Charlie St. Cloud

It started with my interest in wanting to see the movie. Mostly because I have an undeniable weakness and love for Zac Efron. Then I found the movie-tie in of the book with Zac’s lovely face on the cover. I had no idea that it had been a book, and of course I had to find out how they compared.

Sherwood, Ben. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud (2004). 277 pages. Bantam Dell. $12.99.

I started with the book. The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud is told from the perspective of the paramedic who saved Charlie’s life. Charlie was in a tragic car accident, which resulted in Charlie being brought back to life and the unfortunate death of his younger brother, Sam. Fast forward 13 years later, Charlie works at a graveyard and, due to a promise he made, plays baseball with this spirit of his dead brother every day at sunset. Charlie’s ability to see his dead brother also allows him to converse with other spirits, and clearly illustrates that he is not truly living hence his “death”. Everything begins to change once he meets a girl, Tess.

I was initially very confused in the beginning, when the story started from the viewpoint of the dead paramedic who once saved Charlie’s life. Despite that, the story telling was simple and straight forward and, I admit, I was drawn in and teared up at the emotional bits. I like Charlie’s character and the bond he has with Sam. I also really like Tess and the connection she has with Charlie. I really cared about the characters and what happened to them.

Although I liked the characters, the writing itself had some issues. The twist to the story wasn’t much of a twist, as I predicted it several pages before it actually happened. The symbolism was a little overdone in comparing Charlie’s “life” to his “death”, and the ending was a little much. In the end, I realized that it was like the writer was trying too hard to be Nicholas Sparks, and kind of fell short. The one thing that bothered me the most was that Charlie had been working at the cemetery for thirteen years, he was 28 years old, and still playing baseball with his 12 year old brother. It just seemed a long time to be playing ball with your dead brother, and I just don’t see how the relationship between them would remain the same. Overall, I liked the story about Charlie, Sam, and Tess but the book seemed overwritten. I would rate the book 2.5/5.

Charlie St. Cloud (2010). Starring Zac Efron, Kim Basinger and Ray Liotta. Directed by Burr Steers. 99 minutes. $12.99.

I watched the movie soon after, and I was pleasantly surprised how close the movie was to the plot of the book. Charlie has a promising college career which abruptly ends with the death of his brother when he starts working at the graveyard instead. I thought the relationship in the movie between Charlie and Sam was played really well. The paramedic was a part of the story (played by Ray Liotta), but was not as big of a part as he was in the book. I pretty much just love Zac Efron, and I thought he did well.

One of the improvements from the book to the movie is that only 5 years pass from the death of his brother instead of 13. Charlie from the book is still hanging out with Sam when he is 28, while Charlie in the movie is only 22 or 23. I felt like it just made more sense. 13 years is a very long time to hold onto guilt, grief, and meetings with your dead brother every day at sunset. I felt like 5 years made a lot more sense. I don’t know why this little thing bothered me so much, but it made the characters in the movie more believable to me.

It still included the same twist to the story, which I felt wasn’t as predictable as it was in the book. I like the chemistry Zac Efron had with Tess (played by Amanda Crew). They filmed the movie in a north eastern harbor town that fit perfectly with where the book was set. I felt that the movie had all the good elements of the story, without the overwriting of the book. I would rate the film 3.5/5.