Discussion of the film adaptation of Flipped
Flipped is a YA book written by the author Wendelyn Van Draanen, which was published in 2001. After nine years, it was adapted as a film, directed by Rob Reiner. The following is a discussion of how the film relates to its original.
Some additions that the film brings to the table
The book does not describe the exact time it takes place, but some hints regarding technology (CDs, for example) help the reader realize it is late nineties, early twenties. Nevertheless, the film explicitly states that the story begins in 1957. While the time does not play a central role during the book, in the movie it comes alive in the shape of the cars, the outfits and the TV shows. More importantly, though, because it is set in the fifties, there are some events of the original plot that gain a different light.
For example, the facts that Juli likes to climb the sycamore tree and to raise chicken are not as surprising in 1960 as they are in 2000—when CD players, magazines and computers seem to be all that teenagers are thinking about. In a way, it is as if the director read the novel and it reminded him of an “old-fashioned” childhood and he tried to bring those elements forth. It certainly works: the almost sepia colors of the film added to a nostalgic music result in the viewer desiring once again to be barefoot on the top of a tree.
New final scene (Spoiler Warning)
While the book ends up with Juli thinking of going to Bryce’s house after he has planted—by himself—the sycamore tree in the Baker’s garden, the film shows a final scene where Juli helps Bryce to plant the tree. In a metaphorical way, the film allows the protagonists to join in a new beginning—the tree’s, but also their own. Juli’s tone at the end of the book is not as decisive as are her actions at the end of the movie.
Some changes and probable reasons for them
Change of perspective of Bryce’s father
The book presents this character by being obsessed with his son’s bravery. He cannot understand why Bryce hesitates to talk to Juli. The film does not mention this concern. Rather, it emphasizes the father as an antagonist of what Bryce is beginning to learn. In a way, the film is much “harsher” with this character than the book. There are little details about the father in the novel that make him seem more human. For example, after the discussion between his parents, Bryce realizes that his dad has slept on the couch. Also, when the Bakers come to their home for dinner, Bryce describes his father as being as uncomfortable as he is, while in the movie it seems as if he owned the whole evening (until his “that’s not me anymore” comment). There are some phrases that the father says that seem almost “nice” in the book—like when he says that the eggs are fine—which are given to the grandfather to say. The film makes the opposition between the grandfather and his son-in-law even more evident.
Change in Bryce’s description
Bryce is supposed to have black hair and blue eyes. In the movie, he has blonde hair and hazel eyes. Yet, the actor has a sweet and innocent look that relates very well to Juli’s description of “dazzling” eyes. Obviously, the change does not affect the movie; but it is interesting to see how the director did not mind compromising some fidelity in order to cast an actor who presented better fit for the character.
Change in Juli’s perception
The decision to omit certain scenes depicts a Juli who is a little bit different than her character in the book. For example, in the novel Juli spends a whole year whispering the correct answers to Bryce at school. The book constantly emphasizes how smart Juli is, another reason why Bryce feels so intimidated by her. In the film, there are only two scenes that subtly hint this: when she wins the science fair and when she speaks of “perpetual motion”. The novel gives abundant details of how much study and work it meant for Juli to take care of the eggs, while the film omits all this information.
There are other minor changes in the plot, but for the most part, the film depicts the book’s event exactly in the same way.
Some interesting devices the film uses
Presentation of time
As does the book, the film moves back and forth in time during the first half. In flashbacks, we are told how Juli came to have her chickens, how the protagonists met, how Bryce’s master plan to get rid of Juli failed, how she used to sniff his hair, and some other scenes from their past. Another device the director uses is slow motion. The scene where Juli and Bryce accidentally hold hands when they are still kids is perfectly told through slow motion—it enhances Byrce’s horrified face and Juli’s bewilderment.
Perspectives and voice
The book is told from the two protagonists perspective in alternating chapters. The movie replicates this style by replaying the scenes from a different camera. Also, many of the scenes present voiceover, in which the corresponding character narrates thoughts or feelings. For example, when Bryce’s granddad is helping Juli fix the front yard, we can see Bryce watching them from his window while his voice explains how surprised he is at what Chet is doing.