Returning to territory similar to what he explored in his landmark 1986 film about pre-teen adolescence, Stand By Me, the Oscar nominated and much-loved Rob Reiner proves he knows this era of life well and scores again with one of his finest films in years. A story of awkward first love told from the dueling points of view of a pair of seemingly mismatched eighth graders, Flipped soars. Set in the years between 1957 and 1963 and with a soundtrack chock full of golden oldies, this sweet and perceptive film may initially appeal more to nostalgia-inclined parents than their modern kids, but ultimately should find appreciative audiences on all sides of the age spectrum. In an unusual move for majors these days, Warner Bros plans to treat this more as a specialty item, platforming in early August before going wide at the end of the month. Tender loving care is just what this gem of a movie needs.
Based on Wendelin Van Draanan's coming of age novel, Reiner and co-scripter Andrew Scheinman start their slight but recognizably human story off in 1957, when neighbors Juli Baker (Morgan Lily) and Bryce Loski (Ryan Ketzner) are in the second grade. Juli enjoys collecting eggs from her chickens and reveling in the sanctity of trees, particularly the prized Sycamore in her front yard. She becomes smitten with Bryce who doesn't exactly see things the same way she does. Things change as years go by and the story moves ahead six years to 1963 as these two eighth graders on the cusp on teendom suddenly begin viewing each other with different eyes. Juli (Madeleine Carroll) takes a stand for her threatened tree and starts thinking maybe Bryce isn't "all that," and Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) begins to see things he never saw before in this unusual girl. The majority of the film is made up of different encounters the two have with each other in scenes that are played twice: once from the point of view of Juli, then Bryce (or vice-versa, hence the significance of the movie's title). Reiner employs a lot of voice over narration from each to set each sequence, and although the device could easily become tedious it never does. Seeing the same situation from distinct vantage points succeeds in painting a picture of a budding relationship with greater depth and understanding in this junior battle of the sexes.
Like he did in Stand By Me, Reiner has brilliantly cast the picture, this time with the irresistible Carroll (Swing Vote) playing the older Juli with grace and spunk and with Australian (no trace of an accent here though) McAuliffe perfectly matched. A scene in which he is "auctioned off" for lunch to the highest bidding girl in the class is priceless, especially as it is told from both perspectives. The parental roles are less pivotal but well-played by Anthony Edwards and Aidan Quinn as the dads, Penelope Ann Miller and Rebecca De Mornay as the moms and the wonderful John Mahoney as Grandpa. The social and political issues of the times are touched on but Reiner keeps the focus almost entirely on his young leads and unlocks a lot of the innocent recognition of those first feelings between boys and girls in this completely winning, wonderfully perceptive movie. This is a beautifully crafted and special movie to cherish, one likely to stay with you long after most of the so-called summer blockbusters have faded into memory.
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Cast: Madeleine Carroll, Callan McAuliffe, Anthony Edwards, Aidan Quinn, Penelope Ann Miller, Rebecca De Mornay, John Mahoney and Morgan Lily
Director: Rob Reiner
Screenwriters: Rob Reiner & Andrew Scheinman
Producers: Rob Reiner and Alan Greisman
Rating: PG for language and some thematic material
Running time: 90 min.
Release date: August 6 ltd., August 27, 2010