film review: Flipped

Because it shares a time period and sense of nostalgia with the well-remembered Stand By Me (1986), Flipped has been pegged as an official companion piece for director Rob Reiner. There’s some validity to this, especially since the soundtrack is filled with familiar oldies, which also added to the earlier film’s appeal.

But Flipped has a different mindset than Stand by Me, which dealt with boyhood camaraderie. It was adapted (by Reiner and his frequent collaborator Andrew Scheinman) from a popular juvenile novel by Wendelin van Draanen that not only touches on the first stirrings of attraction between a boy and girl, but chronicles their relationship from both points of view.

The setting is an idealized suburban town, where we get to meet two families who live across the street from each other. The boy (newcomer Callan McAuliffe), who’s not quite sure of himself, lives with his upwardly mobile parents (Rebecca DeMornay and Anthony Edwards) and his grandfather (John Mahoney). The girl (Madeline Carroll, who played—

—Kevin Costner’s precocious daughter in Swing Vote), is remarkably poised and self-possessed, and comes from a working-class family that makes up in love what it lacks in material things. Aidan Quinn is her father, Penelope Ann Miller her mother.

The dual narration, as we follow the bumpy road of the characters’ relationship, touches on familiar truths about girls’ tendency to mature early and boys’ inability to express their feelings. There aren’t any revelations here, but there is relatability, and that’s what makes the movie work—along with Reiner’s canny casting of every role. (The adult actors do exceptionally fine work.)

My favorite scene has nothing to do with the children—at least, not directly—and it involves Edwards, playing an insensitive man who tends to deal with all of life’s problems by pouring himself a drink. Here, briefly but tellingly, the movie pierces through the rosy-hued nostalgia so many people still harbor for the “happy days” of the late 1950s and early 60s and explores what created the conformity that distinguished that period in American life. I wish the movie explored this a bit more, but I won’t be greedy.

Flipped is a low-key, likable film with more meat on its bones than you might expect…and while it wears its heart on its sleeve, I applaud its values. Any film that espouses individuality and integrity gets my vote. And it’s nice to see Reiner paying homage to his father’s creation, The Dick Van Dyke Show, by having his characters live on Bonnie Meadow, as did the Petries. (It was also the name of the street where the real-life Reiners lived in New Rochelle before moving to Beverly Hills—although one is a Lane and one is a Road.)

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April 2024