Book to Box Office: YOU
Based On: YOU by Caroline Kepnes
Expected Release Date: N/A
Summary: When Brown University student Guinevere Beck purchases books from Joe Goldberg at a local shop, it’s a casual encounter to her, but to him it’s even more than a meet cute, it’s destiny. Joe uses her credit card and public social media pages to insert himself into her life, becoming continuously more obsessed the less interested she seems. When others in her life become skeptical over his affection for her, his courtship takes a much more deadly turn.
Working for It: To put quite simply, Joe is both the best and worst thing about YOU. He’s a unique type of villain, one who, partially because we read this story from his point of view, doesn’t always remind us that he’s the enemy. Kepnes’ narration from Joe’s perspective provides insight into a character who, at times, can be just as relatable as he is repulsive. Joe is smart, charming when he wants to be, and the kind of average guy we like to root for under normal circumstances. It’s too bad he’s both a sociopath and a psychopath. His internal logic makes mounds of sense in many cases, and Beck and her friends are not a group viewers would likely sympathize with, which makes the turn of events in this novel much more abruptly shocking to experience. If these characterizations are maintained in a film adaptation, it could make for a more psychologically layered, character-driven thriller than we often see in horror.
The other aspect of this story that makes YOU prime for adaptation is the foundation Joe uses for stalking his prey, ahem, I mean girlfriend. In 2014 we saw the horror movie Unfriended, advertised as a millennial targeted nightmare based on a user who invades an online group chat, which was mildly successful but not eerily realistic enough to genuinely disturb. The age of social media as a tool for murder and mayhem is ripe for the picking, and YOU utilizes these tools in a way that makes just enough sense that the premise and how it’s executed evolves organically from mildly troubling to completely terrifying.
Working Against It: As much as the character of Joe is the driving force behind what would make this book blossom on screen, he also could be the one to break it. YOU is written in first person, and the insight into every thought and feeling Joe has is pivotal to maintaining the integrity of the style and method behind Kepnes’s story. In a film version, the narration would have to be spot on to properly convey who Joe is and how he shares himself with the readers. If those behind a film version are unable to capture both sympathy and shock with his character, it could easily become just another generic attempt at a stalker slasher film.
Wild Card: Peach. The presentation and casting of this character has the potential to either make her the most complicated, feared, yet sympathetic player in this game, or a loud, selfishly shallow distraction. Beck’s possessive best friend could either steal the show or sink the whole ship depending on how she’s portrayed. If her obsession with Beck is handled properly and carefully and she is presented as a worthy adversary for Joe and his affection for Beck rather being cast aside as the annoyingly clingy and rude pal, we should be just fine.
Verdict: With careful casting and proper narrative packaging, YOU has the potential to be adapted into a uniquely unsettling film that exposes the vulnerabilities we leave ourselves open to when we share every aspect of our lives with virtual strangers.
Can’t wait to see Joe arrive in snowy Little Compton. https://t.co/MrURG7TLSS
— Caroline Kepnes (@CarolineKepnes) November 1, 2016
Featured Image: Atria/Emily Bestler Books