Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Self-Discovery in Films: Mini-Reviews of Looking for Alibrandi & Center Stage

I typically don't post movie reviews since this is, after all, a book blog. Over the long weekend, though, I found myself watching the movie "Looking for Alibrandi," based off the book by Melina Marchetta and was blown away. I also saw a dance movie, "Center Stage," and couldn't help but think what a perfect New Adult novel it would make. While these aren't strictly reviews, and are more a collection of thoughts, I really wanted to share them, so I hope you enjoy. :)

Title: Looking for Alibrandi

Director: Kate Woods

Original Book By: Melina Marchetta 

Rating: 5 Stars

I am typically not the type of person who enjoys book-to-movie adaptations. Peter Jackson is, obviously, an exception but I can very easily find fault with even the "Harry Potter" movie franchise. With the "Jellicoe Road" movie coming up, though, I was curious to check this one out. Looking for Alibrandi is not my favorite Marchetta book, but that's like saying Hershey's is not my favorite chocolate. It's still chocolate, after all. Similarly, Looking for Alibrandi was still an incredible read, full of the poignancy and depth I've come to expect from Marchetta. And thankfully, that translated onto the screen perfectly. 

Now, in all honesty, I don't remember every detail of Looking for Alibrandi. I can't completely confirm that the movie stuck to every scene and included every line that had a punch. What I can tell you, though, is that "Looking for Alibrandi" managed to capture the essence of its book perfectly. It had all the important scenes and although I didn't know any of the actors, they all did a really good job. And yet, my favorite aspect of the film was the Italian culture, so tangible in Marchetta's novel, was now so very real in a film, full with a cast that speaks Italian. All the friendships, disputes, ups-and-downs that Marchetta conveyed with words were now conveyed with images. What I'm really trying to say is that the heart of Marchetta's novel was perfectly reflected in the movie. And I love that. Each of her characters, teenager and adult, experience a form of self-discovery and change in this book that is mirrored in the movie. I love that this film stayed true to the novel, but also managed to retain its own unique character apart from the book. I love that the voice of the narrator remains recognizable, that the actors - no matter how good or bad looking - managed to take on their respective personas, and I love that I finished this movie with a grin on my face, the same way I finished the book. 


Title: Center Stage

Director: Nicholas Hytner 

Rating: 5 Stars

I'll be honest: "Center Stage" does not have the best acting ever, but the dancing in it is pretty darn awesome. As a lover of movies that have to do with skating, music, or dance, this fit right up my alley and I settled down to watch it one afternoon. Surprisingly, though, I found that "Center Stage" is a perfect example of what I want the New Adult to resemble. "Center Stage" is about ballet and, in specific, it follows the stories of three girls who get admission into the prestigious American Ballet Academy. Out of the three, Jody is the least-promising, with weak technique, and yet dancing ballet is her dream. Eva is a cynic, skeptical of what the school can offer her but in love with ballet. And then there's Maureen, the best dancer in the academy whose mother pushes her to be even better than she is. For Maureen, though, dancing isn't a passion the way it is for Eva and Jody - it's a chore. ABA is intense, a complete no nonsense regime for serious students. Instead of college, there is dance. And with three such different girls who may - or may not - even know what they want from life, the room for self-discovery is limitless.

And that, plain and simple, is why I loved this movie so much. Sure, there are romantic entanglements and tight friendships and fantastic dance scenes, but mostly, there is that aspect of self-discovery. In the beginning of this movie, all three of these girls think they want something from life and through circumstance and growth, they begin to realize that plans change, passions change, and people change. I love this. While Maureen's story reminded me of Allyson from Just One Day since both have mothers who are fulfilling their dreams through their daughters, Jody and Eva went through very different transformations. In fact, Jody almost seemed as if her goals didn't change in the movie, but by the end, we see a profound difference in her self-confidence. At a ballet academy, these girls are told their bodies aren't perfect, they aren't perfect, that they have to become slimmer and slimmer and slimmer, better and better and better. And dealing with that kind of pressure isn't easy. Not everyone in this movie winds up a star performer. It's far more realistic than that. Even better than the slow and creeping understanding the characters experience in finding their place in the world, doing what they're passionate about, they grow to love themselves for who they are, attitude and body included.

And this, ladies and gentleman, is what I want New Adult to be like. In the movie, Jody has two guys vying for her attention, but the best part is that neither of them play a role in her growth. No, she comes to terms with who she is all on her own. And while Maureen has some help from others down her path, she too comes to realize what she wants without others having to tell her or lead her hand. I find that New Adult, though, is typically the opposite. You have an all-consuming and intense romance that somehow heals the concerned parties from a dark past and that, somehow, helps them face their future. And while this is the reality for some, I'm sure, the truth is that college and growing up is more about growing and discovering than it is completely about healing. It's about all the paths, all the opportunities, laid out at your feet and that nerve-wracking emotion of "What do I do? What do I choose? I can't mess up!" And it's scary. I want New Adult to explore this, not the feelings of healing from grief or dealing with abusive parents. I'm sorry, but there are other genres for that. Anyway, the bottom line? What "Center Stage" and pray for better New Adult books. I'm glad that a market exists for this genre, simply because I hope it means that more - and better - New Adult is coming our way, but I'm hoping the market changes soon too. Hmm...just my two cents on the matter. 

Favorite New Adult/Self-Discovery Novels: 
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Not all of these books are strictly New Adult and not all of them belong in simply one genre. BUT, what they do all have in common are themes of self-discovery, are protagonists who come into their own over the course of the story, and they're all some of my all-time favorites. If you know any other titles similar to these, don't hesitate to recommend them to me in the comments below. I'm always on the hunt for more self-discovery books! :)

13 comments:

  1. I man, the love I have for Center Stage knows no bounds! And you're right: it would make for a perfect New Adult read! I hadn't really thought about that, because it's been a while since I've seen it, but I agree that Jody's journey in particular is what I want New Adult to be. Too bad so much of it isn't.

    ~Merin @ Read and Reviewed~

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  2. I told my self that as soon as my exams pass I'll watch Looking for Alibrandi. I'll read the book first though :) I'm so glad that you've enjoyed it. Also I can't wait to read Out of the Easy as Between the shades of gray was amazing! :) Great post :)

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  3. I completely agree with your thoughts about New Adult, Keertana. The few that I've enjoyed have been far more about self-discovery than abusive relationships or romance. I don't particularly think Center Stage is for me though, simply because dance movies and I have never really fit together very well, but I'm glad you enjoyed it! Looking for Alibrandi is more my thing, but I do have to read the book first! It's the only Marchetta book that I haven't read yet, but I'm pretty certain that I'll like it. Lovely reviews! :)

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  4. Oh, I love how you featured Center Stage on this list, Keertana! I've always loved this flick, and I think that it's partially because, although there is love, we're given powerful women searching to find themselves above the men in their lives. That's a great message for NA books, and I think it's not featured nearly enough. Wonderful thoughts, lady!

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  5. I really liked Centre Stage when I watched it all those years ago. Zoe Saldana has come such a long way since that movie :). It was definitely a coming of age story with Jodie realizing her potential as well finding out that maybe your dream isn't the best for you all the time. Oh and I also I have to say back in the day I loved Mandy Moore's song "I wanna be with you" from the movie and I adored the video because Charlie was in it lol.

    You know my views on the whole New Adult Genre and you're right NA should be a lot more like Centre Stage story wise. The majority focus on abusive relationships and romance doesn't mean that there are other issues that are important.

    Love reviews Keertana!

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  6. Centre Stage does sound like a fabulous movie Keertana. I love my films with music, but have been finding it utterly difficult to find one which stands out from amongst the rest and I guess that's what I want from my New Adult novels too. And you totally won me over when you mentioned Just One Day, I was curious about this film before, but that line just nailed it for me. Also I still have to read Looking for Alibrandi, I like knowing that there's still one book by Marchetta I still need to pick up! Fab reviews Keertana! :)

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  7. I might have to check out one of these movies. I'm especially intrigued by Looking for Alibrandi. I have yet to read the book, but I have to fix that asap, since I loved Marchetta's other books. And I love these New Adult recommendations! I loved the ones I have read out of this bunch, and I REALLY need to read Wanderlove. Great reviews Keertana! :D

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  8. Love this post, you should do more movie reviews! :) I remember seeing Centre Stage around when it first came out in Australia, and really enjoying it. And though it wouldn't have occurred to me then, I think you're right, it does fit that New Adult / discovering yourself phase really well. And now I feel like rewatching it!

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  9. It's been a while, but I enjoyed Center Stage as well. The dancing was wonderful and so was the drama. I've been wanting to get a copy of Looking For Alibrandi for a while. Looks like I need to just hit that "buy" button at Amazon. Great reviews, Keertana. I can't wait for On the Jellicoe Road. I hope they make it available to us in the US. :)

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  10. I actually have the Looking for Alibrandi DVD but I never felt the desire to watch it for the same reason you mentioned. I just didn't think I'd like it and I didn't want to ruin the book for myself, since it's my favorite Marchetta contemporary, above Jellicoe and The Piper's Son. There's just something about Josie that felt very close to me.

    Anyway, I'm glad you liked it. I'll go ahead and watch it myself now.

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  11. I'm always on the look-out for good self discovery books as well. Out of The Easy is one of my faves of the year so far. I really enjoyed Jellicoe Road, too. I'm definitely curious about the movie. I hope it lives up to the book! I also want to check out Wild Awake after reading your glowing review. :)

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  12. I need to see the movie too (Looking for Alibrandi). Marchetta is my favourite author in the world, but somehow I am afraid to pick up her first book after all those wonderful stories that took my breath away.

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