Rob Reiner has the ability to tell a story like few of his generation can. While he may be known to some only as “Meathead”, son-in-law of the legendary Archie Bunker on TV’s “All In The Family,” it is in his role as a director and producer where he hits his stride. His earlier films “The Princess Bride” and “Stand By Me” have become classics in the annals of cinema. “Flipped” continues the tradition and explores such questions as: What does it mean to fall in love as a teenager? How do those feelings mature and change over time? What roles do our parents and grandparents play in modeling a mature loving relationship?
“Flipped” is a 1950’s period piece that takes us through the early teen years of Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll) and Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe) as they discover their feelings towards one another. Needless to say, boys and girls mature at different levels and different speeds. While Juli may think that Bryce has “dreamy eyes” at age 12, Bryce is a million miles away from romance at that age. Five years later, Bryce may be heartsick in love with Juli, but she now thinks all boys are brats!
In a clever twist of storytelling, Reiner takes us through this period of adolescence through the eyes of both Juli and Bryce. Once you have seen the facts and feelings from a girl’s point of view, you are “flipped” to seeing the same experience through the eyes of a boy. Similarly, once you’ve seen life through the eyes of an eighth grader, you are “flipped” to see the same relationship from the perspective of a young man and woman a few years older in high school.
While we come to expect that the feelings of teenage boys and girls are volatile, the deep wisdom that comes through in this tale is the role that parents and grandparents play in maturing the feelings of these young adults. Each one is greatly impacted by the feelings, judgments, fears, and trust exhibited by the older role models in their lives. Whether a young child or a teenager, our offspring watch us like a hawk. When we misjudge people, they do the same. When we reach out in compassion, they are likely to exhibit the same sense of generosity.
Bryce’s father, Steven (Anthony Edwards), is insecure and passes judgment on Juli because he doesn’t like her father Richard (Aidan Quinn). Bryce’s mother Patsy (Rebecca De Mornay) has a heart of compassion for Juli and her family who live across the street from them. It is Bryce’s maternal grandfather Chet (John Mahoney) who models a mature relational wisdom that brings both sides of the street together despite their differences.
What makes “Flipped” a great story is its ability to show how the growth of our feelings and the maturing of our minds can be made healthy through the smallest acts of kindness and loving behavior. So much of our good behavior comes from modeling the good behavior we observed in our families. So, too, are the prejudices that we exhibit as a direct result of those exhibited by our mothers and fathers.
Rob Reiner credits this film to his son who read the story to him while they were on a family vacation. The film, based on the novel "Flipped" by Wendelin Van Draanen, is a wonderful opportunity for any family to explore the meaning of “true love,” and why real love is not just about attraction, but it is also built on a foundation of compassion, trials, forgiveness, and faith.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. Having an ability to see life from another person’s perspective is a mark of maturity. Do you remember when you first realized that others see the world differently than you do? What caused this realization?
2. The fact that women and men develop at different rates makes adolescence all the more confusing. How did this difference impact your own teen romances?
3. The impact of parents on their children cannot be overestimated. As you look at your own parents’ lives, how are you living life as they lived it?
Cinema In Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is pastor of the Free Methodist Church. For more reviews: www.cinemainfocus.com.