Recently I finished reading S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, a book people have been urging me to read for eons. After enjoying it immensely, I decided to watch the 1983 movie adaptation while the story was still fresh in my mind. As per usual with movie adaptations of books, some mixed feelings ensued.
One of the best parts of this film is the star-studded cast: Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Ralph Macchio, Tom Cruise, and several other famous actors play important roles. It feels strange to watch them at the beginning of their acting careers knowing what their future successes look like, especially because they look so young.
Moreover, I really appreciate the fact that this movie adaptation follows the book so closely. Many of the lines spoken are taken directly from the printed novel, and I love the way they incorporated Ponyboy as the narrator at the beginning and ending. It also has a feeling similar to that of the novel in the way it is simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming. Seeing the violence and hardships that the boys face is often balanced with the strong friendships between them, causing the viewer to want to hug them all for sticking together after all they’ve been through. As Johnny would proudly say, they stay gold.
With that being said, I think this movie adaptation proves that The Outsiders is much better suited for the page rather than the big screen. Many of the great lines and scenes for which this story is remembered (“Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.”) come across as overwhelmingly cheesy in the movie, whereas they seemed genuinely sweet and moving when I originally read it. Apart from the specific content itself, the general production of the movie did nothing but add to the “cheesiness.” From overly dramatic fading in and out to the weird angle from which we see Johnny’s face in the hospital (not only is it from beneath the hospital bed, but it’s slanted, too), the production makes select scenes appear almost comical.
Of course, this “cheesiness” could simply be a result of hindsight– the film was first released in 1983, after all. Film quality and effects have changed significantly in recent years, a fact that might help explain why this movie felt so amateurish, dare I say.
Despite my qualms, I did enjoy this movie adaptation of The Outsiders, although not as much as I appreciated the novel. Moving, entertaining, and undoubtedly memorable, this film is destined to be a part of your next eighties movie night.
What are your thoughts on The Outsiders, in movie and/or book form? What movies have you watched recently? Let me know in the comments section below!