He Feels, She Feels
Director Rob Reiner retreats to a safe zone with Flipped, a movie about a relationship between a junior high boy and girl during the early '60s, one that might be described as the complete opposite of daring. This would probably not be worth noting if the film were less aggressive in its use of comfortable, pandering devices such as being set in an ideal version of the past, adding a soundtrack which is a neverending parade of old hits of the time, and utilizing voiceover narration from beginning to end.
The movie is based on a book by Wendelin Van Draanen that's actually set in relatively current times, but obviously moving it back a few decades allows it to cater more strongly to folks longing for a large dose of nostalgia. In this way it's virtually guaranteed to find an audience receptive to good old warm and fuzzy feelings.
Although finding myself fairly annoyed by the obviousness of the methods used here, both in execution and goal, I thought the story was not without merits. It ping pongs back and forth between episodes experienced by the boy, Bryce (Callan McAuliffe), and those same episodes as experienced by the girl, Juli (Madeline Carroll). It starts with Juli having a big crush on Bryce, but as events transpire, her concerns become wider as Bryce, initially annoyed at Juli, begins to see her in a different light. The differences in their views and what they learn are so large it becomes comical, as we see Juli steadily building adult perspectives in various areas such as art and family, while Bryce's own view remains consistently narrow and nearsighted, as if frightened to acquire new truths. This is possibly an illustration of girls maturing faster than boys, but I also see it as a good lesson in how two people can have such an enormous gap between how they view things, even as they live in the same surrounding environments.
The two characters have inherent differences -- not only in their genders but also their social classes -- that contribute to their situation, but otherwise Flipped makes a point of being able to appreciate how they live in entirely different worlds despite being neighbors. The importance of understanding varying perspectives is always worth communicating, and Flipped, despite its cloying approach, manages to deliver this idea with a decent amount of sincerity intact.
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated "PG" for language and some thematic material.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.