Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Movie with Abe: Flipped

Directed by Rob Reiner
Released August 27, 2010

Rob Reiner is an extremely versatile director who has successfully made legal thrillers (“A Few Good Men”), all-out thrillers (“Misery”), fantasy adventures (“The Princess Bride”), mockumentaries (“This Is Spinal Tap”), and most importantly, romantic comedies. His most iconic entry is “When Harry Met Sally,” another fantastic one is “The American President,” and then there’s his most recent flop, the multi-generational riff on “The Graduate,” the 2005 film “Rumor Has It…” Fortunately, Reiner is back on his game, adapting “Flipped,” the 2001 novel of the same name by Wendelin Van Draanen into a heartwarming and entirely entertaining comedy.

Trying to posit granddaughters and grandmothers on the same romantic plane really didn’t work well in “Rumor Has It,” so Reiner has wisely settled on just one generation now. It’s hardly like his past films, however, since the protagonists and budding lovebirds in this film are only in the eighth grade. This clever romance pits two young neighbors against each other by presenting conflicting viewpoints of their never quite on romance, perceived very differently by each of them. The “flipped” perceptions of reality aren’t black and white, and showcasing events in a way that doesn’t make either party seem completely crazy helps enhance the reality of the situation. While shy Bryce doesn’t actually like chatty Juli, it’s not hard to comprehend how the lovestruck Juli might misinterpret his actions to believe that she’s all he ever thinks about.

The film plays perfectly on the sentiments and tendencies of young boys and young girls, and the progression of Bryce and Juli from second graders to eighth graders offers amusing opportunities for change and development. The film is also set in the 1960s, which allows for heavy stereotyping and broadly-defined traits of the families (Juli’s clan, for example, is rather poor). A host of talented actors, most familiar from memorable television roles, including Anthony Edwards, John Mahoney, Rebecca De Mornay, Penelope Ann Miller, and Kevin Weisman, leads the cast, but they aren’t the real stars. Fifteen-year-old Callan McAuliffe, in his first feature film role, is just right as Bryce, often seen sporting a clueless, blank stare that demonstrates just how in over his head he is with Juli. The real star of the film is the magnificent Madeline Carroll, who at fourteen acts much older than her age but still delivers a convincing and winning portrayal of a thirteen-year-old girl. The two young leads have an excellent backdrop for their breakout roles, in this film that’s uncomfortable at times and absolutely hilarious at others. The trajectory of arcs is spot-on, and this is one delightful, terrific movie.


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