Monday, August 19, 2019

40. Now and Then


The movie: Now and Then (Lesli Linka Glatter, 1995)

Have I seen this movie before? No.

How I saw it: Netflix.

The recommender: Ellen Barr.

Ellen's rationale: Believe it or not, I was inspired by Elroy and you writing about Little Big League and how it was a memory dear to your respective childhoods and adult lives now. It got me thinking, what movie is dear to MY childhood? After reading your last post, my answer was clear: a movie about female friendship with a stunning cameo by a young Brendan Fraser. Now and Then sticks out in my memory for two reasons: one, because it's a fantastic coming-of-age movie to watch when you are 11 or 12. I love the female adolescent friendships, I love that the girls in the movie slowly realize that parents can mess up too, and I love the line "That was the day Roberta stopped taping her boobs." After watching this movie, I wanted to spend my summers exploring St. Paul on bikes with my best friends, but I couldn't, because my best friend did not know how to ride a bike at that time. Second, the soundtrack. Ohhhh the soundtrack. I made a playlist based solely on memory and only missed one song (“Hitchin’ a Ride” by Vanity Fare, played in a very memorable scene in the movie). The soundtrack is HIT AFTER HIT. My mother bought it for me on her way home from work one summer when I was stuck home with a 104 degree fever that later turned out to be Lyme's Disease. Lots of memories attached to The Archies. The best scene in the movie is set to "I Want You Back" and my friend who couldn't ride a bike at the time used to mime that scene together while watching the movie. Now and Then (the movie and the soundtrack) is completely flawless and I refuse to hear another opinion.

My familiarity with this movie: I am aware of this movie, particularly its status as a very special movie to many women that I know. It’s possible that men love it, too, although I haven’t met any who do. Maybe I’ll be the first one! Also of note: Ellen is the second person I know who has done some sort of choreographed dance to this movie. FOTB Emma Jones prepared to do one at her elementary school talent show with some of her friends, but one of them got the chicken pox. I am very upset about this, as there is no footage of this dance now.

Plot summary yoinked from IMDb: “Roberta, Teeny, Samantha, and Chrissy have been busy growing up, but they always remembered the promise they made to be there for each other. Now they're together again to relive the greatest summer of their lives.”

What I thought of the movie: What a lovely film, folks! It made me wish I could have spent this past summer riding my bike with my friends, solving mysteries, conversing with drifters, and learning life lessons. There’s always next summer, though. Amazingly, the blog has now covered TWO straight films that feature v good performances by young actors. The bulk of the movie is set “then” (Indiana, 1970), and all four of the “then” actors give great performances, which makes sense considering that three of them (Christina Ricci, Thora Birch, and Gaby Hoffmann) went on to at least some success in their careers. (Unrelated and v sad: the fourth, Ashleigh Aston Moore, died in 2007 of a heroin overdose.) It also features a strong performance from young Devon Sawa, who set eyebrows a-waggin’ in the Jones-Krizel living room during the film’s screening. (Devon Sawa has avoided Ashleigh Aston Moore’s fate, although you might not know it by looking at current pictures of him. Oof!) While the movie paints a fairly rosy picture of what it was like to grow up in the early ‘70s, it also doesn’t shy away from some of the weightier issues (divorce, Vietnam, dead children from the ‘40s who are now possibly ghosts) that face the girls. The plot itself is appropriately lightweight: we don’t need to care too much about what the girls are actually doing, so long as we’re getting to know who they are, and the movie passes that test with flying colors. Not everyone gets along famously all the time — Ricci, Birch, and Hoffmann are often p mean to Moore, which is even sadder now that she’s dead — but you come to appreciate the deep connection that they have, and why they still are devoted to one another “now.” But this leads me to my biggest issue with the movie: the “now” stuff. It’s honestly bad! Rosie O’Donnell, Melanie Griffith, Demi Moore, and Rita Wilson are the adult versions of the four girls, and shockingly, they’re all bad! Rita Wilson makes a bunch of choices, none of which make any sense. Rosie O’Donnell, a national treasure and the Queen of Long Island, acts like she’s under general anesthesia. The other two barely make an impression. I was left feeling like the framing device was almost completely unnecessary. Just make a movie about the summer of 1970 and call it a day. I felt similarly about The Notebook, and I stand by it. There’s no sense in getting too hung up on it, though, because I sense that the only thing that anyone really remembers about this movie is the “then” stuff, including and especially the music. (Ellen is v correct about the soundtrack. There are seventeen incredible songs in the first, like, three minutes of the movie. My Lord.) I watched this movie with some friends, including Ellen, who loved the film in their youth and were excited to revisit it; some, like me who had never seen it before; and one who realized, about ten minutes into the movie, that she had confused it with That Thing You Do! (The only way that the soundtrack could have been improved, by the way, would be with the inclusion of the Oneders.) At one point, I mentioned that the movie itself (released in 1995) was nearly as distant to us in 2019 as the “then” part of the movie was to the “now” at the time. No one was happy to hear that, of course. We forgot about it and went back to feeling nostalgic for a movie about nostalgia. One kid calls another kid a “fart-ass.” A girl almost drowned in a sewer. A bunch of preteen boys went skinny dipping and we saw their butts. What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Am I happy I took Ellen’s recommendation? KNOCK THREE TIMES on the ceiling if you etc.

What’s next

UPDATE: The newlywed himself, Micah Q. Lubens, is back with the 2016 documentary Dawson City Frozen Time. Will it be as maddeningly inscrutable as his last pick, the unforgettable Jauja? Only time will tell, but good Lord I hope not.