There are few working filmmakers who have ever had a run of titles as good as the ones at the start of Rob Reiner’s career, and yet these days, his name has very little value with film geeks. Why is that?
Seriously, look at the first decade’s worth of films he directed. It’s pretty stunning. “This Is Spinal Tap.” “The Sure Thing.” “Stand By Me.” “The Princess Bride.” “When Harry Met Sally.” “Misery.” “A Few Good Men.” “North.” Oh… wait… “North.” That’s what happened. That’s right. I remember how shocking that misstep seemed at the time, too, considering how dead on his instincts had been up till that point. I count at least two classics in that first decade, maybe four. That’s an insane batting average.
One flop, though, and it seems like it just plain winded him. Since then, his output has been uneven at best. I know plenty of people who love “The American President,” and I’d argue without that film, there would have been no “The West Wing.” But “Ghosts Of MIssissippi,” “The Story Of Us,” “Alex & Emma”… these are films that feel like they were just churned out by development robots, not movies that feel like they come from the warm, human, gentle place of compassion that Reiner’s earlier films all obviously shared. “Rumor Has It” almost doesn’t count since it was a last-minute thing for him, stepping in when Ted Griffin got booted from his film, and “The Bucket List” made a lot of money even though I found it intolerable.
What Reiner has needed for a while is a film that showcases all of his strengths, a reminder of why we liked and even loved him in the first place.
“Flipped” is that movie.
I have no idea if this film can be a blockbuster. I certainly think word of mouth on it is going to be incredibly strong and enthusiastic, but it’ll all depend on how well they manage to get people into the theater when the film opens on August 6. The first step is the trailer, and they just released it so you can take a look for yourself:
Here’s the thing… I like that trailer, but I don’t think it really captures what makes the film work. The story is told from two different perspectives, alternating between Juli (Madeline Carroll) and Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) as they tell about the history of their relationship from the day Bryce’s family moves into a new neighborhood. For Juli, it’s love at first sight, and she makes the decision that she’s going to get her first kiss from this boy. For Bryce, Julie is an annoyance who won’t go away. As they get older, the two of them turn out to be very different than they originally appear, and Reiner’s film deals with the way someone’s surface reveals so little about them, and the way first impressions can be dead wrong.
It is a charming, tender film, and both of the young performers do tremendous work. Madeline Carroll was very good in the underseen “Swing Vote” as Kevin Costner’s daughter, but this is the film that’s going to give her the rest of her career. She demonstrates a strength of character that is uncommon for someone her age, and it’s a real performance she gives, with real nuance.
We’ll have much more to say about “Flipped” in the next few months, and I’m going to do my best to figure out how to get Rob Reiner to sit down for a long-form interview about his whole career. I hope this is just the start of a new era of productivity for this filmmaker, and that other people enjoy “Flipped” as much as I think they will when it helps round out this summer.
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