Looking for Alaska mini-series review

“Looking for Alaska”, a mini series on Hulu, is a perfect 2 a.m. binge series for your local hormonal teenagers.

I read the book “Looking For Alaska” by John Green about a year ago and immediately fell in love with the beautifully crafted characters. That said, I was elated but hesitant when the coming series was announced. Could the brilliance yet subtlety of the story be justly represented in a TV series? The answer is yes-the characters and story on the screen did not disappoint the ones on the page.

The basic story is this- a boy named Miles ‘Pudge’ Halter begins to attend Culver Creek Boarding School, where he is gone to search for what he calls “a great perhaps.” Yes, it is cheesy, but watching this series means dealing with (and maybe even enjoying) a little cheese. You may be able to guess the next part: he meets a girl. But, though Miles may want this to be the epic cheesy love story you’re expecting, John Green is too good for that. “Looking for Alaska” is a soup made just for angsty teenage tastebuds- ingredients include tragedy, comedy, coming of age, cheddar cheese, friendship, expectations vs. reality, mushrooms, prank inspiration and what comes after the mysterious veil of death. And don’t forget the subtle sprinkle of quirks and whim that’s a part of every John Green stew.

The “Looking For Alaska” screenplay was written by Josh Schwartz, best known for writing the Gossip Girl and Nancy Drew series. He did a magnificent job; the series flowed naturally, as if made for TV, but also reflected Green’s story and themes.

The cast was made up of a group of very talented actors: Kristine Froseth, Charlie Plummer and Denny Love. All three of their characters attend Culver Creek Boarding school, and become very close as the story progresses.

Kristine Froseth played Alaska Young, an eccentric charming teen girl with a lot of dreams and a tragic past. Froseth definitely had the most difficult job in the series, as Alaska is an extremely complicated character; she’s dark and wise, yet lovable, carefree and naive.

Froseth did a pretty good job with her character, but sometimes Alaska could feel a little too generic. She’s supposed to be this eccentric almost larger than life intense character, with a lot of thoughts and a tortured soul. Miles/Pudge even describes her by saying: “If people were rain, I was a drizzle and she was a hurricane.” The story would’ve been more captivating if they’d taken more risks with Alaska’s character, or at least taken less steps to normalize her. But aside from the fierceness that could have been applied to Froseth’s character, she was an excellent actor who compelled me to care for her.

Charlie Plummer portrayed the focus of the series, Miles Halter, who’s given the nickname ‘Pudge’- ironically because he’s very skinny. Pudge is the narrator of Green’s book and basically of the series too because they use him as somewhat of a plot tool through which we view the story. Pudge is by far the easiest character to relate to as a teen, and it’s fun to watch him meet new characters, take on new adventures, and explore deeper feelings than he’d ever felt before.

One of my favorite characteristics of Pudge is that he loves to memorize famous people’s last words, and a lot of the story focuses on some last words that Alaska tells Pudge when they first meet: General Simon Bolivar says, “Damn it, how will I ever get out of this labyrinth!” and then dies. If you’re curious as to how one gets out of the ‘labyrinth’ watch the show, maybe you’ll find out. Anyways, Pudge is a weird, flawed and naive lead- as is John Green’s tradition- but we love him and Plummer is a terrifically realistic and emotive actor.

The last character we’re going to discuss is Chip Martin (nicknamed The Colonel) played by Denny Love. “Looking for Alaska” was Denny Love’s first major TV role, and he delivered in every possible way. The Colonel is Alaska’s closest friend as well as Pudge’s roommate and best friend. He’s an intelligent character from a poor background with a great deal of integrity, moxy and an amusingly blunt humor. He’s quite close with his mother Dolores, and he says the best day of his life will be when he can buy her a nice big house and an easier life.

The Colonel was personally my favorite character in the series because of his very real and very lovable persona. Denny Love made us care for his character so deeply, he’s an exceptionally passionate and evocative actor.

The series might not be for everybody, but next Saturday night if you’re looking to fall in love with some characters, experience a mini-adventure inside your screen, and have a good cry, try out “Looking For Alaska,” you won’t be sorry.

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