Flipped Review

Once they reach maturity (or at least become successful film directors), it seems that most adults lose the ability to relate to children on a fundamental level. This shouldn’t be a problem for Rob Reiner, who managed to bridge the two worlds with uncanny grace in The Princess Bride and provided a template for all coming-of-age films to follow with Stand By Me. Then he made North, which Roger Ebert rather infamously called the worst film that he had ever seen. Apparently unsatisfied to leave it at that, Reiner has coupled that film with Flipped, an exercise in nostalgia that initially strikes one as false, but as time goes by, seems more and more inverted and profoundly creepy. While a certain amount of nostalgia shouldn’t technically be a bad thing, there’s a point when longing for the past turns into outright contempt for the way that life naturally progresses, particularly when the period that one is romanticizing so is prepubescence.

Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe) is the most unlikeable kid that you ever knew. He’s callous, totally lacking in personality, and contemptuous of people that he considers inferior (most of these opinions are informed by his gruff, unlikeable father, played by Anthony Edwards). One of the people to so earn his contempt is Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll), who lives in a house with a poorly maintained lawn and whose father is labeled a dreamer by Bryce’s parents (based mainly on the fact that he paints as a hobby). Unfortunately, Juli quickly and inexplicably falls in love with Bryce the first instant that she sees him (when they are both eight years old), with the only explanation being that “there’s something in those eyes.” So commences a four year period in which Juli pursues Bryce almost obsessively (one sequence has her smelling his hair while he sits in front of her in class), while he either casually ignores her, degrades her to his friends and family, or chickens out completely when there comes an opportunity to defend her.

How do we know that he disagrees with his friends (one of whom strongly implies that she must be mentally retarded because she has an uncle who is, and is thus unworthy of his attention) or that all of his cruel behavior is simply a front for his true feelings for her? Because the film is underscored with his and hers matching voiceover monologues which manage to infiltrate nearly every scene. As they are each telling their own version of the story, numerous scenes are played over twice from different programs. One would hope that might lead to something interesting, but it doesn’t. It feels more like a device to stretch the film to a feature length. It is only barely more alienating than the exhausted 50s soundtrack, which seems to come in without cue every time that there’s a new scene. Considering that the source novel took place in the present day, one has to wonder what Reiner hoped to gain by supplanting it to the early 60s. The fact that he’s familiar with evoking the period might be one thing, but the film’s general desire to linger in the past is indicative of something else entirely.

With few exceptions, we all remember when we were twelve. We remember when we started becoming interested in having relationships, and we certainly remember the awkwardness trying to communicate that. But for the most part, none of us grown to adulthood now attribute a whole lot of meaning to those first steps, nor do we dwell on anything pre-high school (or even much later) as a great romance. Watching two middle school kids act out the beats of a great romance without the slightest hint that the director understands the transience of your feelings when you’re 12 years old is unnerving to say the least, but when coupled with a vision of sepia-toned past (complete with finned cars and overly elaborate haircuts) that fully acknowledges the close-minded nastiness of life in the 50s without really questioning it, you have a movie that’s projecting a very unhealthy psychology, one that seems utterly convinced that there is absolutely nothing to be gained by growing mature. It’s a decent enough sentiment for a greeting card or a candy wrapper, but when played out as a feature length film, it's enough to make you want to pay some taxes.

Blu-ray Bonus Features

The Blu-ray has a number of featurettes, being The Differences Between A Boy And A Girl, Embarrassing Egg-Scuses, and How To Make The Best Volcano, all featuring the two young actor leads.

 

"Flipped" is on sale November 23, 2010 and is rated PG. Children & Family. Directed by Rob Reiner. Written by Rob Reiner, Andrew Scheinman. Starring Anthony Edwards, John Mahoney, Madeline Carroll, Callan McAuliffe, Aidan Quinn, Rebecca De Mornay.

Dec
09
2010
Anders Nelson • Associate Editor

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