Tag: coming of age


The Way, Way Back

July 28th, 2013 — 8:15am

The Way, Way Back***

The Way, Way Back- rm   It is not an easy feat to make a coming of age movie that gets grown adults to identify with a kid who is supposed to be 14 and barely looks that age. In our opinion Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (Oscar winning writers for the Descendants), the duo who wrote and directed this film (and also gave themselves small to medium acting roles in it ) successfully just did that with us. By the end we were rooting for the kid and had a tear in our eyes. Steve Carrell steps out of his comedic shoes and does a formidable job playing Trent, the intense but not quite true blue boyfriend of Pam (Toni Collette), who is taking  her son Duncan (Liam James) along with Trent’s  daughter to his summer New England beach house. Duncan is struggling with  his unhappiness with his divorced family and this summer excursion that he doesn’t want to be on. . They meet next door neighbor bubbly friendly Betty (Allison Janney) her son and daughter who become important characters in what unfolds. There are other summer people including a flirtatious housewife played by Amanda Peet. We begin to appreciate everybody’s situation and most of all how Duncan feels. The plot has a fairy tale quality but instead of a castle there is a big water ride and a bunch of grown ups who work at the water ride and befriend Duncan. The most improbable of this group is Owen  (Sam Rockwell). He is very funny, one of the supervisors of the water enterprise and immediately sensitive and insightful into the struggling Duncan. We would have to picture him as the big brother or ideal cool dad that we are sure Duncan  would have loved to have had . Owens’s girl friend is Caitlin (Maya Rudolph), a bit wiser than the others, but delightful. Two other workers in this water ride are blended into the story and are played as previously mentioned by the directors and writers of  the film. These director/writers should also get credit along with Mr. James who successfully inhabits Duncan for the sensitive depiction of the pain, suffering , determination and triumph that he projects on the screen  as he ultimately finds himself. (2013)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

The Spectacular Now

July 24th, 2013 — 3:37am

The Spectacular Now

***

The Spectacular Now –sp    If you are ready for a film about high school seniors that don’t turn into zombies or are “glee” fully dancing and singing, this film might catch your fancy. It is based on National Book Award 2008 finalist by author Tim Tharp which was adapted for the screen by Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber before a very thoughtful, intelligent director, James Ponsoldt was brought in to direct the film. The movie was R rated because the main  characters put whisky in their 7-up slurpies and have pocket flasks, talk about drinking and say and do things that high school seniors frequently say and do. Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) might not be the typical student but is probably one that exists in most high schools. He seemingly is the life of the party, first one in the pool with clothes on, goes through many girl friends, popular, well liked, not doing very well in school but he didn’t really care because he is “living in the moment.” Not surprising, he is from a divorced family being raised by single mom and never really had any role models. After he is dumped by his last girl friend he meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley) shy, not popular, smart, somewhat naïve and destined to change his life. We don’t know how their lives will ultimately progress (unless a sequel develops down the road) and one of us hopes that “therapy” would be in the cards for someone like Sutter. However, it  is the interaction between these two that provides us insight into Sutter’s personality, which gives this movie the depth and intensity to merit the attention of both young and older film viewers.(2013)

1 comment » | 3 Stars, Drama, Romance

The Kings of Summer

May 24th, 2013 — 7:28am

The Kings of Summer***

The Kings of Summer –sp  We know that adolescents have the tasks of  asserting their independence from their parents.  In this comedic yet poignant film, we see how the parents can more or less “call the question” and bring about a unique method of trying to do this. Frank Toy ( Nick Offerman) is a widower who seems quite self centered and has no empathy for his 15 year old son Joe  (Nick Robinson). Mr. and Mrs. Keenan(Mark Evan Jackson and Megan Mullally) on the other hand were so well-meaning but intrusive to their son Patrick (Gabriel Basso) that we could easily see how life was unbearable for him. So during the summer Joe and Patrick agree to disappear from their everyday life and are joined by Biaggio (Moises Arias) another kid their age who is quirky and weird but very loyal. They go deep in the woods near their homes and find a clearing  where they cobble together a hidden sort of two story house in which they plan to live. They forage for food, even kill a rabbit and occasionally sneak out to a nearby Boston Market where they pick up the left over food. But they are really gone, out of sight and even the police can’t find them although they did figure out that they must have run away. Their house in the woods is of course an allegory for their burning desire to develop and build their freedom. This screenplay is by Chris Galletta and the direction by Jordan Vogt-Roberts who is spreading his own wings  on his first feature film. While they skillfully capture the essence of this time of life, it is the chemistry between the three adolescents which holds our interest and tells the universal story of young people who yearn to be free but ultimately must wait their turn and hopefully find the best vehicle to express themselves. This movie would seem to appeal to at least mid teenagers and everyone who remembers what it was like to be one. Interestingly though , the filmmakers chose to make an R rated movie just because of a few F words spoken quite naturally. This means that they can’t advertise the film to teens but will have to hope that they will end up in theatre along with the all the post teens who get the message that this is not just a kid’s movie. (2013)

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

The Perks of Being A Wallflower

April 13th, 2013 — 7:53pm

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - review****

The Perks of Being a Wallflower-nf.  Stephen  Chobosky wrote  the book in 1999 and it became #1 New York Times Best Seller for Children’s Paperback Books. 3 years later in September 2012 this PG- 13 movie was released with Chobsky as Director and Screenwriter with ensemble of young actors including Logan Lerman, Emma Watson (fresh out of Harry Potter ), Mae Whitman (from the TV hit Parenthood), Ezra Miller, Johnny Simmons along with some veteran grownups such as Paul Rudd, Dylan McDermott and Joan Cussick. They all seem to hit it out of the ballpark and come through with a very successful movie. It certainly is a film that appeals to teens and beyond. In fact, anyone who can remember his or her high school life or even more important appreciates the serious struggles, and at times traumas that young people may go through, will relate to this film on many levels. It would  be over simplifying to describe this as a coming of age film which of course it is . However, it captures the ability of young people to connect with each other, understand, empathize and help each other through the  normal traumas of life as well as the some real bad ones that nobody should have to experience. The storyline on one hand is not typical. Charlie (Logan Lerman), a high school freshman with more baggage than most, is dreading the four years in front of him. He befriends  two high school seniors  Pat and Sam ( Ezra Miller and Emma Watson, who completely loses her British accent for this movie) and hangs around mostly with them and their friends. The setting is a high school in Pittsburgh (the author, screenwriter and Director’s town) and the time would seem to be early or mid 1980s as judged by the music, type of telephone and cars and even the typewriter on which the main character writes his story. There is the requisite lonely time in the lunch room, going to your first party, getting high on a marijuana brownie, truth or dare game, first kiss, the struggle of a gay friend, a lunchroom fight, applications to college etc,. But at the same time these milestones of high school are shown, there is a painful plot and character development with meaningful relationships, which you know, are never forgotten no matter how and where we grow up. Chobosky is writing and directing a film about the 1980s and the music will help bring those of that generation back to their high school days. However, the themes are universal enough to attract today’s youth ( as indicated by the success of the book and movie today) Even us old timers give it a “thumbs up” (with a nod to the movie critic Roger Ebert who died last week.) It would not surprise us if the movie moves towards a cult status and as these young actors make names for themselves, it will be especially interesting to look back at these youthful performances. Any such retrospective should include the Netflix commentary special feature where the actors comment on how it felt making this film about typical teenagers when they admit their teenage life was far from typical. (2012)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

Mamitas

April 26th, 2012 — 6:29am

****

Mamitas- sp  This is a coming of age movie that takes place in East Los Angeles. Jordin Juarez (EJ Bonilla) is a bright defiant high school student living with his dad and brother and close to granddad (Pedro Armendariz, Jr.). His mother died at his birth and this “know it all guy” on the outside, with a lot of baggage on the inside, wasn’t sure where he was going but it wasn’t going to be college. The tagline of the movie is “You never know who will change your life forever and in this case it is Felipa (Veronica Diaz), visiting cousin of one of the local high school “chics.”  Felipa , big glasses and hidden good looks is hoping for a college scholarship but she too has her family secret. There is an interesting storyline but it isn’t as important as appreciating the slowly developing chemistry between these characters as well as the authentic East LA Latino setting. The movie was written and directed by first time feature filmmaker Nicholas Ozchki who met one of producers while they were both students at Chapman Film School. They subsequently have formed Right Brain Films, a group we are going to hear more about in the future.  EJ Bonilla first came to our attention in another recent film where he magnificently played a completely different character, which was, that of a young man who danced with his girl friend who was in a wheel chair in Musical Chairs. His mannerisms, charm and angst in the current role in Mamitas is also a tour de force as is the entire movie. (2012)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Romance

Let Me In

September 30th, 2010 — 5:54pm

****

Let Me In- sp You probably don’t want to see this movie unless you like Vampire films with all the blood, gore and death, so they can live another day. But if you like this genre you will get a lot more than just the horror show. It is a very touching story of the coming of age of two 12 years old kids (even if one is 250 years old in a 12 year old’s body) which beautifully shows the innocence of adolescent awakening. There is a very vivid and painful depiction of  bullying by young people which reminds us of the dread that a kid who is the victim of it will feel every day. When there is revenge for this type of treatment, you can imagine what a Vampire. can do. The audience also experiences a palpitating anticipation, which is served up in this type of a movie and greatly helped by a music score with appropriate sound effects which reverberates through your body.  This is all the work of Matt Reeves, who wrote the screenplay based on the novel  Let The Right One In and a Swedish movie by the same name. Reeves who made Cloverfield, was a guest speaker at our screening of this film. He was very clear on what he wanted to achieve, apparently keeping true to parts of the novel, paralleling the European film and writing from some of his own childhood experiences. He used two excellent child actors, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace-Moretz and allowed them to teach him what a 12 year old might feel in these  unusual situations (of course this required them to rev up their imaginations to the fullest). They really did an outstanding job as did Richard Jenkins who was put in the role of a most evil person and yet the audience almost wanted him succeed in his grim tasks. Be aware that about 20 % of our screening audience which probably didn’t know what the subject matter was going to be, walked out on the movie during the first 15-20 minutes. There certainly was no one under 40 in those walkers. If they had stayed until the end they might have appreciated the thoughtful writing, excellent acting and a top notch Vampire film.(2010)

Comment » | 4 Stars, Drama, Horror, Romance, Thriller

Real Women Have Curves

September 9th, 2010 — 4:19am

Real Women Have Curves

* * *
Real Women Have Curves
– nf – This movie was made eight years ago but some of the themes should resonate with many people today. The movie was received very well at the Sundance Film Festival in the year in which it came out. It is set in East Los Angeles in a Mexican-American community and focuses on Ana, an attractive very bright but definitely not thin teenager who is about to graduate from High School. One of her teachers, played in a warm sensitive manner, by comedian George Lopez, can help her get a scholarship to Columbia University but her mother expects her to work in the dress factory run by her sister which makes dresses sold for $18 apiece to a distributor which eventually are sold Bloomingdales for $600 each. The film shows a caring and understanding father and grandfather in contrast to the mother who was completely mired in her old country values and her own needs. There also is a coming of age and a sexual awakening, which is nicely depicted. Perhaps the most effective theme of the movie is suggested by its title. We see Ana maintaining a positive image of herself despite an appearance that others might consider overweight. (We aren’t talking about a “Precious” body but the curves are larger than usually seen in Vogue). America Ferrera ( star of Ugly Betty on TV), making her screen debut, playing Ana does a great job showing her confidence, inner and outer beauty as well as her determination which is demonstrated as she confidently walks through many streets of Los Angeles and eventually in New York. Most of the other characters were played by experienced Mexican actors who were excellent, as was the direction by Patricia Cardosa. The movie was mostly in English but there were substantial dialog in Spanish. I would advise that you choose the option on the DVD to show subtitles whenever Spanish was spoken although that is not essential to appreciate the movie. While everyone can enjoy and understand the main character and her family, this movie should have special appeal to teenagers and those who have gone through these trials and tribulations. 2002

Comment » | 3 Stars, Comedy, Drama

Quinceañera

September 6th, 2010 — 2:13am

* * *
Quinceañera
– nf – This film sweetly tells the story of a young girl of Mexican descent just before her “coming out debut” on her 15th birthday. Issues of immigrant families, coming of age, family dynamics, difference and acceptance. 2006

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

Our Song

September 6th, 2010 — 2:11am

* * *
Our Song
– nf – This was an interesting “coming of age” story about three girls living in Brooklyn in difficult circumstances. They belonged to a terrific marching band which held practices which bonded them together and provided some stability in their lives. The dialogue and situations were so real that their confusion, dreams and pain were palpable. 2000

Comment » | 3 Stars, Drama

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