John Green has become something of a big deal since the opening of “The Fault In Our Stars,” and more power to him. I am all for anything that gives power to the writer as opposed to basically anyone else in the food chain. Green sold the rights to this novel to Paramount years ago, and my guess is that as soon as “Fault” opened, they got real excited about what must have been a wildly reasonable investment.
Sarah Polley, writer/director of 'Take This Waltz' and 'Stories We Tell,' and Academy Award-nominated for her screenplay 'Away From Her,' is set to write and direct 'Looking For Alaska.' The book, by 'Fault In Our Stars' author John Green, has been in development for years, but is picking up steam as 'Fault' crosses the $100 million domestic box-office mark.
I'm totally unfamiliar with “Looking For Alaska,” an earlier book by Green, but I am 100% onboard for anything that puts Sarah Polley to work. For those who are not already familiar with her work, I would urge you to get caught up. “Take This Waltz” is great, a smart and mature piece of work, and her documentary “Stories We Tell” was one of last year's most quietly amazing films. She's such a deeply empathic filmmaker that if you're making something that is strongly emotional, I can think of no one I would hire before her.
I know we've seen cultural commentators lately using YA adaptations and YA readers as punching bags because, supposedly, YA fiction is ruining the world and destroying literacy. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to be upset by anyone who is ready any book at this point, but I'd say this kind of blanket dismissal of readers is particularly gross at a time when bookstores are dying and we need to support pretty much anything that gets people reading. Reading is a habit, something that has to be cultivated over time, and right now, this seems to be what is getting more people picking up more books. That means I'm a fan, automatically. Once you have readers who love to read, then you can start pushing them to read different things, but trying to shame them or make them feel bad because they're not reading what you want them to read from day one seems like the wrong way to go about it.
According to Deadline, who broke the story, the book deals with a young man who meets a girl named Alaska in a boarding school in Alabama, where she teaches him to drink, smoke, and play pranks, helping him cut loose even as he starts to realize that she may have larger unspoken problems. One of the things i love about Polley's movies is that she doesn't seem to be a moralist, determined to show the “right” way for people to do things. Instead, she's just curious about behavior, interested in the things that make us human.
While Deadline just had Polley attached as a writer, John Green said today on Twitter that she's both writing and directing, and that sounds to me like a win for everyone involved. If Polley has a big hit with this film, that buys her room to make several smaller films that matter to her. And I don't believe for a second that she'd want to write and direct this movie for any reason other than she thinks she can tell the story well. When you look at what she's made so far and how she's made those films, or when you talk to Polley about how she approaches her art, it's clear that she is not doing this because she thinks she's going to be rich, and she's not chasing some giant box-office behemoth. She is a serious filmmaker, and she's got a huge sense of voice already.
She's been working on an adaptation of Margaret Atwood's “Alias Grace,” and I certainly hope that ends up happening. But in the meantime, if “Looking For Alaska” is something she feels like she can get right, then I can't wait to see it. I'm onboard, sight unseen. I liked “The Fault In Our Stars” fine, but I think Polley's the difference. She's a different kind of filmmaker altogether, and I really look forward to her work.
In the meantime, fans of Green's work who really liked “Fault” are probably excited about “Paper Towns,” which is set to star Nat Wolff, the guy who was the main character's blind best friend in “Fault.” More importantly, Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter are adapting the novel, and at this point, I can't think of many guys I'd trust more with that kind of material. “The Spectacular Now,” “(500) Days Of Summer,” and “Fault” are all strong examples of how well they balance emotion and character, and just how careful they are about cheap sentiment.
“The Fault In Our Stars” is still playing in theaters now.