Warning: this review contains spoilers of the movie.
Shortly, after reading The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, I felt the need to watch the movie because A. the book was so good that I wanted to see how it was adapted, and B. I wanted to see films that didn’t involve solving the race issue by the end of it. Now that I have watched the flick, I can say that it retains the same emotional core as the book albeit with some good and not-so-good changes
Since the novel itself is nearly 450 pages, it’s not hard to see why Audrey Wells – the person who wrote the screenplay – had to condense the material into a movie that is a little over two hours. A good chunk of what happens in the book involves Starr waiting before getting interrogated by the police and later interviewed by a local news station. Those were cut out. Then, there were scenes that were given multiple pages, but only bits of screen time and even rearranged in the film. For example, in the book, the conversation among Starr, Seven, and Chris about how one is white occurs while they are trying to evade the rioting. In the flick, this exchange actually happens after they leave the prom and go to the Carter residence, so Chris can meet Starr’s parents. In the novel, Chris doesn’t meet Maverick and Lisa until Seven’s graduation party. Wells understood that that conversation needed to be retained for the movie, and while it effectively breaks up the tension in the book, it would have taken away the gravitas of the climatic rioting in the movie.
In addition, certain elements were cut out entirely. The character Devante was in the book to show why Khalil would have ended up selling drugs as well as to display more of Maverick’s compassionate side as he tries to get him off the streets. I only felt his absence halfway into the movie because there were scenes that illustrate Maverick’s caring side, and they make it clear in the beginning that Khalil was selling drugs. In the novel, it is more ambiguous. Moreover, the Carter family moves out of Garden Heights into a nicer neighborhood in the book. In the film, they end up staying in Garden Heights, despite Lisa’s protests early on to move out. This drives home the points that they are still willing to help out their community despite its troubles and that Starr has become more comfortable with where she is from and how that will always be a part of her.
Also, there were scenes that were not in the book at all. At the end of the movie, Starr goes into Rosalia – Khalil’s grandmother’s house – to retrieve his Harry Potter wand. While this is absent from the book, it gives the audience a visual reminder that Starr will always remember Khalil and to speak out against injustice. Meanwhile, one of the most profound examples of this is Sekani – Starr’s little brother – pointing the gun at King after the latter tried to burn down the grocery store. As my mom and I were watching it, we were shocked and tried to figure out if that was in the book or not. As far as I remember, it wasn’t, but I get why it was in the film. It serves as a powerful visual representation of the THUG LIFE acronym that is echoed throughout both the novel and film.
On the other hand, there were some alterations that didn’t quite sit right with me. One of these is with the character Maya – Starr’s Asian friend. In the book, after Starr and Hailey have their huge fight, Maya confesses to the former that the latter had said some incredibly racist stuff while at her house for dinner. As a result, they form a pact to stand by each other’s side. In the movie, this is cut out. In fact, after the fight, Maya is seen rushing over to Hailey. This makes it seem that Maya is taking Hailey’s side, whereas in the book, this is not true at all. I’m not the first one to notice this, nor will I be the last.
The biggest complaint that I have with this adaptation is how Khalil and the scene where he gets killed are depicted. In the novel, Khalil is portrayed as a nice and friendly guy who happens to own an expensive pair of Air Jordans. The movie makes him more of a life of the party who can come off as a douchebag at times. In addition, right before Khalil and Starr get pulled over, he tries to kiss her, which wasn’t in the book. Afterwards, Khalil says that someday, Starr will be with him.
I’m sure that this was not what Wells was intending, but I think that this has to do something with the performance. A lot of the actors in this movie (including Amandla Stenberg as Starr and Russell Hornsby as Maverick) act the heck out of it, and it made me feel for them. The guy who played Khalil didn’t give me that because of his actions prior to the character’s death. It didn’t help that he was giving a very smug smile during his scenes. Another crucial change is that the officer who pulls them over actually gives an explanation why he did that. Now of course, I understand that there are some officers that will give vague statements of why they pull people over, and this was certainly the case. In addition, Khalil even reaches out for his hairbrush when he gets shot in the movie, while in the book, he simply moved just to see if Starr was okay. Along with Khalil not being complacent, these make him all the more blameworthy as much as I want to avoid victim blaming. I guess that Wells was trying to make the officer’s actions a little more justifiable, but in the end, it makes Khalil more responsible for his death. I mean the entire movie is about trying to speak out what truly happened that night.
Overall, The Hate U Give movie is a very good adaptation of the book of the same name. There were some drastic changes, but most of them still retained the same emotional core as the novel. As I briefly mentioned, the acting was mostly top notch, who understood their characters very well. While the novel is in many ways better than the movie (as most who get film adaptations are), I would still definitely recommend watching it even if one hasn’t read the book. It’s a very important film that empathetically represents what’s happening now with the riots against police brutality.
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