Adaptation: Thirteen Reasons Why

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So the new Netflix original show, Thirteen Reasons Why is getting some serious attention, and for me at least, the hype is justified. It is a phenomenal show. Understandably, you may think I’m biased because Jay Asher’s original book is one of my all time favourite reads, but my reasons for loving show are somewhat different.

I appreciate the show for what it is, a genuine adaptation. It remains faithful to the original source material while developing the story in such a way that it works for the new medium. As book lovers we can be a bit over-protective of these stories and I think we have to appreciate that TV and Film are different. What works for a novel does not necessarily translate well on screen. Take the majority of Stephen King adaptations for example, they never quite capture the psychological tension that he expertly builds in his writing, but perhaps I should reserve judgement until the IT remake is released…

Anyway, back to Thirteen Reasons Why.

The story arc pretty much lends itself to a TV adaptation, thirteen reasons = thirteen episodes and by sticking to this set up, the creators allowed themselves more time to develop the story. I know what you’re thinking, this means change, and yes it does, but the overarching story remains fundamentally the same.

The creators of the show take care to stay true to Asher’s original concept while expanding Hannah and Clay’s world to include more from the other characters, the  reasons why and the surrounding families.  For me, this works because we cannot share the same head space with TV and film as we do novels. Yes, a show can be just as immersive, but we do not become the narrator in the same way we do when reading a novel. The scope of the story then has to be broadened because the camera can’t remain with one character for an entire episode, it just doesn’t work. So as an audience we still follow Clay’s journey, but the show pans out to include the other characters. Now this doesn’t detract from Hannah’s story or pull focus away from Clay’s journey. If anything these changes reinforce the message I believe Asher was ultimately trying to convey. We have no idea what is going on in other peoples’ lives and we should be more mindful of our own actions, no matter how small, because there are consequences. For me, this is why the show succeeds because it doesn’t take the audience in a different direction. Despite changing the order of the reasons, the chain of events remains the same, we just learn more along the way to the story’s ultimate conclusion. In some ways this gives the original story more depth because we view what happened to Hannah from a more far-reaching perspective. As the show itself points out, there is more than one truth to every story and in learning more about what drives these characters we gain a greater understanding of what happened to Hannah and the wider impact of her suicide, in a kind of ripple or snow ball effect that seeks to include everyone.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not saying I prefer the show, I just appreciate it for its differences.

I also admire the creators for taking an unflinching approach to such complex themes. Some of the scenes were hard to watch, as they should be, but the creators definitely set the right tone because I never felt that anything was done for shock value. They also include trigger warnings at the outset of the more intense episodes.

My one criticism is not really with the show, but its future. They’ve quite obviously left  the ending open for the possibility of a second season when there really doesn’t need to be one. I fear that in pushing the story further, it will loose some of its impact and minimise its importance. Because Thirteen Reasons Why is important. It has opened up conversations about difficult topics that people generally shy away from such as suicide, rape and mental health. Conversations we need to be having. Netflix shouldn’t make the mistake of capitalising on the shows popularity by sacrificing its integrity.

As it stands though, it’s a show that everyone needs to watch it.

Book to Film Adaptations: Me Before You

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I recently reviewed the book so I’m going to link that in here so I don’t have to rehash what the story is about for this post. I know it’s lazy, but there’s only so many ways to explain the plot.

So now that you’ve (hopefully) read my review of the book, I’ll get into the film.

First can we just talk about Emilia Clarke’s eyebrows?! They are the most expressive eyebrows I have ever seen. They completely draw you in! Her eyebrows are like super acting power tools, they are truly incredible. But seriously, Emilia Clarke is a great actress. Many of you will know her as Daernerys Targaryen from the Game of Thrones  TV series (I’ve only just bought into the hype so am currently binge watching the entire thing, hence the lack of postage), but for me, she may as well change her name to Louisa. I mean, she already has the surname! Emilia did a fantastic job of bringing the colourful Louisa Clark to life, she was exactly how I had imagined her. And let’s not forget about Sam Claflin, Finnick Odair from The Hunger Games Franchise, who is fast becoming a favourite of mine. His performance softened Will’s character without detracting from his strong willed personality.

For fans of the book you will notice that certain aspects of the story have been omitted from the film, but JoJo Moyes was responsible for these changes because she wrote the  screenplay. I’m going to link BuzzFeed’s post explaining the differences between the book and the film here, so you can read some of the reasons behind these decisions. While I do understand these choices, and agree that they do not detract from the overarching story, I did feel that it changed the complexity of Louisa and Will’s parents’ characterisation, taking from them some of the reasons why they react the way they do.

So overall I’m going to give the film 4 stars, it just didn’t quite capture the book for me.

I just want to take a moment to address the controversy surrounding Me Before You. Disability activists have reacted angrily to the film because they believe it sends the wrong message about people with disabilities, that their lives are not worth living. While I personally liked the book and the film, I do not want to ignore the voices speaking out against it because I do not know what it is like to live with a disability, and I will never claim to do so. So please take the time to read this article from the Washington Post discussing some of the issues regarding the portrayal of people with disabilities. 

My Favourite Book to Film/TV Adaptations

This isn’t a definitive list or placed in any particular order.

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Rebecca (1940) Joan Fontaine, Laurence Olivier: Saved by the producer! If Hitchcock had his way I would have hated it, but David O. Selznick insisted he stay true du Maurier’s work and why wouldn’t you?

Although I have recently heard that the rights have been bought once again, so this could mean a remake! If any one involved happens to come across this post, I’d just like to suggest Luke Evans for Maxim.  

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I mean honestly?! Just look at him, he was born to play the part! 

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Jane Eyre (2011) Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender: Loved the change in plot structure because even I find the time at Moor house pretty dull, and it’s one of my favourite books of all time. Also, Fassbender is exactly how I imagined Rochester.

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Pride and Prejudice (2005) Keira Knightly, Matthew MacFadyen: I loved the sensitivity MacFadyen brought to Darcy’s role, he was more vulnerable in this adaptation than any of the others.

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Gone Girl (2014) Ben Afleck, Rosamand Pike: This book was made to be a film, and it did not disappoint. Rosamond Pike is devastatingly brilliant as Amy and deserved the Oscar nomination.

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The Hunger Games Franchise (2012-2015) Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutchinson, Liam Hemsworth: How could I not really? Catching Fire is my favourite of the 4 films (and books), but they all deserve recognition. The films definitely captured the essence of the books. It was also the first film I saw with all of my university flat mates, and the first midnight showing I ever went to see. It therefore holds a special place in my heart.

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The Great Gatsby (2013) Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan: Baz Luhrmann’s films are visually stunning, and the soundtrack was to die for. Like the book it was atmospheric and filled with tension.

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Macbeth (2015) Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard: Speaking of visually stunning! Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth is the definitive adaptation for me. Powerful and absolutely devastating even its more quiet moments.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist: Why they felt the need to do remake when this adaptation was so perfect, I’ll never know. It stayed true to the book, gritty and raw.  

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Poldark (2015) Aiden Turner, Eleanor Tomlinson: A straight adaptation that directly follows the storyline of the first two books. Great casting, and not just for the beautiful Mr. Turner. Tomlinson was wonderful as Demelza. My favourite scene was when she sings to them all at Christmas, and Poldark is simply amazed by how much he loves her *swoons*.

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And Then There Were None (miniseries 2015) Aiden Turner, Douglas Booth, Toby Stephens, Charles Dance, Maeve Dermondy, Burn Gorman, Anna Maxwell Martin, Sam Neill, Miranda Richardson, Noah Taylor: Aiden Turner is killing it. This adaptation got me to read my first Agatha Christie book, so well done.

 

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The Vampire Diaries (2009 – Ongoing) Ian Someholder, Paul Wesley, Nina Dobrev: One of the rare instances were I prefer the adaptation to the book. Admittedly I’d started watching the series before I’d read any of L.J. Smith’s books but when I did, I gotta say I was disappointed, and this never happens to me.

The next few adaptations are slightly different because they are modernisations of classical works.

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Clueless (1995) Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy: Loosely based on Jane Austen’s Emma, and a classic in its own right.

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1o Things I Hate About You (1999) Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger: Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew and possibly my favourite chick flick of all time. I’ve actually lost count of how many times I’ve watched this.

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Sons of Anarchy (2008 – 2014) Kurt Sutter, Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, Katy Sagal: Loosely based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and I really will find any reason to talk about this amazing series. All hail Kurt Sutter, hail. The best thing that has ever been on TV.

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Romeo + Juliet (1996) Leonardo DiCaprio, Claire Danes: Yes, I love Baz Luhrmann. Romeo and Juliet has never been one of my favourites, but this adaptation is. I loved the modernised concept of warring mafia families, but more importantly that they retained the original Shakespearean dialogue!

I’ve just realised that there’s a lot of Shakespeare in here, but this proves that he is king, and his stories are universal.

I also have to stop here because this post is getting ridiculously long.

However, my honourable mentions include: The Fault in our Stars (2014), The Help (2011), Bridget Jones’ Diary (2001), The Time Traveller’s Wife (2009), Red Dragon (2002), The Lovely Bones (2009), Shadowhunters (2015-ongoing).

Shadowhunters: A second chance adaptation for Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments

Like all book fans, we get excited at the prospect of a film or television series adaptation. We’re all eager to see if the given reality matches up to our imaginations. And sometimes it does but not every adaptation is as successful as the Harry Potter or Hunger Games franchises. Sometimes they falter at the box-office or viewer numbers dwindle because not everyone is a hardcore fan of the books, no matter how hard we try to convert them. Recent examples include Vampire Academy and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Despite a promising crowdfunding campaign Vampire Academy failed to secure a sequel. Similarly, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones failed to drum up enough support and the preplanned movie sequel was cancelled. Fans like myself began to mourn what was never to be. But in a surprise turn of events ABC Family bought the rights and started production for a new television series. And also happened to snag Vampire Academy’s Dominic Sherwood for the lead, Jace Wayland. Yay!

Viewing from the UK (Netflix) means I’m only 3 episodes into Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments so I can’t say all that much just yet. I think the cast, particularly Alberto Rosende as Simon, and the look of the show is pretty on point, but it’s a little bit cheesy. Now normally I like cheese, life needs a little cheese. I just feel this is where the film went wrong (which I still enjoyed by the way) and perhaps why it didn’t gain more of a following. It seems that these badass demon hunters are being softened up a little bit too much. I think the creators need to take a page out of Buffy’s book. It still had the fun element, cracking one-liners and laughs but it wasn’t afraid to go dark. This was a war at the hellmouth after all. All hail Joss Whedon. Hail. Shadowhunters needs a bit of roughing up.

However, it’s still early days and the first few episodes of any series are usually trying to work out the kinks. So I’m interested to see how the series will develop. Let’s hope things heat up between Jace and Clary soon, and I mean when is Alec finally going to meet Magnus?! That’s just my impatience talking, I know how the books go.

Book to Film Adaptations: Paper Towns

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I’m a little late to the game with this review as it’s already out on DVD but I recently bought it and figured it was about time we tried something a little different here at Page One. We do like to mix things up.

So before it was adapted for the big screen, Paper Towns was a book written by John Green who is also responsible for The Fault in Our Stars (also recently adapted starring Shailene Woodly and Ansel Elgort. If you haven’t seen it, find a way to.) and Looking for Alaska. For those of you who are yet to read anything by John Green, please do so now. I promise you won’t regret it.

From here on in things are going to get a little bit rambly because before I even get to the film I feel I need to explain some of my theories about the book.

I think Paper Towns is often misunderstood. It isn’t a love story even though the love story is kinda a big deal. But this isn’t a story about Margo and Quentin. This isn’t even a story about Margo even though she drives the story forward, I mean a key feature of plot is that she is missing and Quentin and the gang have to go look for her. I don’t even think this is a story about Quentin so ignore the fact he is the one telling it. This is a story about everyone. Everyone who has ever idealised someone or something so much so that you then proceeded to invent an entirely different scenario/world in your head without really realising it. So when you actually got to do this thing or meet this person, be friends with or perhaps even go out with them, it inevitably turns out to be nothing like you’ve imagined. The illusion completely shatters. You then realise they are just human, you are just human. Which leaves you a little sad but also a little wiser. For me at least, that is what Paper Towns is about. The moment you realise that the grass isn’t always greener. And that’s one of the reasons why I love John Green so much. His writing is all about the extraordinary but very ordinarily human things in life.

Now when you’re trying to translate this into film it doesn’t always work. The Fault in Our Stars did. Paper Towns eh, not so much. And I think it’s because the climax falls short for a lot of people. For me, it didn’t quite get the nuances of the book. I constantly felt like there was something missing. Of course there was, scenes, lines. Small things here and there that get cut because you have to condense a 300ish page book into a two hour slot. But it still didn’t quite capture the Paper Towns that I read, like other adaptations of books I have seen. Did anyone else feel the same way?

I don’t want to say too much more because I’ll have to start writing spoiler every other word but I will say I loved the little cameo appearance and Cara Delevingne was a perfect choice for Margo.

So yeah overall rating 3*, I recommend you see it.