Flipped (2010)

20 Jun

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Smith’s Verdict: ***1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

There are moments in life we don’t think about very often, and when we do, we like to think how things might have changed if we made different decisions in life. Take childhood, for example. Or rather, the first time we realized we were in love. Take this, for instance—what if you realized too late that you shared the same feelings toward a certain peer that the peer felt for you for the longest time…only to realize that by this time, the peer has lost interest? The timing is off; misunderstandings occurred; and you realize you were probably too blind or dumb to see what was there all along? Before it became a cliché in today’s pop music, it was the kind of thing that Afterschool Specials would have loved to present. It’d be an accomplishment to make an effective movie about such an issue without making it seem like a generic kids’-movie. And an accomplishment is just what Rob Reiner’s “Flipped” is.

“Flipped” involves a crush between two 7th-grade children in the early 1960s. Now I have to admit that at first, I wasn’t sure why this story takes place decades ago, and I thought Reiner wanted to recapture the “Stand by Me” nostalgia-feel. But then I realized something—a majority of junior-high kids in today’s modern age are overexposed with sexual imagery, thanks to the Internet and sheer curiosity aroused by other aspects, such as porn magazines and R-rated movies (particularly teen slasher films and raunchy comedies that feature nudity). I’m not saying that every kid does this or thinks this way about the opposite sex at this age; I’m just saying times have certainly changed.

But anyway, you can’t deny that the feelings that the characters in “Flipped” experience are genuine and familiar to anyone who has endured a childhood crush, especially when the feeling wasn’t exactly mutual. Maybe the “innocence-factor” is a bit forced, but as a story of young love, it’s acceptable in that sense.

The two kids in question are Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe) and Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll). When Bryce was 7, he and his family moved to a new house, across the street from Juli’s family. Juli is immediately attracted to Bryce (mostly because of his eyes), but Bryce is desperate to avoid her. (“All I wanted was for Juli Baker to leave me alone,” Bryce states in a voiceover narration.) Juli hardly ever stops chasing Bryce and shadows him all through grade school until junior high. But then at this point, midway through the 7th grade, something strange happens. Bryce is starting to have feelings for Juli, while Juli isn’t so sure about him anymore.

“Flipped” doesn’t cheat by focusing for the most part on one of the two—instead, it has a really clever storytelling gimmick. It plays one situation from the viewpoint of Bryce; and then the scene “flips” so that we can see the same situation from Juli’s point of view. It’s an effective, well-done method to get us to sympathize with both sides. Even when it seems like there’s an unforgivable moment brought upon by one of them, the “flip” manages to tell it from that person’s perspective and make us understand why this happened.

A funny thing about this “family film” is that it’s probably more geared towards older viewers than the younger. Older viewers will recognize the feelings that these children are going through in this movie, particularly the change of a young person’s feelings toward a member of the opposite sex. Whether it’s coming to love them or hate them, it’s a confusing, complicated change in a person’s life. I say it’s more geared towards older viewers because of that nostalgia-perspective angle that “Flipped” delivers.

The acting is spot-on—Callan McAuliffe and Madeline Carroll are two very convincing child actors who capture the immaturity and vulnerability of these characters. The supporting cast, mostly composed of familiar faces, is not entirely memorable, with a couple exceptions—one being John Mahoney as Bryce’s insightful grandfather who notices Juli’s spirit, and the other being Anthony Edwards as Bryce’s father who is a complete and total jerk (this is a character I would rather forget). Other names include Aidan Quinn and Penelope Ann Miller as Juli’s parents, and Rebecca De Mornay as Bryce’s mother—they’re fine, but nothing special.

Yes, I did mention that “Flipped” was directed by Rob Reiner, whose films have never reached that level of worthy filmmaking since “North” almost twenty years ago (I’ll get back to you on “The American President,” though). He needed something that made people remember that this guy once made some impressive, memorable, terrific films such as “Spinal Tap,” “The Princess Bride,” and two particular films that “Flipped” echoes, “The Sure Thing” and “Stand by Me.” “Flipped” is Reiner’s best film in years. And unfortunately, nobody ever saw it, thanks to very poor marketing and a pushed-around release date. More people should give it a watch on DVD; it’s touching, it’s effective, and it’s a satisfying romantic comedy.

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