It could be the narration a duel, first-person format that re-hashes most scenes from the perspective of both our hero, Bryce (McAuliffe), and his ladylove, Juli Baker (Carroll). The screen literally flips when we re-set to follow a course of events from the other side. Two narrators is a dangerous venture, and replaying scenes for today's attention span-challenged audiences even more-so, but this is such a fun, creative device in the right hands that it's impossible to keep the grin off of your face, even when you know what's coming. You'll know what I mean when you get the second helping of Bryce's botched first-kiss attempt.
Juli is the girl we all wish we'd been at such a ripe age. Smart, strong and absurdly attractive, she takes on big government before the age of 12, has the ability to get indignant enough to blow off her life-long crush when he does inappropriate things, and manages to keep a smile on through the most tragic of life events. As Bryce's grandfather (Fraiser's John Mahoney) says, she is "iridescent."
As Juli and Bryce dance around one another, so do their families. Bryce comes from a well-off middle class household run by his father, whose bitterness comes out in bursts of cruelty toward those he envies. Mr. Loski (Anthony Edwards) is so shamefully relatable that while it's easy to hate him, it's easier still to understand how he's ended up that way.
Juli's family rents the rundown house across the street. The Bakers struggle by with the bulk of their income going to keep Mr. Baker's mentally disabled brother in a private facility. While they have realistic struggles with their financial situation, Juli's frequent reflections on how she wouldn't trade them for anything plays honestly against the warmth of their family circle.
The quirk and nostalgia of the 1960's is such a perfect backdrop for this type of tale that it has become the traditional Hollywood choice. Rather than coming across as trite and overdone, the oddities of the age (bachelor auction in the middle school, anyone?) add the perfect garnish to this already delectable treat of a film.
It's pretty difficult to create a fresh take on the coming-of-age story. We all know that boy meets girl, boy loses girl, and then boy gets girl back again. Along the way, boy comes into his own and takes that first necessary step toward adulthood.
We've seen it. Lots.
So, how is it possible that Rob Reiner's new 1960's teen love story, Flipped manages to be so ... well, fresh?
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