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Flipped

December 28, 2010

Flipped

There’s a time in life when everything is simple and the world is a beautiful place, but for some minor annoyances. And then one day you turn around and everything is different. Everything you knew for certain is wrong; the world is a much larger place and, though it may not be ugly, it’s far more complicated than beautiful. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it comes on so slowly that it feels like it did. You look backwards and can’t quite figure out how you got here from there, and how you could have missed so much along the way.

Flipped catches two young teenagers just at the cusp of this greater awareness, but it starts by looking back half their lives to the day Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe) moved in across the street from Juliana Baker (Madeline Carroll), and the day she flipped at the first sight of him. Over the next seven years she’s a perpetual thorn in his side, mooning over him and waiting for the day he’ll finally give her her first kiss. He, of course, wants nothing to do with her.

As time goes on, life slowly builds up around them in that way it has. Bryce’s snubs and slights start to sink in, and Juli comes to think he might not be as wonderful as she once knew he was. And after having her devoted attention for so long, Bryce finds himself missing Juli’s constant annoying presence. The tide has turned, and he chases after her with the same ardor she once held for him.

If it were just a simple boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl story, it could be cute enough. But the world is never really that simple. Juli’s parents (Aidan Quinn and Penelope Ann Miller) and Bryce’s (Anthony Edwards and Rebecca De Mornay) are both more complicated than the caricatures most movie parents tend to be. The one adult who has the perspective to understand what’s going on with everyone is Bryce’s grandfather Chet (John Mahoney), who befriends Juli as well. While their families aren’t the primary focus, the kids learn as much about life’s complications from them as they do from their own changing relationship.

The film is wisely set in the early 1960s, just before life got more complicated for everyone, and when the cracks are just beginning to show. It’s also familiar ground for adapter, producer, and director Rob Reiner, whose Stand By Me is one of the classic coming-of-age movies of all time. And it’s to Reiner’s great credit that he can make such a sweet and touching movie out of what is, on its face, a lot of sadness and pain, made even sharper by the fact that it’s all so new.

Partly that credit is due to the supporting cast, who provide exactly the right environment for Carroll and McAuliffe to shine. Edwards convincingly portrays a father that could easily lapse into self-parody, and usually does in other movies. Quinn brings an unexpected depth to a relatively peripheral character, particularly in one scene at the midpoint, and in a heartbreaking sequence at the end of the first hour.

But it’s Mahoney’s Chet who ends up setting the tone, kindly and sadly wise in turn, but never cloyingly so. He has character in the way Phil speaks about in The Big Kahuna, and indeed it’s written all over his weary, nostalgic face.

It is, though, a very wordy film. Almost all the action takes place inside Juli and Bryce’s heads, and there’s really no way to externalize it all except through their alternating narration. In a way, the scenes are more there to illustrate their words than the words are there to tie the scenes together. But while this device can bog things down, it also allows us to see many of the key points from both sides. It gives us the perspective to see the whole story — in all its stupid, silly messiness and complication — looking backwards, the only way we ever can.

Worth it: especially on DVD, there’s no excuse not to see this movie.
Bechdel test: fail, which is sort of disappointing since Juli is actually the more fleshed-out of the two.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jubayer permalink
    July 10, 2011 17:51

    Man your review makes me sad. Not sad because of the movie or that I disagree with the review, just sad personally. I would have loved to been a kid and met a sweet girl at such a young age. It’s totally true what Chance Wayne said in Sweet Bird Of Youth; the difference between people is not rich or poor, good or evil. The biggest difference between people are those who have had pleasure in love and those that haven’t. I think what I miss about that age (and why I pine for the romance in it) is that it’s the last grasp of innocence you have in this world. You’re right, after that, all life changes. It loses the magic – or maybe that’s just in my head. Now all I have are these weird longings to go back in time and live a life completely different from my own. Like a dream taking place in another time when I was still young, still strong and full of feeling. What I would trade to have a sweet girl-next-door like some of these lucky fellas who then proceed to mess it up. I even shed a tear reading this review; it touched me and for that I’m grateful. But I am a sad man right now. Don’t live life as a romantic folks, it’s just too painful. Sentimentality can feel like a prison sometimes.

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