Monday, September 13, 2010

Flipping for FLIPPED

Rob Reiner has long been one of my favorite directors. He is known for all sorts of wonderful, sentimental movies, like Sleepless in Seattle, The Princess Bride and Stand By Me. My husband swears that Stand By Me is an accurate portrayal of the friendship of young boys, complete with swearing and blood promises and tree houses. I recently showed The Princess Bride to my daughter, and we both enjoyed the sweet sentiment and hilarious, witty dialogue.

Reiner's latest movie, Flipped, held that same sort of nostalgic attraction for me. The setting of the late 50s, early 60s, brought me back to my own childhood and the fears and struggles I had with growing up and relating to boys.

Flipped is the story of a young boy and girl who meet when they are in 2nd grade and attend school together through junior high. When they first meet, the girl falls immediately for the young boy – there is something about his eyes, she says with a swoony expression on her face. The feeling is not mutual. The boy feels that Juli Baker is odd, annoying, and pushy.

The movie quickly shifts to their 7th grade year when Bryce notices Juli for the first time. Of course he has seen her and been annoyed by her his whole life. But suddenly he sees her in a new way– as a girl.

What makes this coming of age story unique is that the story is told twice – from two perspectives. The show flips back and forth from telling the story through Juli’s or Bryce’s viewpoint.

There were a few weaknesses to the story. I found the movie to be a bit slow overall – and I believe this has much to do with trying to tell the tale from two perspectives. While the idea of “he said, she said” is a fun one, it slowed down the story – and I found myself thinking, “Oh no – don’t repeat the whole scene again.”

The characterization also suffered in certain points. While the characters of Juli, Bryce and the grandfather were exceptionally strong, I was bothered by the extreme and off- putting portrayal of Bryce’s father. Played by Anthony Edwards of ER fame, the father comes off as harsh, angry and abusive. I felt like a less over the top portrayal of this character would have been far more convincing. At times, the show would switch its focus to the father or to Juli’s mentally-challenged uncle, and it felt like a distraction rather than an addition to the movie.

Parents will be pleased that this is a movie they can watch with their kids. There is little to hide from here. Other than one uncomfortable outburst of language where the father and teenage daughter exchange over-the-top harsh words, the movie is as sweet as the previews make it seem.

It also introduces great topics to discuss with your kids. Julie’s father tells her to consider the whole of a person and not just his or her appearance. Why are we attracted to people? What qualities can tarnish that attraction? When Bryce wonders about his courage, we can ask: When is it important to stand up for what is right? Why is it sometimes so difficult?

The movie makes you believe in true love and family and friendship. It speaks of giving from the heart and loving when it is hard. It shows families who stick together when times are tough and circumstances demand sacrifice. It shows a relationship between grandparent and child that struggles and then flourishes.

These are good things. And that is why any parent will probably flip for Flipped.
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