Family Movie Review: Flipped

by Jane Boursaw on September 13, 2010

In Theaters: Sept. 10, 2010
Director: Rob Reiner
Runtime: 90 min.
MPAA Rating: PG for language and some thematic material
Gecko Rating: 5 Geckos

flipped-poster‘Flipped’ might be my favorite movie of the year so far. I’m spreading this news far and wide, because I hope everyone has a chance to see it. The movie got a limited release on Aug. 6, 2010, opening in 45 theaters in three markets – Los Angeles, Sacramento and Austin — but according to The Hollywood Reporter, the film may not get a wide release, which is seriously messed up.

Here’s my theory: ‘Flipped’ isn’t getting much action at the box office because it contains no explosions, no car chases, no weapons and no killings. The kids are thoughtful and respectful, not bratty and obnoxious. The parents act like real parents – flawed and doing the best they can under the circumstances.

‘Flipped’ won a Heartland ‘Truly Moving Picture Award,’ and it’s easy to see why. It’s just a great movie, populated by actors who can actually act, and thus there’s no need for all the special effects employed by every other film in theaters these days. It’s also a heartfelt coming-of-age story that everyone can relate to, whether you grew up in the 1950s or the 1990s.

Based on a book by Wendelin Van Draanen, ‘Flipped’ takes place in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and the film’s details and visuals from that era are a delight. The boys boast slicked-back hair and buttoned-down shirts. The girls wear dungarees and headbands. And the glorious soundtrack winds its way through the film with tunes like The Chiffons’ ‘He’s So Fine,’ Clyde McPhatter’s ‘A Lover’s Question,’ and Dion and the Belmonts’ ‘A Teenager in Love.’ I think it’s safe to say ‘Flipped’ is director Rob Reiner’s love letter to that particular era.


The story begins with young Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe; Ryan Ketzner plays the younger version) and his family moving into a suburban neighborhood. Across the street is young Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll; Morgan Lily plays the younger version) and her family. Juli is immediately smitten with Bryce’s dreamy eyes and watermelon scent, and encourages a friendship by offering to help unload the moving fan. Bryce runs away from her and continues to run for the next six years.

The story is told from both of their viewpoints, shifting from one to the other in a “he said/she said” format. To Bryce, Juli is just a weird girl who lives in a messy house with an unkempt yard. She’s also obsessed with the ancient sycamore tree at the school bus stop; she loves to climb up there and look at the view for hours on end.

But ‘Flipped’ isn’t just a film about friendship and first love. It’s about two people realizing that first impressions aren’t necessarily the be-all-end-all, that there’s more to someone than dreamy eyes or messy yards.

What I love about these characters is their depth, even at a young age. Reiner doesn’t dumb things down for us; Juli and Bryce actually seem like real characters we might have known – or been – at some point in our lives. As the story moves along, a romance seems highly unlikely, but that’s another reason why I love ‘Flipped.’ You can’t see the ending coming a mile away like most films; we have to take that journey with the characters and see how it all plays out.

The funny, breezy tone at the beginning of the film evolves into some really telling points about human nature. It reminds us of how easily we’re swayed by first impressions, but what we see on the surface of someone’s life, home and family isn’t the full story.

As Bryce’s grandpa (John Mahoney, who’s built a formidable film career since his ‘Frazier’ days) tells him, “Some of us get dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss … but every once in a while, you find someone who’s iridescent, and when you do, nothing will ever compare.”

flipped-1 He’s talking about Juli, and Madeline Carroll truly does have an iridescence about her, as if she indeed grew up in that era. I came home and immediately went to her IMDB page to see what else she’s done (many guest TV spots, ‘Swing Vote’ — she was pretty much the only good thing about that movie — and ‘Resident Evil: Extinction’).

This is not to downplay the rest of the cast, including Rebecca De Mornay and Anthony Edwards as Bryce’s parents, Penelope Ann Miller and Aidan Quinn as Juli’s parents, and Kevin Weisman as Juli’s retarded Uncle Daniel. Props to The Casting Company for assembling a fine ensemble.

I don’t often beg my readers to go see a movie, but I’m begging all of you to go see ‘Flipped’ if it’s playing in your area. If it’s not, rent the DVD when it’s released. It’s a truly remarkable and simple film that gets right to the heart of human connections and emotions. The fact that it does so with superb acting, a simple story, and a great production filled with nostalgia is truly remarkable. It makes you wonder why we don’t have more films like this.

Notes for Parents:

Sex/Nudity: First crush; hand-holding is as physical as it gets.

Violence/Gore. A mentally-challenged character gets agitated in a crowded ice cream shop. A male character slaps a younger female character in anger. A girl sits atop a tree while a tree-cutting company waits below with their machinery.

Profanity: “Hell,” “crap,” “goddamn,” and “a**hole.” One use of “jacksh*t” by a teenager.

Drugs/Alcohol: None.

Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 11 and older who’ve read the book by Wendelin Van Draanen, or who like coming-of-age romances set in the 1950s and 1960s.

Will Parents Like It? Yes, it’s a really sweet story with no car crashes, explosions, weapons or bratty kids. And no 3D glasses are required.

Images: Warner Bros. Pictures

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