nine year old girl, in Germany during World War 2. After her brother dies, Liesel arrives at her foster parents finding it even harder to adjust to her new surroundings. Exposed to the Nazi regime, Liesel is threatened with the possibility of losing the innocence of her childhood. Until a Jew called Max shows up and seeks refuge in their basement. Hans teaches Liesel how to read in secret as the Nazis are burning anything that may be considered communist. So she must steal them.

The book moves at a slow pace and is very long. It has an overwhelming and phenomenal narrative with a use of metaphors that really put things into perspective and made me feel for these characters in a way that I can’t put into words and don’t think I ever will. I don’t think I’ll ever come across a book like this again in my lifetime. So naturally, I had my expectations for the adaptation.

Here’s a breakdown of the “main” cast:

Liesel Meminger played by Sophie Nelisse

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Rudy Steiner played by Nico Liersch

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Rosa Hubermann played by Emily Watson

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Max Vandenburg played by Ben Schnetzer

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Hans Hubermann played by Geoffrey Rush

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“One small fact: you are going to die.”
This starting line really hits you hard with a truth many of us try to avoid. Like in the book, we follow the train but miss out the colour element. Death does not talk about the brother’s soul (despite talking about others later on in the film) or the colour, in fact, the voiceover focuses entirely on Liesel and his unexpected “interest” in her that leads him to keep coming back to watch her throughout her life.

The true beauty of this story lies in the narration and I feared that this may be lost in an on-screen adaptation. And I was right. Death was voiced by Roger Allam and it just felt too Americanised and that the delivery was off. It didn’t have the same impact as the written word. However, there were exceptions such as “I’ve seen so many men over the years who think they’re running at other young men. They are not. They are running at me” which are kept in and showcase in a way the terror of what these characters are about to face.

I feel as if the only way an adaptation could fully satisfy me is if the acting was done in silence and the book narrated over the top.

To me, the casting of Hans Huberman was the most important. He is fundamental to Liesel’s transition into a new home. While Rosa is cruel and unloving, Hans is welcoming and warm, offering Liesel a hand to help her out of the car when she first arrives. When Hans discovers she has a book and it turns out she stole it, he doesn’t hit and scorn her like Rosa would, he teaches her to read. When I saw that Geoffrey Rush was taking on the role, I was more than happy. He portrayed Hans like I read him in the book.

Another fundamental character is Max Vandenburg because he and Liesel are so similar in terms of their situations: both had to leave their families, both are trapped in the same house, on this street. But in a world where Liesel is being told from all angles that communists are bad and Jews are evil, he opens her to a different perspective. Ben Schnetzer does a fantastic job and really solidifies their relationship on screen in the jokes he makes with her and the time they spend together.

There are so many scenes in this film that stands out to name a few:

The contrast of the choir song about freedom while Nazis are beating people on the ground and destroying a bookstore:

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The library scene at the Herman house when Liesel explores the shelves in awe. The score music, composed by John Williams really shines here, encapsulating the feeling of exploring wonderment for the first time. The way this is shot is so beautiful too. I love the lighting:

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A scene in the basement with Hans, Rosa, Liesel and Max where they’ve brought snow in, made a snowman and they’re all sat together while Hans plays a Christmas song on his accordion. It just reflects, to me, a willingness to keep things normal despite fear:

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When Hans cries in the kitchen saying “I’ve ruined us.” It’s a fleeting scene but holds a lot of depth. The performances from both Geoffrey and Emily shows just how dangerous doing something as simple as standing up for someone could potentially lead to bad things. This is also when you start to really see the breakdown of Rosa’s character. Again, unlike scolding him and mistreating him for his terrible choice of action, instead she holds him and cries with him

And finally, the scene where Rosa cries over the accordion. This scene is just so utterly moving and powerful. A simple object as an accordion, something that is normally always connected to Hans is on its own. The way Rosa holds this then sits and breaks down in tears shows that she isn’t the soulless woman we may have been tricked into believing she is. I think this short moment may be my favourite of the whole film. It also breaks my heart in a follow-up scene when Liesel returns to find Rosa lying on the bed asleep.

 

I realise that I have focused primarily on Rosa, Max and Hans in this review and that’s because they are the ones that hold this film together. Nico as Rudy looks the part but doesn’t bring the cutesy charm that I felt came through in the book and his friendship with Liesel appears more like acquaintance on screen, and Sophie as Liesel leaves a lot to be desired. As this film is very slow paced and relies heavily on character development and arcs (as the action doesn’t happen until the last half an hour of the film) having engaging characters is very important and the film Liesel just fell very flat for me.

The film overall feels quite flat as a lot of the grit and darkness has been stripped away to create a smooth finish and it just feels too light. After all, this is – in a sense – a war film, while we know from history that Germany wasn’t attacked until the end of the war, the people who lived in Germany at the time didn’t know that would be the case, and so you would expect there to be tension and fear. But alas, there isn’t.

The ending to this story is perfect and surprisingly I enjoy both versions. I love the panning shot around the modern room as the voiceover tells us what became of Liesel. There’s annoying product placement in the way of a mac computer and I wish that wasn’t there. It would have been much nicer just to see the collection of photographs as Death brings us to the end of this story.

And I just adore the last line:

 

“I am haunted by humans.”
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