It’s Thursday again, and we’ve got some real beauties lined up! Our friend at Wandering Through the Shelves had us tackle Fairy Tales last week, and black & white movies the week before. This week we’ve been tasked with listing our favourite movies based on books for young adults. And so, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado-
I felt really repelled by this week’s topic, which is kind of okay with me. I like a challenge. But the young adult genre is just not my thing. I can’t even claim that Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Twilight are bad because I haven’t and won’t give them the time of day. They’re not for me, and they don’t need me – there are plenty of teenage girls to keep these franchises going.
I think it’s a little weird how franchises like Hunger Games and Divergent seem to put teenagers in mortal danger, in order that they may save the world. It’s sort of asking a lot from people who, by and large, don’t get out of bed before noon. It made me remember movies from my own teenage years, the 90s, a time when teen movies featured parties, prom, and the gosh darned mall. And the occasional nerd makeover. But then I thought about our own teen franchises – Scream, and I Know What You Did Last Summer – and realized that maybe we’re not so different after all. We had teens running for their lives as well.
So for my first pick, I’m going with an even older selection that pit teenager against teenager, putting them in intense mortal danger: The Outsiders. I remember reading this book for the first time in the 7th grade. Our teacher followed it up with an in-class viewing of the movie and my teenaged hormones selfishly hijacked the situation, forcing me to weep buckets, turn purple, and lock myself into a horrible washroom stall until I could ‘compose myself’, whatever that means to a white girl with a perm so bitchin she needed a pick comb. To this day I can never decide if the casting was brilliant (Tom Cruise, Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, all in their peach-fuzz glory) or if it totally missed the boat (everyone else went on to amazing careers while the lead totally fizzled after a controversially racial comedy flopped – Leonardo DiCaprio auditioned for but didn’t get the part). In any case, it tells the story of two teenaged gangs (if they can be called that), really just right side of the tracks vs the wrong side, the Greasers and the Socs, as they tussle and rumble and occasionally kill each other. SE Hinton wrote the book when she was just 15 years old (and what have YOU been doing with your life?) and it took a class full of junior high fans of the book to elect Francis Ford Coppola the most eligible to direct, and sent him a copy of the book. He agreed, shot the movie with Hinton’s help, and 20 years later restored all the scenes got cut when his own granddaughter was about to study it in school.
The old white men who reviewed Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist didn’t much care for it, but what do they know? They didn’t get the excellent soundtrack, couldn’t relate to the nonchalant inclusiveness, and didn’t tap in to sarcastic chemistry between the two leads. Based on the novel of the same name by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, it tells the story of Nick, the token straight guy in an all-gay band, freshly heartbroken by bitchy ex-girlfriend Tris, and Norah, the girl who falls in love sight-unseen with the guy sending frenemy Tris all those great breakup mixtapes. They meet up one night and run all over the city in pursuit of an elusive indie band called Where’s Fluffy. It’s got all the makings of great teenaged shenanigans: live bands, party rockin, neglectful parents, unlimited allowance and no curfews.
Another more recent pick, The Perks of Being A Wallflower, I somehow find charming despite my advanced years, probably because the three leads are so earnest and bright and perfect. Youth is infuriating. The fact that they don’t know a David Bowie song is double infuriating. But the teenage trappings are all there: angst, awesome dance routines, riding in cars with boys, and even Paul Rudd – although this time, he’s (tragically) not playing the heartthrob but the teacher. Oh, I feel sick to my stomach. This story is a real testament to its time – the three leads are all outcasts but get this – they’re actually cool. I know. It’s strange. Counterintuitive, even. Goes against pretty much every teenage movie we’ve ever seen. But in 2015 (and apparently as far back as 2012), it’s cool to be weird. What a revelation. John Hughes was eyeing this as his next project before he died, but in the end it was directed by the novel’s author himself (which almost never happens), Stephen Chbosky, who also got to write the screenplay.
The young adult novel is an elusive concept. When I asked Wikipedia, examples seem to include books for children (Harry Potter), teens (Twilight), and twenty-somethings (The Notebook). When I first heard about this week’s Thursday challenge, I was worried I would be choosing between Divergent and The Hunger Games but, after working on it all week, I have managed to find 3 movies worth celebrating.
Coraline- Adapted from what I just found out was a novel by Neil Gaiman, this 2009 stop-motion fantasy is as different from Disney as American animation gets. My local video store even had it filed under Horror. The bizarre alternate universe to the already bizarre regular one isn’t as perfect as it first seems when a young girl discovers that her Other Mother, although more attentive and permissive than her real mother, wants to sew buttons over her eyes. Eye phobics beware. Darkly funny, oddly beautiful, and genuinely unsettling.
The Lord of the Rings trilogy- I’m still not fully convinced that this counts but who am I to argue with Wikipedia? I’ve never read J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic trilogy but have always assumed them to be a more demanding read than most in this genre. Peter Jackson’s ambitious nine and a half hour adaptation certainly expects more of its audience than anything else I’ve watched this week. I’m counting the whole trilogy as one movie to make room for other films on the list. Besides, I am not sure I trust myself to remember what happened in which film well enough to be able to write about them all separately. Together they make up one of the great American films of this century.
The Spectacular Now- It’s hard to find a movie like this from a young adult novel. There are no vampires, wizards, or dragons. The Spectacular Now is a story of young love without the usual gimmicks. Miles Teller (Whiplash) and Shailene Woodley (Divergent) showed great promise in this adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel in 2013 and it’s no surprise that they both got to star in higher profile movies the next year. Teller is especially good as a superficially charming teen alcoholic.
Hugo – this is a very nice love story film, fittingly brought to us by Martin Scorsese. It meanders a bit but it is an enjoyable ride, and the whole thing has a fantastical sheen. Having been to Paris and passed multiple times through Gare Montparnasse, where the movie is set, I will be watching this movie again in the very near future (I did not get to it this week because we were too busy sifting through typical apocalyptic YA filler).
Holes – it is sad that all that has gone on with Shia Leboeuf takes the focus off the movies he is in. I feel he retroactively takes something away from this movie but if you can get past that, Holes is an enjoyable story about family curses. Things wrap up a little too neatly (which I can’t believe I said because I usually love a tidy ending) but it’s an enjoyable movie nonetheless and one worth checking out.
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World – we have had a ton of comic book adaptations recently and of all of them, Scott Pilgrim feels most like a comic book (and that is a very good thing). It’s a fun movie with a ton of recognizable faces. I feel I’m stretching the category a bit with this pick but it has been tough this week to find anything halfway decent, and Scott Pilgrim is a favourite of mine!