'Flipped' tells a timeless story
As Bryce tells it, from the moment his family moved to the new neighborhood, that pesky Juli from across the street has stalked him.
As Juli tells it, since first she clapped eyes on Bryce when they were 7, she felt they had an important mutual connection.
Is one of them delusional? Are they in parallel universes? Or does the world really look that different from another's perspective, especially when we're talking adolescent boys and girls?
Rob Reiner's Flipped, a warmhearted teenage he said/she said, shifts the action of Wendelin Van Draanen's 2003 young-adult novel back to 1963. While this has the effect of making it seem like ancient history to today's teens, the time shift underlines the story's timelessness: People change, and so do first impressions.
Most of the movie unfolds while Bryce and Juli are in eighth grade, which by definition means they occupy parallel universes. By this time, Bryce begins to appreciate Juli's individualism and resourcefulness and Juli begins to regard Bryce as a conformist without much depth.
The film's triple-entendre title alludes to such flips in opinion, to the flips in the film's point-of-view, and to "flipped," verb past tense, as in falling for someone.
Because the film shows its important dramatic moments from first Bryce's and then Juli's perspective, it meanders rather than rushes forward.
Reiner, who made the similarly themed The Sure Thing about opposites who repel and attract, is a most sympathetic director of actors.
Madeline Carroll (previously Kevin Costner's wise daughter in Swing Vote) is wonderfully relatable as Juli, who stages a campaign to save the neighborhood sycamore tree and hatches chicks for her science project. She may not be as pretty as her school's most popular girls, but she has a blazing intelligence that sets her apart. When Bryce, parroting his father (Anthony Edwards), casually makes fun of her weedy yard, it's as if he's snuffed out her fire.
Callan McAuliffe, a handsome Australian youth, looks right as the perma-press Bryce, who, unlike Juli, would rather fit in than stand out.
The movie nicely contrasts Juli's family values, sacrificing to take care of the less fortunate, with those of Bryce's status-conscious clan. As Juli's parents, Aidan Quinn and Penelope Ann Miller are affecting, likewise John Mahoney and Rebecca de Mornay as Bryce's grandfather and mother. As Bryce's snobby Dad, Edwards is less nuanced than the other performers.
Will Juli's first crush lead to her first kiss? Or, as is so often the case with teen girls who mature sooner than boys their age, will she evolve beyond Bryce?
The soundtrack, heavy on the Everly Brothers, might appeal less to teens than to their grandparents, who will likely also enjoy the nostalgic clothes, furnishings and the evocation of a world where chirps come from birds and not cell phones.
Sharp-eyed viewers of a certain age will recognize that the street where Juli and Bryce live, Bonnie Meadow, is the same name as the Petries' lane in The Dick Van Dyke Show, created by Reiner's father, Carl, itself named for the New Rochelle thoroughfare where once the Reiner family lived.
Flipped *** (out of four stars)
Directed by Rob Reiner. With Madeline Carroll, Callan McAuliffe and John Mahoney. Distributed by Warner Bros.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 mins.
Parent's guide: PG-13 (profanity, mature themes)
Playing at: area theaters