Reading: The Outsiders

TheOutsiders4I’ve recently decided that I like reading books that have been adapted into movies. Rather than judge a movie for it’s inaccuracies and omissions, I’ve decided to use the films as a bit of an anti-social book club. I watch the film after reading the book and I think about how I would have made the film, I note the interpretation and the choices made in the film. How they relate to the book, and more importantly how each scene is supposed to convey something from the book.

In a book like Dune, which I read before The Outsiders I knew that there were elements of the book that would be very hard to replicate on the screen. I also knew that the movie was panned by critics and had heard some really crummy things about the movie from someone who had loved the book. I ended up watching the film about 3 hours after I finished the book, and was able to let the film be a ‘recap’ of the book (Dune is long, and it took me awhile to read it). Especially in the early parts of the film, I was refreshed, and a few details I had missed were brought to the forefront of my attention.

This was good, but by the second act of the film I realized there was no way David Lynch was going to be able to do the rest of the book any sort of justice. This immediately made me think about a book like the Hobbit and how it was unnecessarily made into a trilogy no one asked for, and how Dune could have easily been broken into three movies (although I definitely understand how 3 Dune
movies covering the first book alone would have been a huge commercial mistake).

Back to SE Hinton’s classic The Outsiders. The book is a quick read, and if you didn’t read it in school, you should probably give it a read. The plot is very straightforward, and what the novel lacks in complexity it makes up for in heart and storytelling. The characters are really fun, and for a young adult novel there are some themes and situations that might not have gotten the green-light from teachers in this day and age. At the very least go check out the film, that’s where the money is.

I saw The Outsiders as a film before I read the book, I haven’t rewatched the film as a recap yet, but I can’t help but thinking Coppola made a extremely true to text adaptation. I’m sure I’d sing a different tune if my experience had been flipped, but I’m going to chalk this up to Coppola being a subtle genius. Taking the barebones novel, and making it into a barebones movie. Where Dune had too many layers for the director to get lost in, The Outsiders was a garden path that the director was able to walk down and document his simple voyage.

All this being said, I definitely dug both movies, but for completely different reasons. Dune probably would’ve stunk even worse (just in a different way) had some B-rated Sci-Fi director done it instead of Lynch, and a monkey might’ve made a perfectly passable adaptation of The Outsiders, casting Tony Danza and half the cast of Happy Days instead of the gold that Coppola settled on*.

*The casting of The Outsiders is amazing.

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