Thursday, June 30, 2011

Movie and Book Recommendation: "Flipped"

We literature nerds will always tell you that the book is better than the movie.

In the case of Flipped, I'd say it's a toss up.

Written by Wendelin Van Draanen, the author of the Sammy Keyes mysteries, Flipped tells the story of Bryce Loski,  Juli Baker, and their first real crushes--on each other.  As readers, we get to experience our two protagonists' changing attitudes toward each other as the novel deftly switches back and forth from Bryce's point of view to Juli's. 

Bryce is very much concerned with surface appearances and fitting in, something he learns from his parents, especially his father. When they meet he finds Juli's open and unguarded manner to be bewildering and embarrassing, just as his father is annoyed with her family's unkempt lawn, her brothers' noisy band, and her father's painting hobby.  

Juli, who, like her father has an innate love of beauty, is at first infatuated with bryce when she sees his "dazzling eyes".   Each character has a distinct and believable voice, and as each learns to see beyond his or her own point of view, the reader is reminded by their differing perspectives that there is always more than one side to any story. 

Like any child's life, the novel is populated with quirky parents, irritating but lovable siblings, friends, rivalries, and plenty of amusing and yet painfully awkward moments.

As Juli and Bryce awkwardly navigate the social minefields of early adolescence, their school and their suburban neighborhood, they take their families and the reader with them. 

The film follows the book very closely. The only significant change is a shift in the setting. The novel takes place in the late 1990's, while the movie has a nostalgic 1950's backdrop.  Rob Reiner did an absolutely remarkable job of preserving the integrity and universality of the original story.  In translating the book to film, and with the help of a talented cast, Reiner artfully captures the realism of Van Draanen's characters and their complicated lives, which is central to the story's appeal.  The result is a visually captivating, deeply moving, and universally appealing story that manages to be wholesome without being saccharine or pedantic.

So, if you're looking for something to do over the Independence Day weekend that smacks of wholesome all-American goodness, grab a copy of the novel and watch the movie. Hey, it's a holiday weekend. You'll have time for both. 

The MPAA rating for Flipped is PG. Because of some very tense family situations, and a few instances of crass dialogue, the Catholic News Service gives this film a rating of A-III (Adults).  I have to say, however, that I believe the movie is also appropriate for older teens. The novel is intended for readers who find themselves anywhere between middle school and middle age (and even beyond). 

For artfully rendered characters and themes and fantastic writing, this schoolmarm gives both book and film an A+.

No comments: