Tag Archives: Stephen Chbosky

Wonder

Auggie is a very special little boy. Born with a genetic condition called Treacher Collins syndrome, Auggie’s facial deformities are the least threatening of the complications but they’re what make him look so different. He’s most comfortable when he’s wearing an astronaut helmet that keep prying eyes and hurtful comments at bay. For the first ten years of his life he’s had countless surgeries and has been schooled at home, but he’s about to start middle school for real, and a classroom of students is more daunting to him (and his mom) than any operating room.

Wonder is based on the wonderful YA novel by R.J. Palacio, which you should, should, should definitely, definitely read. But happily, this is a rare case where the movie does MV5BMTIwOTUwNTEtYzMwNS00N2YxLTg0ZWYtNzM0YzVjOWYwZWM5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjg5NDY3Mw@@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_the book justice. And even happilier, the movie doesn’t suck, period, which was a major concern of mine. It seemed far too easy to just let it coast on its sentimentality. But while director Stephen Chbosky doesn’t have a lengthy track record to ease my worrisome nature, he does have one credit under his belt that’s all I really needed to hear: he adapted and directed The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which he’d also penned.

Wonder is a much different beast, however. First, it necessarily involves casting the perfect but very young star. A bad child actor in a lead role will ruin the whole thing, and in this case you have to find someone who can convey a whole range of complicated emotions from underneath a mask of scars. Chbosky went with Jacob Tremblay who’s already proven his chops with the most trying and powerful of roles in Room; Chbosky calls him “a once-in-a-generation talent” and I think he may be right. But we can’t discount the fact that Chbosky surrounds Tremblay with talent.

The secret to Wonder’s success, both in novel and in film, is that yes, it tells the story from the perspective of a sweet and brave 10 year old boy who’s been through hell and is still going through it. BUT it also shares the stories of the people around him. His mother Isabel (Julia Roberts) has had to pause life itself in order to become his warrior. His father Nate (Owen Wilson) copes with humour and cries by himself. His big sister Via (Izabela Vidovic) feels like a mere planet revolving around Auggie, the sun. A disease like Auggie’s is a family affair, energy-stealing, all-encompassing, leaving no one unaffected. And no one likes to complain about that because it seems petty in the face of something life-threatening, but it’s true and Palacio’s book as well as Chbosky’s film really add legitimacy to a family suffering as a unit. Even Auggie’s only friend is untouched – being his friend is a social sacrifice most 10 year olds won’t be strong enough to make. Another formidable young actor, Suburbicon‘s Noah Jupe, lands and aces this role.

Wonder is not about the suffering though; that would be too easy. It’s about overcoming that suffering, in ways that are clunky and ungraceful and sometimes accidental. That’s why Auggie’s family seems so real, and why so many real families with sick kids can relate to the material. It’s emotionally raw stuff and you may find that it touches a nerve. But it’s got a takeaway message of positivity that’s irresistible, and will help justify the numerous soggy kleenexes in your lap.

Advertisements

Movies Based on Novels for Young Adults

It’s Thursday again, and we’ve got some real beauties lined up! Our friend at Wandering Through the ShelvesTMP 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-

Jay

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 iknowown 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, TheOutsiders4and 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 NickNora_2lgdidn’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 THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWERsong 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.

Matt

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 univCoralineerse 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 Lord of the Ringsweek. 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 movSpectacular Nowie 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.

 

Sean

Hugo – this is a very nice love story film, fittingly brought to us by Martin Scorsese. It meanders a hugo__120124150122bit 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 holesshiain. 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-ladyspaz-E2-99-A5-26058602-500-269Scott 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!