Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bittersweet Stuff: Sparks and Citrus

 Pineapple Paradise Brooch

Top: (which is really a dress!) Lauren Conrad, Kohl's
Skirt: (Which is also really a dress!) XOXO
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Nine West, Boscov's
Belt: Marshalls
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

 Sky and Sea Necklace

Cardigan: Kohl's
Tank: Boscov's
Skirt: H&M
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Loop, Marshalls
Belt: Marshalls
Sunglasses: J. C. Penney's

Green and Yellow Stellar Speller Necklace

Dress: Macy's
Sweater: Macy's
Shoes: Ami Clubwear
Bag: Kohl's
Sunglasses: Rampage, Boscov's

When I saw Nicholas Sparks's The Best of Me last week, I knew that I would blog about it.  After all, I'd read and blogged about the book, and I never pass up the opportunity for a good Sparks novel-and-movie-adaptation rap sesh.  I could only hope that whatever projects I'd completed by then would coincide with some shard of the story.  For example, I had a pair of ribbon rose-bedecked barrettes in the back of my mind that all but screamed romance (the fact that they were to be repurposed from my wedding decorations was just a bonus.)  But now it's blog post time, and those buds have yet to blossom.  Instead I'm stuck with a near-flagrant mix of green, yellow, and orange ornaments, an orchard of over-the-topness too showy to herald the highlights of a sweetly old-fashioned Sparks saga.

Or is it?  Does it not reflect the same tart-yet-treacly -- dare I say bittersweet -- quality of a Sparks tearjerker?  (Never mind that the tears brought on by lemons and limes are more likely the result of brushing one's eye with a juice-tainted finger as opposed to watching an unrequited love story.)  For this blogger, the answer to that rhetorical question is an unequivocal yes.  And so it's from such a suspect springboard that I dive into the heart of this post's dissertation.  (Somewhere out there an English professor is rolling his or her eyes at my use of the D word.  Also that I'm associating it with Nicholas Sparks.) 

To begin, I'll just come out and say it: this is one of those rare times when the movie is better than the book, a judgment I can soundly make having read the book first.  (Not that that stopped me from re-reading it after the credits rolled.  A stickler for details, I always like to see what was changed.)  Sure, the big screen version makes use of all the usual tricks, which is to say that its plot is more streamlined and dramatic than the book's.  Although such liberties are often necessary to make the written word pop, they sometimes come at the expense of quality, resulting in something that is -- for lack of a better word -- cheesy.  Not so in this case.  If anything, the plot tweaks only heighten the effect of the story.  Yet it is the medium of the movie itself that most convincingly places us in Dawson and Amanda's shoes (I forgot to mention that they're the star-crossed lovers this time, what with all the hoopla about adaptation and orchards), and that's because it invokes that emotional powerhouse known as the flashback.  

Indeed, the first blast from the past opens with Dawson at the local teen hangout, Toad the Wet Sprocket's "All I Want" swelling in the background when Amanda speeds by in a car full of jocks blaring "Whoot There it Is," changing his life forever.  It's amazing how quickly music can tell you what's up.  That is, troubled outcasts tune in to Toad, whereas A-listers listen to stuff that sounds best on a basketball court.  The movie's focus on Dawson and Amanda's teen romance draws from that classically heady everyone's-against-us, young-love elixir, giving it a very Notebook-y vibe.  And why not?  The past is an aphrodisiac.  In The Notebook, it was the early 1940s, and in The Best of Me, it's the early 1990s.  The pull of memories in both is magnetic, bringing a sense of urgency to the present day.  What's more, I can't help but feel that the 1990s were made for Sparks stories, that era's flowered dresses and moody alt rock an ideal soundtrack to fall in love to.  So much more spot on than the 1980s, which was when the book took place.  Not that kids didn't crush hard to hair bands and hairspray.  But those trappings are more rom com than drama, and as such somehow less compelling.

I could go on about the subtle discrepancies in the print and screen versions.  But the most pointed difference is the way that those crazy kids broke up.  Now, I've (for the most part) left my spoiler days behind, but this post means nothing if I don't say this.  In both renditions, Dawson ends up in jail (different circumstances for each, although neither are directly his fault).  In the book, Sparks tells us that "in four years, he [Dawson] never had a single visitor" (39).  Yet in the movie, Amanda shows up every single day for a year.  Dawson never agrees to see her (per the usual baloney of being cruel to be kind for her own good), but she makes the trips anyway with Notebook-worthy I-wrote-you-every-day-for-a-year kind of grand gesture devotion.  To me, this makes all the difference, drawing a line between a borderline fling and the real deal.  In the movie, Amanda goes to great lengths to challenge Dawson's loner status, even though doing so isolates her from her family and friends.  In the book she just goes off to college.  Which is, of course, more realistic.  But who in her right mind wants realistic? 

No one, that's who.  Except for maybe some scurvy-struck cynic who doesn't like citrus.


Michelle said...

Can't wait to see the movie, I love all books Nicholas Sparks! I am crushing hard on those orange shoes! Super cute :)

Jewel Divas Style said...

Love that first skirt Tote, and the Nemo necklace.

Haven't even seen The Notebook all the way through but I see James Marsden is in the new movie....mmm... might have to watch it.