Callan McAuliffe, Madeline Carroll, Anthony Edwards, John Mahoney, Aidan Quinn, Penelope Ann Miller, Rebecca De Mornay
Rob Reiner, Andrew Scheinman (Wendelin Van Draanen, Novel)
Felt like an eternity
I understand. I really do.
I get why Indy's Heartland Film Festival recognized Rob Reiner's Flipped with its Truly Moving Picture Award, a valued film prize that recognizes films that celebrate the human spirit and serve to inspire and promote positive values.
I get it. There may, in fact, not be a more unabashedly sentimental film this year than Flipped, a relentlessly sentimental film with virtually every single stereotype you can think of for a family film.
Adorable kids? Check.
Wise ol' grandfather type? Yeppers.
Misunderstood or disabled character as fountain of wisdom? Oh yeah.
A touching soundtrack filled to the brim with memorable melodies? Yep, they're here too.
Beautiful beyond words camera work that seems to cast a glow on everyone except, of course, when someone is having a rare dark moment? Why yes. It's here, too.
If ever a film qualified as a Truly Moving Picture, it would be Rob Reiner's Flipped. Not so coincidentally, Flipped had its red carpet world premiere in downtown Indianapolis hosted by, of course, the fine folks at Heartland Film Festival.
There's no sarcasm there. The folks at Heartland Film Festival are truly fine.
While Flipped is undoubtedly deserving of its recognition as a Truly Moving Picture, it is also a film that tries so desperately to capture a piece of 60's Americana meets Leave it to Beaver meets Stand By Me that the film ends up playing out like one boring, staged and shallow Kodak moment after the other.
Flipped isn't just a bad film, but an awkward and painfully bad film. Reiner, who created the aforementioned Stand By Me, hasn't had a decent film in nearly 15 years but Flipped may very well be his weakest cinematic effort yet.
Oh, wait. I forgot about North.
To call Flipped an awful film seems unfair...to awful films. Flipped is so darn cutesy, so uncomfortably paced, so stilted in its dialogue and so devoid of personality that the film gives you almost nothing to appreciate with the welcome exception of Thomas Del Ruth's pristine cinematography and infrequent moments of acting delight from Madeline Carroll and vet John Mahoney.
Flipped stars Carroll as Juli, a young hippie-chick kind of girl who has harbored a long, unrequited affection for a certain dashing neighbor boy named Bryce (Callan McAuliffe), who rejects her often and with the sort of nonchalance that seems to only come during our teen years. Flipped is a story about puppy love, a story of this first twinge of love told from the dual perspectives of both Bryce and Juli.
Based upon a novel by Wendelin Van Draanen that is actually set in a more contemporary time, Flipped feels like an effort by Reiner to recapture the magic that he captured so beautifully in Stand By Me. Unfortunately, everything in Flipped feels more like a gimmick than an actual part of the story and the magic of Stand By Me is replaced by the awkwardness of a film that never seems to have a clear grasp on exactly what it's trying to accomplish.
The dual perspectives approach gets tiresome quickly, neither perspective being particularly interesting and the perspectives themselves often feeling remarkably similar. While Reiner deserves a minor kudo for actually not turning the two families into a Leave it to Beaver type scenario, the film is painted with such vivid period detail that it's hard not to feel like the rare authentic moment in the film actually comes off as jarring and out of place.
Some to do is made of the differences between Juli and Bryce's family situation, Bryce's being the wealthier among the two largely due to Juli's family being burdened by the institutional care of his brother. While this scenario had tremendous potential to create conflict and intrigue that could drive the film, Reiner seems uninterested in creating anything resembling conflict in the film and with the exception of one scene the entire conflict remains remarkably bland.
As Juli, Madeline Carroll grows the most throughout the film and undoubtedly makes the most of her screen time. As Juli matures and, perhaps, grows beyond the supposedly charismatic Bryce, Carroll is absolutely luminous and convincing. It's simply a shame that the film around her collapses and takes her down with it. On the flip side, Callan McAuliffe is woefully miscast as a supposedly charismatic and appealing young man who holds Juli's attention for years. McAuliffe's performance is stunningly devoid of personality and certainly lacking in charisma, a rather necessary quality to have if one is to be referred to as charismatic.
The paternal role models fare decently, Aidan Quinn shining in particular as Juli's nurturing yet burdened father. Anthony Edwards can't quite seem to grasp his role as Bryce's father, infusing the man with a level of anger that is occasionally unnerving in such an easygoing, gentle film. Both maternal figures, vets Rebecca De Mornay and Penelope Ann Miller, are one-note and devoid of anything worth mentioning. John Mahoney, as Bryce's grandfather, shines above them all and seems to have the firmest grasp on what really should be going on here.
A missed opportunity to revive his flagging directorial career, Reiner has provided further fodder for Hollywood gossip columnists who frequently note that the director hasn't made a decent film since the mid-90's. Beyond its period piece potential, it's difficult to see why Reiner was so attracted to such a basic, skeletal story that would have likely felt long as a short film.
With Flipped, Reiner has once again flopped.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic