Flipped. Such an odd name for a film. When I first heard it, I thought, “What kind of a name is that for a movie?” Doesn’t sound very promising does it? Now the title of a film is very important, especially after the last couple of years have been full of bad movies with bad titles. I know some people who have never seen American Graffiti because of its title (I happen to think that is clever). I also knew nothing of the plot of this film, nor anything about the cast. The only thing I knew going in was that Rob Reiner had directed it. Now you don’t know what you’re going to get form Rob Reiner, with everything from Misery to The Princess Bride under his belt, so that didn’t tell me anything about what I might be expecting.
So I went in flying completely blind. All I had to go on was a bad title and a good director (what should I be thinking says I). But, sometimes a movie’s quality is not represented by its title. This is a perfect example of such a film. There is a running theme in the film that “Sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” and this is certainly the case here. Of course, maybe if I had any idea of the superb leading and supporting cast, I might have done better addition. Not only is this a superbly put together film (meaning in screenplay, plot, and character development), but it captures the idea of “love” with such childlike innocence and simplicity that we can’t help but be entertained and touched by the whole package.
There is virtually no opening credits, drawing us right on in. The opening scene is such a jewel of nostalgia and innocence. We are introduced to our two main characters almost immediately. A young second grader named Juliana Baker and the new kid in town Bryce Losky (also in the second grade). She immediately takes a liking to him and starts to push herself onto him in a way only an eight year old girl can do. She chases him around school, gives him perpetual googly-eyed looks, and pretty much stalks Bryce for their entire time together from second to eighth grade. Bryce of course wants nothing to do with this odd duckling who raises chickens and sits up in an enormous sycamore tree to pass the time away. These two souls are continually at odds with each other, one chasing, the other running (maybe this is more like Misery than I thought). But then, in the eighth grade, their feelings begin to change. Bryce begins to think that the way Juli and her family behave and the quirky things they do are (in a way) sort of “cool” (I’m sorry, but it’s the only word that will work hear), and Juli begins to feel that maybe Bryce’s dazzling eyes are as empty as the rest of him, I mean, what jerk doesn’t care about people’s feelings for trees and chickens.
Okay, let’s dispense immediately with the idea that this film is geared toward teenagers and all of their sappy crap that they go through. I assure you “mature adults” out there that this film will delight you also, unless you are a completely hopelessly lost Scrooge. This film should make sense to all ages. Everyone should identify with it. I don’t care what kind of a snob, low-life, big wig, or puritan you are, you should enjoy this film. It’s never too sappy when it deals with matters of the heart, nor is it too blunt and insensitive.
The film is told almost entirely in a voice over of one of the two main characters. It’s told in a brilliant he-said she-said style where the same scene is often told twice from the two opposite points of view (Juli’s and Bryce’s). So we see the opening scene twice. The first time as explained by Bryce, and the second time explained by Juli. This sort of formula is used many a time in the unfolding battle of the sexes. Of course this doesn’t happen in every scene—that would get boring. Director Reiner gives us the proper dosage of everything in this film. The proper amount of comedy, romance, and the proper amount of sadness. Never is it sappy or indulgent or even presumptuous. It’s a perfect film for what it’s worth. The screenplay is absolutely the work of a fine craftsman—or craftsmen Andrew Scheinman and director Reiner. I don’t know how long it took to write or how much blood went into it, but this film is the result of excellent work in every department. The two child stars are perfect in their roles (although Bryce could have done better), but the strength of the cast are in supporting actors. The cast is full of great actors, particularly Anthony Edwards as Bryce’s arrogant, critical, smart-aleck father, and the ever-welcome Aidan Quinn as Juli’s loving, down-to-earth, tree painting father.
I wasn’t completely convinced of the excellence of the film until a beautiful scene in which Mr. Baker (Quinn) and Juli go to visit Mr. Baker’s mentally retarded brother Daniel, who is so happy with the world and everything in it. But this scene can’t be expressed in words, you have to see it. For what it’s worth, Flipped is somewhat of a deep film, full of parallels to the real world. All of the characters have the proper amount of development, even the big sycamore tree that Juli likes to sit in and watch the sunrise. Her exploits while up in that tree are so poetic and beautiful when matched up with the pictures on screen. It’s a beautiful and insightful scene into the thoughts and feelings of people in general, not just a teenage girl.
In this day when films are almost all big-budget action movies with loud explosions, Flipped has explosions of its own kind. It has explosions of heart and feeling and character, all at the appropriate times. I did not find any axe to grind here. Other than the characters, plot, and screenplay, it’s also a technically beautiful film. The camera captures everything so clearly with the proper colour timing and excellently framed shots. After the mid-way point of the film, being surrounded by excellence, one starts to look for any reason to criticize the film. I found none. Every nuance of the film is done so genteelly and honestly, who can have a problem with it? This film achieves what movies are meant to achieve. They are meant to reach into are minds and draw us in, to entertain and to move us with fright, emotion, tears, laughs, whatever may be the subject. They are meant to create a world around us, whether in space, in the Wild West, in the future, in Bible times, or in the case of Flipped in 1960s suburbia. This film does exactly what it is meant to do. To touch and make us laugh and to remember. That’s what it does. It makes us remember what happened or is happening to us. No one can give this a bad review. Anyone who does will be personally crucified by me (yes, I am saying sayonara to free speech and forcing my opinions on the world). I don’t see how anyone can pick a fight with the film. But I’m blabbing about nothing.
In short, Flipped is a wonderful film, worthy of your money. It’s simply good entertainment. It should entertain anyone from five to one hundred. While maybe it’s not a deep and insightful drama, it’s just good, heart-warming entertainment. I hope people won’t overlook this as a kid’s film. Kids will enjoy it, but so will adults.
Warner Bros. Pictures Presents a film by Rob Reiner. Cast: Madeline Carroll, Callan McAuliffe, Rebecca De Mornay, Anthony Edwards, John Mahoney, Penelope Ann Miller, Aidan Quinn, Kevin Weisman, Morgan Lily. Directed by Rob Reiner.
Rated PG for language and some thematic material. Release Date: 06 August 2010