Time plays tricks on us. We look back at childhood, as adults, and think how easy it was. We remember high school and being a teenager and paint both, depending on how high school was for us. If you recall them as being halcyon days, you forget how scared you were all the time; trapped in an adult’s body with no life experience and the common sense of a pinto bean. If you hated high school, you forget how there were days when anything seemed possible, that there was (for the lucky) little baggage, little life weight, and you could just grab your friends and go anywhere just for the hell of it.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower is perpetual mainstay on the American Library Association’s “Most Banned Books” because Stephen Chbosky’s masterpiece is unflinching. He remembers. The good. The bad. The awful. You’re in there somewhere. I was a wallflower, though I was fortunate enough to have friends who made me feel like I wasn’t, and we’d sometimes just….drive. And I remember those moments, the people in those cars, the music that played, and just like in this clip, I swear at that moment….we WERE infinite.
If you’re lucky, you get one great teacher; one teacher who steps into your life and makes a difference that lasts the rest of your days. In some cases, you may have to actively stalk that teacher to engage his burnt out, underpaid, overworked, teenager-warped soul….but that’s just what you gotta do then! The Edge of Seventeen was a hilarious, wonderfully acted film from 2016 that got absolutely no recognition, which is a shame, because Hailee Steinfeld was Oscar-worthy and Woody Harrelson got his best comedic role since Cheers.
Steinfeld’s dramatic, over-the-top Nadine is stymied when she runs into the jaded stonewall that is her history teacher, Mr. Bruner (Harrelson), constantly harrassing him for advice and counsel against his will, especially holding him hostage during his lunch break. The relationship that they build over the course of the film is touching and always darkly funny, never more so when Nadine’s hysterical threat to jump in front of the largest moving vehicle she can find is calmly met by a withering dueling suicidal rant from Bruner. Everyone in high school should be so lucky to have a Mr. Bruner.
While Stephen King will always be thought of as a “horror author”, I think King’s best works are his short stories. These have produced as many movies as his novels (and a better batch overall). Stand by Me, based on the King short story “The Body”, may be the best male coming-of-age movie ever made. King is one of those rare adults who remembers exactly what it was like to be a kid. It’s what allows him to tap into the primal fears we acquire as a child and never lose, and it also allows him to write kids and adolescents with an authenticity few can match.
When you’re a 12-year-old boy, you’re invincible. Honestly and truly invincible. You are aware of the dangers of the world and the problems the swirl around you (more so than any adult would guess), but you also have this firm belief that anything is possible, there are adventures around every corner, and that your friends will always be your friends forever. Director Rob Reiner hit the gold mine with River Phoenix, Wil Wheaton, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell, as four friends who set off on an adventure to find a dead body they heard had washed up by the river. The beauty of the film is in the interactions between the friends, the dares, the stupid stories and jokes, and the best of them: the all-time best train dodge in the history of train dodges (not recommended for actual trying). It’s a stupid thing to do, it nearly kills them, and it’s a story they’ll tell for the rest of their lives in which they’re the heroes in their own mythology. That’s what we all do, right? Set ourselves up as the hero in our own lives? We have to. The alternative (REALITY) is too stupid to bear. Ask any guy. We all have a “train dodge” story in which we did something incredible that no kid had ever done.
Saorise Ronan has been around for so long now, it’s hard to remember that she’s only 23 and she already has two Oscar nominations. She’s also such a chameleon from Atonement to The Lovely Bones to Hanna to The Grand Budapest Hotel to Brooklyn and now in Lady Bird. The film, written and directed by Greta Gerwig, is a coming-of-age tale chronicling a year in the life of a Northern California teen, who is…unique. I’m not an easy laugh. But the mother-daughter interaction between Ronan and the always wonderful Laurie Metcalf had me laughing out loud at several points during this trailer. Ronan’s going to have an amazing career, and Lady Bird looks like the next landmark in it. The film opens November 10, 2017.