Taking a break from my 9/11 film reviews-
“What? But you just got started!”
“Shutup. It’s my blog and I’ll do what I want.”
I’m curious about films like these I missed out on during my childhood. 90s kid films that are genuine in their intentions and aren’t comedies that use dumb slapstick humor. Pretty much all films like that fall into the “coming of age” category, but I can live with that.
The problem is that I recorded this film and watched it later because they categorized it as a comedy/thriller. That’s a deceptive description if I ever saw one, this is a drama through and through.
Man, this is not lighthearted at all. I haven’t seen a kid flick this emotionally grim since Where the Wild Things Are. Both films share a theme of trying to be all fine and dandy on the outside, but on the inside there’s a darkness. And that darkness continues to grow and grow until it bubbles up and can no longer be ignored, not just by those trying to keep it contained, but by everyone around them as well.
At one point in the movie, the main child narrates some line to the extent of, “I don’t know why I am filled with so much hate when I have so much love around me.” Embarrassment and shame, striking out in a brief moment of anger that can cause a lifetime of regret.
It wasn’t exactly the most entertaining kid flick I’ve seen to say the least, not because it was annoying, but because of the dark unsettling content. What makes it even more unsettling is that there are people exactly like this. Trying to put on a happy face and make everyone content and entertained on the outside, but on the inside you’re a tortured soul just waiting to fall apart from the inside out. They say there are no monsters in the world, but there are. The monsters reside within ourselves. They can come out when you are young, they can come out when you are old. They will always be there.
Anyway, a young Reese Witherspoon is in this. She was hot and all (though I think she’s too young here for me to be saying that comfortably), and she has a nice genuine role for being a love relationship for Jack. But then she breaks up with him at about the halfway point and is never seen again. I mean, seriously, they couldn’t bring her back for some other moment later on, even if it’s just something like Jack seeing her with another boy, which will further feed his gradually building anger and frustration?
Another fault in the film is Gary Sinise’s neo-Nazi character (or would it just be Nazi, considering this is in the 70s time period?). It’s all fine until the last act when he shows up to try and kill Jack. I mean, up until that point, we aren’t sure if he actually kidnapped his brother and left him in the woods, or if his brother just ran off. Or if he disappeared either because he actually kidnapped the brother, or to get away from the neighborhood that further oppresses him. Because up until that point, the theme of the film fits nicely with this, asking us the question of whether he is the monster, or if we are making him out to be the monster to shift the blame away from ourselves. A Lord of the Flies sort of thing, where it’s easier to deal with a physical monster even if we have to make it up ourselves, rather than deal with the monsters we are. But in the finale, the movie just says screw that, and they do make him into a monster who is all, “Heil Hitler! And fuck kids, I’m going to kill ’em all, Raaaaahh!” It’s dumb and it takes away from the movie.
But that aside, it’s a good character study film that doesn’t shy away at all from portraying the dark side of both kids and adults, which makes for some uncomfortable viewing. So the film has at least one major flaw that brings it down, and it’s not exactly entertaining. So I can’t exactly say I can fully recommend this, but if you wanted another film that’s like Where the Wild Things Are except with realism (there’s no fantasy here), and you’ve seen Where the Wild Things Are, then I guess this is the film for you.
PS: I didn’t really like Where the Wild Things Are for the same reason, it’s uncomfortable with its depiction of childhood rage. I’m not knocking against the film for that reason, that was the film’s intention, and it played it out marvelously, but it just wasn’t entertaining for me personally.