John Green is one of the biggest names in Young Adult fiction. Whether you’re familiar with his literary work or on YouTube, he has built a solid name and reputation with his work. When it comes to adaptations on his books, many jump to mention “The Fault in Our Stars” or “Paper Towns,” but there is another that people slept on; after a long road since its publication, John Green’s debut novel “Looking for Alaska” was adapted into an eight-episode miniseries on Hulu last year, to minimal fanfare.
Based on the novel by John Green, the series follows Miles Halter (Charlie Plummer), a teenager obsessed with the last words of famous people. For his junior year, he decides to leave his home in Orlando, Florida, and attend school at Culver Creek Academy, in order to seek “A Great Perhaps.” There, he befriends The Colonel/Chip Martin (Denny Love), Takumi (Jay Lee), Lara (Sofia Vassilieva), and Alaska Young (Kristine Froseth), a girl who Miles falls head over heels over. As he makes home in Culver Creek, he gets involved in the Colonel and Alaska’s shenanigans, avoiding trouble with the authoritative “The Eagle” (Timothy Simons), and falls for the enigmatic Alaska. When tragedy strikes, he and his friends are determined to find answers to a puzzle that may leave them with more questions than answers.
The cast is an amazing translation from the book. Each of the kids capture the spirit of the characters, with special credit going to Charlie Plummer and Kristine Froseth. Plummer captures the naivete of the the book version of his character, and Froseth fleshes out the enigmatic girl that Miles is obsessed with. Like many shows, the miniseries takes a third-person perspective. This allows for some of the minor characters to be fleshed out more. Dr. Hyde, played by Ron Cephas Jones, is given more depth of him having been an activist-scholar in the 60s, who lost his lover in the AIDS crisis. His performance works in a mentor role for Alaska and Miles. Along with Jones, Timothy Simons adds depth the character of “The Eagle.” We get snippets of his backstory with his marriage being affected by his job, his attempts to connect with the French teacher, and his lament to his strict ways in a pivotal scene in the penultimate episode. Going in, I was expecting Mr. Vernon from “The Breakfast Club,” a stick in the mud, authoritarian principal, and ended up with Mr. Feeny from “Boy Meets World,” a strict faculty member who deep down cares about the kids.
As previously mentioned, one of the advantages the miniseries is how it fleshes out details from the book while faithfully adapting the source material. Many of the scenes from the book felt authentic on the screen. And some of the details added fleshed out the world and made it seem like the world and characters capture an angle of adolescence.
While not as well-known as “The Fault in Our Stars,” this miniseries stands on its own while simultaneously being a brilliant transition from page to picture. The cast makes the characters come to life and feel like real life people. As far as adaptations go, this movie is up with some of the best page to picture translations.