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

Book To Movie Talk | Love, Simon

“You get to exhale now, Simon.”

Love

 

*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, young adult

Book To Movie Talk | Paper Towns

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*Warning – this post is not spoiler free*

I first discovered John Green’s books through a friend. We were wandering aimlessly through a Waterstones store looking for a new book but coming up blank. My friend then had the wonderful idea of us picking a book for the other person: something we thought they might like. I gave her a copy of Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman, and she gave me The Fault In Our Stars by John Green. I was sceptical to say the least as I had come out of what I call my “contemporary phase” and had moved on to fantasy in the Young Adult genre. But, part of the deal was we had to buy the book and read it. So I did. Now, to anyone on the planet who has read The Fault In Our Stars you’re probably aware of how hard it is not to fall in love with that book. I am an “author reader” in the sense of when I discover a new author, I read everything they’ve released and move on while I wait for them to write more.  I unfortunately found most of his books to be subpar compared to TFIOS until I read Paper Towns. 

Brief summary here: Paper Towns follows Quentin, a boy who has been “in love” with his neighbour Margo ever since she moved onto his street. They had a few good years of friendship but as happens with all children moving into their teens; they grow apart. Cut to their senior year of High School and one night, Margo climbs in through Quentin’s bedroom window and says she needs help “righting wrongs and wronging some rights” as she puts it. They have a nightly adventure and the next day she’s gone. Quentin realizes clues have been left for him and that Margo wants him to find her.

Now that’s out of the way onto some of the cast:

Quentin played by Nat Wolff

Nat Wolff
Margo played by Cara Delevingne

Cara Delevinge
Ben played by Austin Abrams

Austin Abrams

Radar played by Justice Smith

Justice-smith

Lacy played by Halston Sage 

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Angela played by Jaz Sinclair 

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When casting was first announced I was quite surprised to see Nat Wolff given that he was actually in the TFIOS movie. However, he seemed like a decent fit. The bigger shock came in the form of Cara Delevingne. Yes, she is that “model with the eyebrows” you see adorning most billboards of the massive labels. So naturally, people were not very happy about this choice as this was her first acting role (she’s also due to be in the upcoming Suicide Squad and Pan movies) so having a model playing the “manic pixie dream girl” didn’t seem to go down well. (However, people were skeptical about the casting choice of Ansel Elgort as Augustus Waters when that was first announced)

Having said that, acting wise, Cara was by far the best actor in the film and due to the plot, she isn’t even in most of it. Nat has taken to playing samey characters. In all the films I’ve seen him in he’s the awkward teenager who mumbles whenever he talks to girls. Austin played Ben as the typical best friend who’s kind of funny on rare occasions. Justice was as spot on as Radar could get and as for Halston, I don’t have much of an opinion. I really warmed to Jaz in the role of Angela. Like I said, Cara is the stand out in this film. When she is on screen, she dominates the attention in such a subtle way that you feel like if you take your eyes off her for a second you may miss something.

The central thing that makes me love Paper Towns as a story is the idea of romantic obsession. Whether we dare admit it or not, we’ve all had a time in High School where we were attracted to someone and look back on it several years later and say “my god, if only I could go back and slap myself silly!” This story takes that idea but looks at the negative side of it: what you stand to lose. The stand out points in the movie for me were when Ben and Radar find out there’s going to be a party, they’ve never been to one, and like the idea of going to at least one party before they graduate. Quentin says they can go without him because he has to solve the clues in order to find Margo. When Radar rings a few hours later, at the party, worried about Ben and needs Quentin’s help, he only agrees to show up when Radar says there may be clues at the party since it’s hosted by Margo’s ex. Even then, he leaves Radar to deal with Ben on his own. The second stand out point is when they arrive at Agloe, New York and (veering from the book) Margo isn’t there. On the trip some big things have happened: Lucy asked Ben to prom, Radar and Angela had sex. These things are pointed out as good outcomes of the road trip despite not finding Margo. Quentin however, has a big rage that the trip was a waste of time and “not fun” if they didn’t find her. He pushes his friends away to the point where they drive back home and leave him to fend for himself.

Quentin does eventually find her walking around the so-called “paper town” and they go for a drink. It’s revealed that Margo never intended for him to follow her, and we start to see the break down of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl while Quentin learns nothing will happen between him and Margo, he has a revelation that he’s been so focused on lasts due to High School ending when actually, there’s been a lot of firsts happening too. Example: this was his first road trip, the first time one of his friends had sex.

Everything I’ve mentioned so far worked well in the film but it fell very, very short of what it needed to get across. The breakdown of the manic pixie dream girl wasn’t done anywhere near enough of you, as a viewer, to see that Margo is in fact just a regular teenage girl and she isn’t the “miracle” that Quentin describes her to be. The romantic obsession, while in your face at times, doesn’t push the limits it does in the book and as as my boyfriend said to me after watching it, it felt very “hollywoodised” that this was a romance story about teenagers. Especially in the ending voiceover where Nat Wolf says that he’s stopped listening to rumours about Margo because he knows that she’s just a girl now, but then goes on to say that she’s “really something” and probably out there “doing something great.”

The film has its positives that’s for sure, Cara was the saving grace.
Everything else, just fell really flat.

Also, watch out for your may see a wild Ansel Elgort roaming around in one of the scenes. *wink wink*

If you’ve been to see the movie, let me know your thoughts!
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