Summer Adaptions (Book Club at the Movies)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Paper Bindings | Summer Adaptions (Book Club at the Movies)

There were many book adaptations to choose from this summer. “Maze Runner” was perhaps the best of the bunch, but these four were the “eh” of the barrel, no matter how much we were looking forward to them.

The Fault in Our Stars

Tisha: Book: 4 stars; Film: 3.5 stars
Tracy: Book: 5 stars; Film: 2.5 stars

Tisha: I suppose it’s fitting to start with the “mac-daddy” of the current YA genre. The eagerly anticipated adaptation to John Green’s novel (so much so that it broke Book Con last May) premiered June 5 with lines of fans supporting the film with “Okay? Okay.” shirts and passing out specialty tissues. I thought the book was great - the characters felt real and snarky and the story did not shy away from the realities of how awful Cancer is. I was curious how they were going to portray these things in the film, as well as the very intense love story between Gus and Hazel.

The film did a pretty good job - they tried, they really did. All the actors are giving it their all, but there’s something missing about the film. All the minor faults in the book are glaringly apparent on the screen, for example Gus on screen seems too good to be true. Lines like: “They [cigarettes] don't kill you unless you light them. And I've never lit one. It's a metaphor, see: You put the killing thing right between your teeth, but you don't give it the power to do its killing. A metaphor,” seems a bit showy and unrealistic.

Tracy: Cancer sucks. This is a fact. But what made the novel so brilliant is that it is not a "cancer" book. It's not even "one sick love story" as the tagline from the movie suggests. The cancer which effects Hazel (played by Woodley), Augustus (Elgort) and Isaac (Wolff) in the book is simply a metaphor (something Gus would appreciate) for what's killing us all - life. The cancer could have been anything really it just serves as a tool in which to make the young characters stop and think about their lives, love, and each other. Green's story is so beloved because it's universal. We're all grenades, "The Fault in Our Stars" just has the guts to say it out loud. The book smartly defies cliches and conventions of the "cancer story" genre but the movie embraces them and as a result is predictable and somewhat manipulative. Which is a shame, because the book is so much more than some Lifetime movie or a Lurlene McDaniel novel. However, this is not to say that Woodley doesn't try her hardest to make the film into something more.

If I Stay

Tisha: Book: 3.5 stars; Film: 3 stars
Tracy: Book: 3 stars; Film: 2 stars

Tracy: The film plays to its intended audience, that of teenage girls, whom the movie expects to swoon at the tragic love between Adam and Mia. However, one problem with "If I Stay" is that it doesn't respect this audience. The dialogue is unbelievable and cheesy and it is unlikely that teens will believe in the supposed "epic" love between the film's two musically inclined protagonists. Furthermore, as with "The Fault in Our Stars", "If I Stay" relies too much on emotional manipulation. The film tries very, very hard to be a "serious" film but to this end it completely misses the mark.

Tisha: I love Gaye Forman, I thought “Just One Day” and “Just One Year” were amazing. I was really looking forward to reading “If I Stay,” but thought it was just okay. Everything felt so unnessarily dire: Mia and Adam were both musicians who did not particularly mind moving to new places - so what’s the problem? It’s sequel “Where She Went,” I actually enjoyed more and hope a film is made of that novel soon. Nevertheless, the film does nothing to fix any of the novels problems. Forman writes well and even melodramatic situations work due to her talent, but I agree with Tracy, the dialogue in the film is just awful.

The Giver

Tisha:Book: 5 stars; Film: 3.5 stars
Tracy: Book: 4 stars; Film: 4 stars

Tracy: “The Giver” is a solid effort and a good film. The cinematography and score especially are fantastic. I loved the clips of life among different cultures and I loved the overall message that though life is hard, tough, and brutal there is a point to it all, there is a hope within the movie that maybe we can be better. However, it is a bit pretentious; for example, they added to the last line of the book for whatever reason and 50% of the movie is made up. In addition, they expanded roles of big shots like Streep and Holmes, but at the expense of the character, Jonas. Though to be fair, the actor is wooden and blank. The writers also added new rules to this world but then do not follow them.

Tisha: “The Giver” is one of my all time favorite books. I was so excited that it was finally becoming a film (not going to lie, I even started a screenplay I wanted this to be made so much) I thought visually it would be a perfect adaption, and then I saw the first trailer… spaceships and no black and white. What were they doing to my book? But then I saw the film and really it was not all bad. The acting was decent, but the rich complexities of the novel was dumbed down.

This is Where I Leave You

Tisha: Book: 4.5 stars; Film: 3.5 stars
Tracy: Book: 4.5 stars; Film: 3 stars
Tracy: Overall, it’s a decent movie with an excellent cast. Some may point to Adam Driver as the stand out (he’s great here but in reality no different from the usual roles he plays) but it’s the ensemble nature of the film that makes “This is Where I Leave You” a movie that’s not bad to watch. However, the unoriginal, we’ve-seen-this-beforeness- of the plot prevents it from being a great film or even one that will be remembered a month from now.

Tisha: I agree with you, Tracy. While the film did fix a few minor problems with the novel (they made Judd more likeable, they fixed the unfortunate encounter at the end of the book between Judd and his sister-in-law that I do not even want to mention, for example) it seemed very “been there, done that”. I loved all the characters and how they interacted with each other, but still wondered where they were going with it all. The book did a much better job of creating a narrative for the lost Foxmans (or Altmans in the film) and showing that no matter what kind of choices you make in life, it does not always go as planned.

All in all we felt if perhaps these films premiered a little farther away from each other it would not have felt so much like a repeat of each other. We’ll have to see how the next adaptation “Gone Girl” does in October.
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As an INFJ Tisha doesn’t like she obsesses. Luckily, she has television, film, and books to keep her busy. Although YA is her favorite, she loves all types of books especially historical fiction. This resident Gryffindor also enjoys traveling and seeing where her wanderlusting nature will take her. Twitter

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