Young adult film adaptations have been out of fashion lately in the world of both film and television. After the boom that happened after the success of both Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games. It seemed as if every studio and every TV Network was adamant about adapting a young adult book series in order to create a multi-billion dollar franchise. Of course, the results were not that prolific and most attempts fell very quickly into obscurity, releasing just one movie or season of TV before seeing their end.
Instead of adapting these huge dystopias or science fiction books that require huge budgets and tons of post-production. The studios decide to go on a more simple route, and now the business is adapting these small teen romance books that have huge fan bases. Netflix has already proven that the formula works with movie adaptations for “To All The Boys I Ever Loved”, and many more. This is what people want and this is what they will get. Now it is Amazon‘s turn to take on the formula.
The Summer I Turned Pretty is a TV show developed by Jenny Han, herself the author of the books. Han has managed to be at the front of adapting her own material and to do it she has gathered a great cast that includes Lola Tung, Jackie Chung, Rachel Blanchard, Christopher Briney, Gavin Casalegno, Sean Kaufman, and David Iacono. The series tells the story of Belly, a tomboy who travel every single summer to the summer house of her mother’s best friend. There she meets with her mother’s friend’s sons, and they have established a small family.
Now that Belly is all grown up, things are different, hormones are getting out of control, and the boys that were her friend in childhood are not potential romantic interests. The show basically works inside the structure of the ugly swam and shows Belly getting out of her shell and accepting that she is as pretty, and maybe even more so, than most girls out there.
The Summer I Turned Pretty works really well, a sort of story that makes you feel safe and comfy. That is probably the whole purpose of the show. Teens are able to relate with Belly and her friends on a close level, as they might also be living in the same situation as her. While adults might find the summer love story as a punch of nostalgia, they needed to remember the old good days. Either way, Han has managed to create a show that is completely harmless, but entertaining.
Lola Tung, who plays the role of the protagonist, Belly, is really the breakout star of the show. She is pretty indeed, but she also expels this good girl energy that is often commended in many other shows nowadays, where girls need to be strong and almost harsh to be able to be taken seriously. Belly doesn’t need any of that. She is a tomboy, sure, but she is quite feminine, and she shows that being like that doesn’t make her weak or undesirable at all.
While Belly’s storyline of trying to find love is quite gripping and entertaining, the adults also have a spotlight during the show, and sometimes that story is quite more compelling that the perfect one that is living Belly. Blanchard, and Chung play the roles of the mothers of the teens in the show, they are best friends, and both of them are in very rough patches. The way they support each other and the way they start developing themselves throughout the season, are maybe the highlight of the show, which is something you didn’t expect.
Visually, the show is quite tame. The cinematography makes good use of some of the open spaces, like the beaches and the pears, but everything is very mundane. None of the directors really makes an effort to deliver powerful images, instead of doing that they are content with letting the story talk itself. This makes the show quite boring on a visual level, but again, what really matters here is the illusion that Belly’s story is trying to sell, and it does it very well.
Besides Belly, and the mothers, the rest of the cast, or to be more specific the male cast isn’t really compelling. All the boys seem to be manufactured in the same place, and something it is difficult to distinguish one from the other. Most of them are not really there to be proper characters, and their development often defaults to making them function as stereotypes. This is not a bad thing, but it isn’t good either, it is just a bit mediocre.
This unbalance in the way characters are treated only comes from the fact that girls are the main target for this type of show. Some would say that male-targeted shows do the same the other way around, but a positive plus a negative doesn’t equal a positive. It is a shame. A better balance in the way characters are developed would have opened more of the target audience for the show.
The Summer I Turned Pretty is entertaining. It is the perfect fantasy every girl wishes they could have and even when things start getting serious, there is always an answer and an exit to every problem. This is what makes the show as comfy as it is, fantasies don’t need to have huge explosions or magic. Sometimes wishful thinking is just enough.