Sunday, January 21, 2007

LOSIN’ IT: Coming-of-Age Films Come-of-Age

American Pie, the deceptively sweet R-Rated teen sex comedy opening this summer, continues the tradition of the inexhaustible adolescent quest for sex. Even the girls in American Pie have that goal in mind, a rarity in movies. Perhaps this will herald in a New Age in coming-of-age. Already, the hype machine is buzzing; scripts in which she’s gotta have it are flying around Hollywood. The coming-of-age film is coming of age.

Coming-of-age films, have always captured the hearts of viewers who fondly recall the sense of apprehension, wonder and the ultimate question -- am-I-gonna-get-laid? -- that accompanies youth. The best of the stories are somehow timeless and yet stuck-in-time. A time when we didn’t know but thought we did. A time when the near future seemed distant and the distant past seemed near -- a time when we were young. Here are five quintessential coming-of-age films, unique in their own right, but universal in their appeal.


Summer of ’42: Hermie (Gary Grimes), a teenage boy during World War II, develops an insatiable crush on the twentysomething Dorothy (Jennifer O’Neil), whose husband is a soldier off fighting overseas. Hermie determines to replace Dorothy’s husband in every way, especially in what he deems the most important way. Dorothy, on the other hand, finds Hermie’s school boy infatuation endearing and takes full advantage, allowing Hermie to carry her groceries and do chores around the house. However, sex is the last thing on her mind. When Dorothy finds out her husband has been killed, the budding romance she has denied blossoms fully in one of the sweetest bedroom seductions on film.


Say Anything: Army brat and kickboxer, Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) falls for valedictorian, Diane Court (Ione Skye) much to the dismay of her father (John Mahoney), who pushes his daughter toward absolute perfection, which, in his eyes, Lloyd is not. Lloyd and Diane make it, rather beautifully, in the backseat of her car while Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes” plays in the background. James pressures Diane to break things off with loser Lloyd who spends the summer pining away, culminating in one of the most sincere expressions of love unrequited as Lloyd holds a boom box above his head, standing outside of Diane’s window, serenading her with “In Your Eyes.”


The Graduate: Recent college grad Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman) returns home, directionless, misguided and confused, only to become more so when family friend Mrs. Robinson, koo-koo-koo-choo, makes not-so-subtle advances on the boy. Then, as if he weren’t directionless, misguided and confused enough already, Benjamin falls in love with Mrs. Robinson’s daughter Elaine. Spurned, Mrs. Robinson discredits Benjamin as directionless, misguided and confused until, finally, Benjamin finds his direction and, misguided and confused no more, shanghais Elaine from her wedding.


Murmur Of The Heart: The kind of comedy that causes you to pluck your eyes out, La Souffle au Coeur is the story of Clara Chevalier (Lea Massari) and her son Laurent (Benoit Ferreux), who are browbeaten and badgered by Father and older brothers Marc and Thomas. When Laurent develops a heart condition, he is sent to a spa with Clara, who, still a young woman herself, allows her relationship with her son to become sexual. Creepy, yes, but you’re not creeped out by the subject, so much as how the subject makes you feel: warmhearted.


Stand By Me: In Castle Rock, Oregon during the early 1960s, four pubescent boys -- Gordie the writer (Wil Wheaton), Chris the rebel (River Phoenix), Teddy the nutcase (Corey Feldman) and Vern, the fat kid (Jerry O’Connell) -- set out to find a mythical dead body spotted by the railroad tracks some miles away. The dead body proves to be nothing more. Just a dead body. But the bittersweet discovery that the thing isn’t always the thing you thought it to be provides illumination for the importance of the journey. And that, of course, is the essence of the coming-of-age story.

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