Jasper Jones Review: Doing the book justice

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The Jasper Jones movie is a fantastic adaptation of a fantastic book.

Look, before I talk about the movie, I just have to mention how much I studied the Jasper Jones novel last year. Like, so much. It is a great book though, and I recommend people give it a shot regardless.

Jasper Jones
Book turned movie turned Australian classic. Source: Madman.

Anyway, Jasper Jones is a coming-of-age tale seen through the eyes of Charlie Bucktin, a bookish 14 year old. Hopefully that’ll be the last time I ever have to say that.

Directed by Rachel Perkins, and featuring an abundance of great Australian actors like Hugo Weaving, Toni Collette, Levi Miller and Angourie Rice, Jasper Jones is the book-to-movie adaptation of Craig Silvey’s novel that took Australia by storm (wow that’s a mouthful).

It’s a shame they didn’t choose to film in Victoria, because I think it would’ve been really cool to be able to see their production myself, but nevertheless filming in WA was a fantastic choice.

I’ll get this out of the way: The story it presents is both gripping and captivating, although that is a given when adapted from a great novel.

Jasper Jones presents itself as a tale about growing up as seen through the eyes of Charlie Bucktin as he experiences the injustices, racism and scapegoating that exists within this community.

That, mixed with charismatic characters with depth, adds up to be an intriguing tale.

But we know the story is great. When adapting a 200-300 page book into a two hour film, producers have to take things out and change it up so it still flows properly. I was pleasantly surprised about how certain aspects were taken out for brevity, but compromises were effectively made in the process.

Now, let’s talking acting. The one thing that I was hesitant about was if the acting had become more along the lines of stereotypes as opposed to the complex and intricate characters that Silvey had developed. Thankfully, with the help of great teen actors, Perkins was really able to flesh out this incredible set of people.

These kids sure know how to act. Source: Madman Entertainment.

My only issue is with our protagonist. Whilst Levi Miller did a great job, I felt the script didn’t give him much to do in the film and he was just there to be our perspective on the story. Look, it’s not a big problem, he did what he could. It’s just in a lot of the scenes, all Charlie really does is watch and react.

The tone was something I found to be quite different to the book. Compared to its darker and more mature source material, the movie is much more light-hearted and quite comedic, especially with the banterous relationship between Charlie and Jeffrey. The Jasper Jones movie isn’t even as explicit about some of the more tragic atrocities that happen within Corrigan, as opposed to the book.

While I have some reservations about this being attributed to its PG-13 rating, I did think it was a very wise choice.

The main characters are about 14 or 15, and the scenarios they deal with are very mature and traumatising, even for an adult. Keeping a lighter tone, in my opinion, makes the film that much more realistic and believable.

The last thing I do want to talk about is the camerawork and set. It’s great. It has a very gorgeous, uniquely Australian feel about it. Perkins holds very extensive knowledge on camerawork, and she was able to incorporate that into establishing this 1960s rural Australian town in WA. Ever since I saw that wide, high angled shot of the woods, mixed with that Indigenous sound, I knew Jasper Jones would be a great film.

Filming in Pemberton, a Western Australian timber town, was a great choice for that authentic atmosphere. Corrigan is a rural town in Western Australia, and using a historical Australian town as the location added to the cultural origins and link that Jasper Jones has with our Australian heritage.

Busted. Source: Madman Entertainment.

If I’m being honest, there isn’t much to say regarding Jasper Jones.

It’s a great book-to-movie adaptation of a good book, and as there were no major changes or interpretations, it was an accurate translation from the written medium to film.

Make sure to head out and see what’s sure to be an iconic Australian classic for years to come.

PS: Aren’t Australian movies just the best?

My Rating: 8.5/10

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