Sunday, May 23, 2010

Fiction to Film - Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

The Fiction
Author: Dyan Sheldon
Publisher: Walker Books, 1999
Length: 301 pages
Genre: Young Adult

Mary Elizabeth (more commonly known by her chosen stage name, Lola) has been cruelly forced to relocate from the bright lights of New York City to suburban Dellwood, New Jersey. Instead of fading away and aclimatising to life at Deadwood High, Lola takes on Queen Bee, Carla Santini, in a fierce battle for the lead role in the school’s theatre production of Pygmalion. At the same time, Lola's world is rocked by news of her favourite band splitting up, and in true drama queen form, she drags her new friend Ella on a wild chase through New York in order to see the band perform for the last time.

Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen is a lively and fun read. Sheldon captures a unique voice in Lola, bringing the right mix of bravado, ambition and wit. Lola is completely over-the-top and out of control, and yet you can't help but like the aspiring actress (I feel like she is the type of person that in real-life would probably irrate me a lot, but I find her endearing on paper at least). Whilst it may sound like a fairly trivial and light-hearted tale of cliques and high school musicals, there is a positive message about self confidence and friendship at it's heart, which is hard to fault.

The Film
Director: Sara Sugarman
Screenwriter: Gail Parent
Studio: Disney
Release Date: June 2004
Cast: Lindsay Lohan (Lola), Alison Pill (Ella), Megan Fox (Carla), Eli Marienthal (Sam) and Adam Garcia (Stu Wolf)

I think the success of this film adaptation is from having cast the right Lola. Now I know Lohan is currently a total mess, but I think she had a fantastic career up until 2006 (I'll include pretty much everything from Freaky Friday to Bobby) and was a talented young actress. I'll leave further discussion of her later antics, DUIs and rehab to people like Perez and ONTD, but I do feel like she has thrown away was a once promising career. In Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, Lohan is fresh-faced and dynamic. Her Lola is engaging and has great comic timing. Whilst at times she borders on completely over-exaggerated, it completely works for the character.

Argh, I think she was so fresh and pretty. I miss the freckles and red-hair!

Lohan is able to capture all aspects of Dyan's Lola and her vibrant personality. Alison Pill breathes new life into Ella Gerard, who on paper is completely outshined by effervescent Lola. Pill is very endearing as Ella, and her performance, especially in her confrontation scene with Lola, brings a new dynamic to the character.

I also felt that Gail Parent's screenplay adaptation provided a better sense of conclusion. The novel's ending seemed a bit of a let-down after such an action and drama filled plot, and left Lola's possible romantic future unresolved. The film, however, manages to fairly successfully tie up a range of sub-plots with style and in a manner satisfying to the intended audience - Stu Wolf decides to stay sober, Carla and Lola call truce and romantic potential in Sam is fully realised (I felt he was under-utilised in the Confessions novel).

I love that the film actually allows you to see Lola on-stage in the play (made into a musical called Eliza Rocks!). As a drama geek, I wished the book spent a bit more time on the actual production itself. It's kind of very High School Musical and super corny, but it's very fun (in a guilty pleasure kind of way) and fitting to the film's style.

What I probably found most enjoyable about the film adapation is it's strong visual style. I give major snaps to the entire production design department! The style is spot-on at capturing the tone of the original novel, and is lovely to look at. The costumes in particular, are amazing, with Lola's look paying homage a range of Hollywood starlets and style icons.

Overall, I think Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen translated pretty well to the silver screen. I do think that the involvement of Disney did mean the film is adapted more towards a tween audience (rather than the teen reader the book is intended for). Whilst I felt that some of the comedy and sarcasm of the novel was toned down to suit the marketed (younger) viewer, the visual style sets the film apart from other films in the mid noughties tween genre (like Sleepover and A Cinderella Story). The screenplay makes the most of the source material and the finished production retains most of the spirit of the novel.

For a further discussion of the costumes (my favourite part of the film) and some cute stills, please continue reading below the cut.

Seriously, major snaps for head of costumes, David C. Robinson!
I love all the different looks the costume department put together for Lola. It perfectly captures her Hollywood aspirations, mixed with a strong sense of character and op-shop budget. Lola's mourning outfit (following the news that Siddartha has split up) is amazing, and fits the story so well.

The opening is an obvious nod to Breakfast at Tiffany's (Lola is daydreaming about not having to leave New York). I love that they have been able to put a slight modern spin on the look, and retain Lola's signature bottle-cap necklace (with a pearl finish to sophisticate it up). 

Only Lola would wear this on her first day. It made me think of Cher meets Sienna Miller.

Carla is also perfectly styled. She's very (overtly branded) chic and I love that her minions try to emulate every one of her outfits.

Even the sporting and athletic wear is spot on - Carla in Juicy Couture and Lola in a New York Knicks jersey, cap and high-tops. This scene (in which a conversation takes place during a dance battle at a video arcade) is really well done.

I feel like Lola is totally channeling Fame with this rehearsal outfit.

A cute take on Victorian, as she auditions for the role of Eliza in Pygmalion.

There are so many more outfits I didn't include (or couldn't cap). I wouldn't really call myself a 'fashion person', but I've always been interested in film and theatre costumes.

I also really liked the use of animation in the film (which normally really annoys me - like in Lizzie Maguire) but it was just minimal enough that it didn't overpower the scenes it was utilised in. I also didn't take enough screencaps, but I also adored the set decoration (okay, getting super nerdy here). Lola's room is totally over-the-top and fantastic, and Stu's (imaginary) apartment above reminds me of something from an early 60s rom-com.


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