Take 3: Words on Bathroom Walls Review

Rebecca from Taking Up Room has great blogathon ideas, hence why these events are so fun to participate in! The latest event, The Fake Teenager Festivus Blogathon, is no exception. For this blogathon, participants are asked to pick a movie or show featuring young adults, older teenagers, or older adults who have portrayed teenagers. As soon as I read the blogathon rules, I immediately thought of Charlie Plummer’s portrayal of Adam in Words on Bathroom Walls. Charlie was born in 1999, which means by the time of the film’s release in 2020, he was 21 years old. Words on Bathroom Walls is about a high school senior with Schizophrenia. I first started talking about this film in 2019, when I mentioned it in my Book Adaptation Tag post. In my Movie Blogger’s Christmas Wish List that year, I wished the film would receive a distributor, a studio that would release the movie. When the film received a distributor and release date the following year, I meant to get around to watching the movie. With Rebecca’s blogathon, I have an excuse to finally review Words on Bathroom Walls!

Words on Bathroom Walls poster created by LD Entertainment, Kick the Habit Productions, and Roadside Attractions

Things I liked about the film:

Interactions between characters: When it comes to interactions among characters, they are only as good as the actors and actresses portraying those characters. In the Words on Bathroom Walls adaptation, the cast was strong, which allowed their characters’ interactions to appear believable! The interactions between Adam and Maya serve as one example. Adam’s friend, Maya, comes over to his house to tutor him. When she enters Adam’s room, Maya discovers his collection of cookbooks. This leads to a verbal match, both Adam and Maya sharing their greatest achievements in good fun. Throughout the film, Charlie Plummer portrays Adam with a laid-back personality. Taylor Russell brings to life Maya’s studiousness, direct, and confident demeanor. Their interactions showcase how Adam’s and Maya’s personality are compatible, despite the fact they are the opposite of one another.

Seeing what’s in Adam’s mind: In the Words on Bathroom Walls book, Adam goes into detail how his Schizophrenia diagnosis impacts him and his world. His honesty about his diagnosis gives the story a sense of realism. But with Words on Bathroom Walls being adapted into a movie, the story gained the opportunity to visually present what goes on in Adam’s mind. At various moments of the story, Adam sees three people, who are his hallucinations. When he starts a new medication, these hallucinations begin to disappear. But the way their disappearance happens on screen looks like a technological glitch, a slow and steady process instead of instantaneous. This not only gave the audience something interesting to look at, it allowed them to gain some understanding into Adam’s experiences.

Breaking the fourth wall: Adam’s story in the Words on Bathroom Walls book is presented through the notes of a therapist. This literary approach made the story feel like Adam was speaking directly with the reader, as if he was having a private conversation with them. Adam’s therapy sessions are included in the adaptation. Because these sessions are only shown in certain parts of the film, they give Adam the opportunity to break the fourth wall. These moments still contain the honesty, emotion, and even humor I came to like about the book. The fourth wall being broken felt reminiscent of the book’s direct storytelling. This translation between adaptation and source material worked in the story’s favor!

The Fake Teenager Festivus Blogathon banner created by Rebecca from Taking Up Room

What I didn’t like about the film:

Father Patrick’s inconsistent presence: Father Patrick is a movie exclusive character in Words on Bathroom Walls. He serves as a mentor figure to Adam, giving him advice and words of wisdom. I liked this dynamic between these characters, as there were no mentor figures at St. Agatha’s Catholic School in the book. However, Father Patrick only appeared in about four scenes total. I wish he had appeared in some more scenes, especially since the character himself was so well written and acted.

Adam’s limited perspective on Catholicism: One of the best parts of the Words on Bathroom Walls book was Adam’s perspective on Catholicism. In the story, Adam attends St. Agatha’s Catholic School, despite his decision to not adopt the religion. Reading Adam’s thoughts on Catholicism provided an insight that isn’t often included in stories featuring religious affiliated schools. In the adaptation, Adam’s perspective on Catholicism was featured. But its inclusion was so limited, it was watered down, compared to the book.

Toned down humor: What makes Adam such a likable character in Words on Bathroom Walls is his sense of humor. Julia Walton, the author of the book, gives the protagonist a drier sense of humor that contains a hint of sarcasm. However, Adam’s sense of humor was never depicted as mean-spirited or disrespectful. What Julia also does is provide a good balance between a humorous and serious tone. The adaptation prioritizes the story’s serious tone instead of trying to achieve the aforementioned balance. I know that mental illness/Schizophrenia is a topic that shouldn’t be taken lightly. But I think that balance between seriousness and humor was better executed in the book.

Since I’m finally reviewing Words on Bathroom Walls, featuring a screenshot of the book cover is in order! Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.

My overall impression:

No matter how good or bad an adaptation is, there are bound to be changes between text and visual piece of entertainment. Words on Bathroom Walls is no exception to this, as I noticed several changes among both media. But despite these changes, the Words on Bathroom Walls adaptation was, more often than not, respectful to its source material. This is one of the reasons why I liked this film! The strength of the cast’s acting abilities worked in the movie’s favor. It allowed believable interactions between the characters. Interesting film-making techniques were incorporated into the project, such as the special effects. This enhanced the visual presentation of what goes on in Adam’s mind. Looking back on this movie, it seems like it is one of the more underrated adaptations. Why that is, I have no idea.

Overall score: 8.3 out of 10

Have you seen or read Words on Bathroom Walls? Are there any adaptations you’d like me to see and/or read? Let me know in the comment section!

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: Lean on Pete Review

For the It’s a Young World: Teen Movie Blogathon, I didn’t want to talk about a typical “teen movie”. I have nothing against these types of films. But whenever I participate in a blogathon, I try to think outside the box while following the theme. So that’s why I decided to review Lean on Pete. In my Book Adaptation Tag post, I mentioned that when I saw All the Money in the World, Charlie Plummer’s acting performance impressed me. As I read reviews for this movie, some people mentioned a film called Lean on Pete when referencing Charlie’s acting credits. When I looked for reviews of this movie, however, I found very few of them. In fact, on WordPress alone, I was only able to find four Lean on Pete reviews. This was one of the reasons why I chose this movie for the blogathon. My other reason for choosing this movie was because Charlie Plummer was the lead actor in this production. Since he gave a great performance in All the Money in the World, I had a feeling that he would give a good acting performance in Lean on Pete. After I chose this movie to review, an interesting coincidence that I noticed was Charlie’s birthday just so happens to take place in the weekend after this blogathon! So, it seemed like the stars aligned in this review’s favor. But did it really though? Or did the stars fly right past this review, completely leaving it in the dust? The only way to find out is by reading my review of Lean on Pete!

Lean on Pete poster
Lean on Pete poster created by A24 and Curzon Artificial Eye. Image found at https://a24films.com/films/lean-on-pete.

Things I liked about the film:

  • The acting: Though Lean on Pete had a smaller cast, every member of it did a good job portraying their characters! All of the actors and actresses displayed a sense of realism in their performance, making the movie feel like an engaging “slice of life” story. Every interaction between the characters had a good amount of on-screen chemistry. This added to the realism of their performances. But, just like All the Money in the World, Charlie Plummer stole the show! Charlie brings an emotional sincerity to his character, which is something that isn’t often found in cinema. This helped me, as an audience member, stay invested in what was happening to Charlie’s character in the movie.

 

  • The incorporation of scenery: What’s interesting about Lean on Pete is how scenery is incorporated into the film. Toward the beginning of the movie, Charlie is jogging throughout the neighborhood. Without the use of dialogue, this scene introduces the audience to the setting, as well as the scenery, where the story will begin. I’ve got to say that Lean on Pete is one of the most well-shot films I have ever seen! Some of the natural landscapes featured in this story were so beautiful, that the color palettes were shone really well on film! The scenery was appealing to the eye and presented an interesting element to the story.

 

  • A realistic look at equine sports: When it comes to the presentation of equine sports in film, it is, more often than not, shown through a glamorized, appealing, and an almost glorified lens. In Lean on Pete, the maintenance and preparation of horse racing is given a larger emphasis than the sport itself. This aspect of the story focuses on the employees associated with the sport, including how Charlie reacts to certain situations. It also highlights some of the heavier topics relating to the sport, such as the mistreatment of employees and the fate of race horses. Because this side of equine sports is rarely shown in movies, I found this creative choice to be very interesting.

It's a Young World Teen Movie Blogathon banner
It’s a Young World: Teen Movie Blogathon banner created by Robin from Pop Culture Reverie and Crystal from In The Good Old Days of Classic Hollywood. Image found at https://popculturereverie.wordpress.com/2019/02/17/announcing-the-its-a-young-world-teen-movie-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

  • More scenery focused scenes than character focused scenes: While the scenery in this film was great to look at, it felt like this movie focused more on showcasing the background than the characters in the forefront. In fact, there were less scenes featuring dialogue than there were featuring scenery. There are many parts to a film, so primarily relying on just one aspect of it could cause the movie’s story-telling abilities to be ineffective. This imbalance of character and scenery focused scenes felt like there was more to be desired from the story.

 

  • A limited amount of character development: Because more scenes focused on the scenery than the characters, it seems like the character development was sacrificed. In Lean on Pete, there were interesting characters with interesting dynamics and stories. However, there was enough character development to keep the story going, but not enough to satisfy the audience. Whenever the character development seemed to be reaching an intriguing point in the story, the moment would get cut short with a scenery focused scene. This left me wanting more from this narrative.

 

  • The night-time scenes: Throughout Lean on Pete, there were a few scenes that took place during the night-time. Within these scenes, very little lighting was used. Because of this, it was difficult to see what was happening on-screen. Emotional situations took place in these scenes. But, since there was little lighting, I couldn’t really see the emotions and expressions of the characters in these moments. This seemed to undermine the emotional intensity contained within these scenes.

horse saddle - soft focus with film filter
Horse with saddle photo created by Topntp26 at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/stallion-black-equine-race-sky_1104246.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a>. <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Background image created by Topntp26 – Freepik.com</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

My overall impression:

Lean on Pete made me feel the exact same way that Queen of the Damned did: it was a decent film that I liked for what it was, but it could have been a stronger film. This movie had merits that made the story interesting. But it also had flaws that held the movie back from being better than what it was. When I think about Lean on Pete, the biggest take-away for me is how you never really know someone unless you take the time to know and understand them. Throughout this story, Charlie’s character deals with several hardships. Because of how this narrative was presented, the audience is given an opportunity to get a glimpse into this character’s life. Another take-away from this movie is how kindness can make a difference. Even if the impact of that kind act only lasts 24 hours, it could still impact someone’s day and maybe even their life. These lessons are relatable to anyone who chooses to watch Lean on Pete.

 

Overall score: 7 out of 10

 

Have you seen Lean on Pete? What’s your favorite horse related movie? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen