Nostalgic coming-of-age movie almost has no reason to exist in the snarky, postmodern 21st century. But here it is, the unabashedly sweet story of Juli (Carroll) and Bryce (McAuliffe), two eighth graders in 1963 desperate to figure out why the other looms as such an important figure in their lives.
Most of it has to do with timing. When they were eight, he thought girls were icky and she was a pest. Now he’s interested but can’t seem to stop stepping all over her feelings, despite his best intentions. It’s like a long episode of The Wonder Years, but what should be the most cloying of devices is part of what makes this work so well. Key moments, good and bad, are seen from both their perspectives. Something so casual in one version of the story looms large in the other.
But that’s the dance boys and girls – and men and women – do with each other. Flipped has been accused of looking through rose-colored glasses at a simpler time, but those making that accusation might have missed some of the harsher aspects of 1960s everyday life, presented and dismissed matter-of-factly. Some dads didn’t talk about their feelings, they hit instead. And some conditions, say that of a person with special needs, were socially stigmatized. Reiner wisely balances everything without commenting on it.
The acting is quietly affecting. The two sets of parents (Edwards and DeMornay, Quinn and Miller) are well cast; in particular Quinn, who displays a quiet sense of dignity as Juli’s burdened pop. Carroll and McAuliffe are right on the verge of change, and as such, are perfect. One episode, having to do with a doomed sycamore tree, is more resonant than one would think and a call-back to it later in the film is touching.
FLIPPED FLOPPED: Despite the summer-perfect tone – and the presence of Reiner, following up his biggest hit in years, The Bucket List (2007) – Warner dumped this movie just as it was set to expand. The movie opened in 45 theaters in three markets: Los Angeles, Sacramento, California, and Austin with barely any advertising. By the second weekend, the studio reduced the screen count to 29. At the time, Warner distribution boss Dan Fellman said, “While our initial test markets did not perform to our expectation, we love this movie, and we are committed to six new markets with a different plan in the hope we can find the audience to make this film a success.” Yeah, going straight to video. (Warner Bros.)
— DENNIS WILLIS