13 Reasons Why – Review (Netflix Adaptation)

I had been anticipating the release of 13 Reasons Why, that was adapted from the book written by Jay Asher. I have not read the book so I can’t speak to how true or untrue the series is to the original story, however, the series does have merits: High production values, excellent casting and acting, topnotch writing.

Although I didn’t intend to binge watch all 13 episodes, I did find the story compelling enough that I simply didn’t want to wait to see what happened next.

Themes: Depression, Suicide, Bullying

Premise: Before a teenage girl commits suicide, she records 13 tapes that detail the 13 reasons why she killed herself and leaves them with a friend for specific distribution.

Story

Hannah Baker is an outspoken, creative teenager whose family has moved to a small town for a fresh start. She’s pretty, funny, smart, and uses humor and wit to cover her many insecurities. But we see she is somewhat damaged already in her young life.

She befriends Clay Jensen, a co-worker at the local movie theater, and they form an interesting alliance. They both dance around their true feelings for one another and never acknowledge those feelings out loud to each other. Which may be the true tragedy of the story.

The story alternates between Hannah’s narration of her tapes and the live action (both past and present) of what’s happening and what happened.

The story is largely told from Clay’s point of view, how he reacts to Hannah’s death, and how his reactions escalate as he listens to each of the 13 tapes – growing increasingly angry and anxious as he anticipates what she will say about him on ‘his tape.’ The 13 reasons are actually fellow students with whom Hannah had interacted with disastrous results. In each case, Hannah went into each relationship with the hope of friendship, love, and comradery, and in each case she is betrayed. Severely.

As Clay listens to the tapes he becomes more outraged, sorrowful, and determined to make the offenders take responsibility for what they did to Hannah. And no matter how much they try to stop, intimidate, or scare Clay, he is relentless in his pursuit of the truth in getting justice for Hannah.

Conclusion

This story is heartbreaking and illuminating about the subject of teen suicide, and how bullying can lead to the deterioration of a person’s spirit. It also accurately depicts the utter nightmare that is high school. And even though it’s been lifetimes since I was in high school, the story churned up memories of my own miserable experiences as an unpopular student in high school. As though it were only yesterday when I was finally freed from that prison. As well as memories of a friend who committed suicide and the fallout that followed. It touched me deeply and I suspect it will touch you if you are brave enough to watch it.

For as damn good as this series is, it is also extremely difficult to watch. It will break your heart, remind you of your own struggles with bullies, feelings of unworthiness, insecurities, and of loved ones you may have lost through suicide. It may depress you, as it did me. It will certainly make you think and ponder about how you treat others. And examine any dalliance you’ve had with mob rule or group think.

I highly recommend this series with the caveat that it contains countless emotional triggers that may be difficult for some.

 

 

 

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Secrets and Lies – Review

Secrets and Lies, ABC
Starring: Ryan Phillipe, Juliette Lewis
Grade: B-

Based on the commercials and trailers I was really looking forward to seeing this new ABC murder mystery series.

Premise

Ben Crawford (Ryan Philipe) a family man in a small town goes for an early morning run and discovers his neighbor’s son in the woods, dead. He runs home in a panic and calls the police. But rather than being lauded as a hero and a good Samaritan, the lead detective Andrea Cornell (Juliette Lewis) sees him as the prime suspect in the murder of the young boy.

Good, solid premise – an unassuming family man is yanked from his ordinary world into a nightmare scenario that would horrify any normal human being.

Back story

Ben is married to Christie and they married young. He is a house painter and his wife is a real estate agent who makes most of the money. They have two daughters – Natalie 17, and Abby 12. The youngest daughter is close to her father and stands by him. There is trouble in the marriage but despite this they seem to love each other. Ben’s slacker friend Dave lives in their guest house – drinks too much and is a womanizer. Tom, the murder victim is the son of Jess an attractive woman who live across the street. She has an ex special forces husband from whom she is estranged and who is recently showing violent tendencies.

I want to avoid giving any spoilers to those who haven’t seen the show yet so I won’t do a play-by-play on the story itself. It is well-written for the most part and worth watching. However, I had some problems suspending my disbelief in certain areas:

1. Ben is immediately regarded as a suspect and crucified in the press, shunned by the neighbors and even his house is vandalized. But the writer fails to show us why. There are several interactions between Ben and Detective Cornell that are tense and accusative but we don’t know why. There is no explanation why people immediately jump to the conclusion that Ben would kill a five-year-old boy. No criminal background, no unsavory interaction with children, no apparent motive. Yet within 24 hours people are convinced Ben did it and are distancing themselves from him. Why? I just couldn’t buy that it would happen that quickly without some substantial reason.

2. Detective Cornell is a very unlikable character. She is sour-faced from moment she appears on the scene. Granted, murder investigators lead grim lives and their work must weigh on them but they aren’t necessarily grump, sourpusses who cock their eyebrow and smirk at everything that moves. Also, I don’t think that detectives are that obvious, even they suspect someone of a crime, especially if they haven’t got any solid evidence, they aren’t going to come at a suspect like that. Instead, I’d expect them to be a little more friendly, and try to get their suspect to trust them a little, hopefully so they might slip and give themselves away.

Summary

Overall I think the story is good and the characters will be flushed out as the story is told. The production values are good. And Phillipe is quite good as the confused and isolated man accused of a terrible crime. There are lots of twists and turns and surprise reveals that create doubt for the viewer and should keep people watching. So, if you like a good solid mystery I think this will be a good addition to your Sunday night viewing and it’s positioned between Once Upon a Time and Revenge, so it should get decent traction.

Personally, I’d like to know more about Detective Cornell and why she is such a tight ass and more about Jess, the victim’s mother. I am suspicious of her already and believe we’ll find her caught in some pretty big lies in the not too distant future.

Did you see the show? What did you think? Any theories on who did it yet?
Let me know in the comments.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015

 

 

 

 

 

The Slap – Review

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While poking around this weekend looking for a movie to watch, I struck out and so I turned to TV for entertainment. I guess Valentine’s Day superseded TV programmer’s need to put anything watchable on the tube so I turned to Hulu.

I made the mistake of watching the pilot for a new NBS show called, “The Slap.” The title alone made me wonder how a TV show could be sustained with such a title but I was desperate.

The Slap is aptly named because it’s a slap in the face of anyone who wasted their time watching it. It centers around a family and extended family of Greek decent. All the stereotypical characters make an appearance and except for the main character, Hector, seem pretty dull.

It’s Hector’s 40th birthday, so family, friends and extended family gather round Hector to celebrate while he is secretly having a midlife crisis and fantasizing about a girl who looks to be about 14 but probably is 17.

There’s the usual banter and family conflict and the thing that stands out most is that a couple (whose relationship to the rest of the characters is very unclear) who has a demon seed for a child. I think his name is Hugo and he is destructive, anti-social and has no compunction about destroying other people’s stuff – imagine what he’ll be like when he’s five? The father of said demon seed is a self-absorbed ‘artist’ who apparently hates rich people as evidenced by his antagonism toward one of Hector’s cousins, a successful car salesman. Ironic considering they’re all hanging at a huge and likely very expensive brownstone drinking fine wine and imported beer. The mother of said demon seed is an airhead whose only solution to her son’s destructiveness is to breast feed her four year old son and treat him as an infant.

All the others are irritated by the child and clearly dismayed by this child’s behavior and his parent’s lack of concern and supervision but tolerate it for some reason.

So, after the kid destroys rare vinyl collector albums, tears out have the garden in the yard, throws a game boy to the floor in a fit he starts swinging a wooden bat at one of the other kids because he’s struck out. The father of the child who is being accosted (naturally it’s the big bad capitalist who has the nerve to succeed) by the demon seed has had enough and intervenes.

He pulls the bat away from the kid who is now totally out of control and shakes him to get the kid’s attention. The kid then kicks the guy. The capitalist slaps the kid out of reflex.

Okay, granted he reacted and shouldn’t have hit the kid but the response of the others is beyond the pale. They liken him to Hitler and it ruins the party. And of course now the ‘child abuser’ is persona non grata because he dared to step in and try to control and out of control situation.

Now there are rumblings about lawsuits and everybody is just appalled by what’s happened. I guess the rest of the show will include the lawsuit and ‘examine’ child abuse as its theme.

There’s only a few problems with this show and its premise:

1. None of the characters are likeable
2. Most of them have all kinds of weird dysfunctional behavior so they aren’t exactly in a position to judge
3. The kid who was slapped was essentially unharmed and is the most unlikeable of them all
4. The parents of the child are almost as unlikeable as the kid
5. It has preachy written all over it.

If NBC or any network wants to take on the themes of family dysfunction and specifically child abuse I think they could find (if they tried) a story that actually looked at this very real problem instead of going for sensationalism and then feeling smug about it.

If you want my advice, avoid the show at all costs.

Writer Chick
Copyright 2015