Kimball's Peak Three
Everything that is wrong with American movies today is demonstrated by Rob Reiner's Flipped. Mind you, there's no problem with the film itself, which is a charming little coming-of-age teen romance. Rather it's the fact that a lovely movie that's truly suitable for the whole family cannot find an audience in the current movie environment.
As of this writing, Flipped is playing on 28 screens across North America, which is actually down from its limited early August release. It was supposed to go wide (to 800-plus screens) later that month, but poor box office receipts made Warner Bros. decide to pull back.
Deprived of saturation advertising and woefully lacking in CGI explosions, small, beautiful films like this can no longer garner more than arthouse attention, even when the films themselves are hardly arthouse. Lovely as Flipped is, it's not challenging or complicated. In fact, the only thing that might be unexpected is that it gives as much play to the girl's side of this budding adolescent romance as it does to the boy's.
The story itself will appeal equally to adults remembering what it was like to discover the whole falling-in-love thing and to kids experiencing it for the first time. Even though the story's set in a generic early-'60s suburb, director Reiner manages to give it a magnificent timeless feel.
Elementary schoolers Juli Baker and Bryce Loski are, unlikely though it may seem, neither vampires nor aliens. Agreeably ordinary kids, they meet the day the Loski family moves into the neighborhood. Juli (played by Morgan Lily) "flips" for Bryce (Ryan Ketzner) the moment she lays eyes on him.
But the film's title comes to take on additional and more ironic meanings, too: Bryce can't stand her until suddenly, one day in junior high (when he's played by Callan McAuliffe and she by Madeline Carroll), he finds her wildly intriguing. The film itself flips back and forth between Bryce's and Juli's perspectives on their relationship, a clever and witty presentation on how the same events can look very different through another's eyes. In the process, the two characters come to discover that growing up sometimes means changing your ideas about those around you, parents included.
It's actually enthralling to look at these subtle yet prosaic life experiences: the crushing realization that someone you love has disappointed you; or, conversely, that people act the way they do because of their own crushing disappointments. Ordinary suburban events, from taking out the trash to the chopping down of a favorite tree, affect our young heroes in unexpected ways. And Reiner (who wrote the screenplay with Andrew Scheinman, from the novel by Wendelin Van Draanen) demonstrates a keen eye for finding the wisdom or the hurt in the smallest of gestures, the simplest of words.
The rest of the performances — especially those by Rebecca De Mornay and Anthony Edwards as Bryce's parents, John Mahoney as his grandfather, and Penelope Ann Miller and Aidan Quinn as Juli's parents — are uniformly perceptive and shrewd.
I can't recommend Flipped highly enough, even though it may be on DVD by the time most of its potential audience finds out about it.