You know how I knew I really liked this movie? My eyes were often wet and I didn’t want it to end. Wished I could stay inside its golden glow for a while longer to see the lead characters grow up, making sure they turn out okay.
Based on the book by Wendelin Van Draanen (how cool is that name?), Flipped (opening August 6) tells the story of two kids growing up on the same street who develop feelings for each other, but different kinds at different times. Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll) decides she has a crush on Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe) from the moment she sees his family move into the neighborhood. He thinks the tomboyish, chicken-raising Juli is strange and does all he can to discourage her swooning. Their relationship is also hampered by Bryce’s uptight dad’s (Anthony Edwards) condescending attitude towards Juli’s blue-collar family. Things change when Bryce’s grandfather (John Mahoney) comes to live with the Loskis and takes a shine to Juli. Grandpa makes Bryce see Juli in a different light and eventually Bryce can’t stop thinking about her. His Eureka moment may come too late, though, because after some offensive behavior on his part, Juli is beginning to think he’s no longer worth her devotion.
If you’ve ever experienced the painful sweetness of a childhood crush, you’ll love this movie. I know all about unrequited feelings and being considered the weird girl so relating to Juli was easy. I also found her, as played by the winning Carroll (Kevin Costner’s daughter in Swing Vote), the coolest kid in town, with a maturity way beyond her peers’. I have no doubt the actress will transition well into grown-up roles. The Aussie McAuliffe, with his blond curls and angel face, makes an appropriate puppy love object. His role is less demanding than Carroll’s but he nails the American accent and his screen presence hints at future heartthrob status.
The supporting roles are filled by an Eighties All-Star cast, including my own ’80s crush, Aidan Quinn, as Juli’s dad; Penelope Ann Miller as her mom; Rebecca De Mornay as Bryce’s mother and the aforementioned Edwards as his dad. Perhaps this is because director Rob Reiner’s greatest hits happened two decades ago and he’s indulging in nostalgia. I read in this L.A. Times interview that even though Van Draanen’s book is contemporary, Reiner set the movie in the ’50s to keep the central relationship pure, devoid of Facebook and texting. This was a wise move, allowing him to enhance the story’s emotional resonance with real feelings instead of emoticons. In a time when even kids’ movies are 3D and special effects laden, this simple love story reminds us what it’s like to be truly innocent.
Nerd verdict: Heartfelt Flipped
Photos: Warner Bros.