Excellent Young Actors Carry Rob Reiner’s Nostalgic ‘Flipped’

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CHICAGO – Rob Reiner’s “Flipped” is not merely nostalgic for an era when life seemed simpler and sweeter but for an age when every minor detail meant the world and love was as simple as looking into the eyes of a new neighbor. We all remember the days when the smallest act of kindness or meanness changed everything and, thanks to two very strong central performances, “Flipped” captures the essence of those times in a gentle, sentimental romance.

Working from a script by Reiner & Andrew Scheinman, “Flipped” is a story of two neighbors destined to fall in love that’s told in near-constant narration. As we learn in the opening scene, Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll) fell for Bryce Loski (Callan McAuliffe) the day that he moved in across the street. Of course, as is often the case, it took Bryce a bit longer to realize that he too would flip for the sweetest girl in town. With a very episodic and unusual structure, “Flipped” is the story of two young people realizing they were meant to be high school sweethearts.

Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

The structure of “Flipped” works from a “he said, she said” template. For example, Bryce will tell us the story of an encounter with Juli and then the film frame flips and the story jumps back to the beginning of the recent episode but from Juli’s point of view. Then she tells the next story. As much as it may sound like the structure would result in a film that’s constantly starting and stopping, it works to illuminate the themes of the film and is carried by two very, very strong performances from McAuliffe and particularly Carroll. This young actress stole “Swing Vote” a few years ago and completely steals this film as well. Rarely have I felt more confident that a teen star will eventually be a household name. Bet on it.

Sadly, the adults aren’t nearly as well fleshed-out as the teenagers. In fact, they’re painted with the kind of broad strokes that almost feel torn from a parody of the genre. Mom is always wearing an apron and carrying a duster. Dad always has a pointed criticism and a drink in his hand. The dramatic conceit is that we all remember our formative teen years in black-and-white terms and our parents are likely to be more caricaturish in our memories of the days when their given names were still “mom” and “dad” but it’s not developed enough to be dramatically effective. Instead it serves as an odd counterpoint to the realism that Carroll and McAuliffe find in the center of the piece.

Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

To be fair, the always-great John Mahoney breaks free from the two-dimensionality of the rest of the adults by finding the heart of Bryce’s grandfather Chet, the first one to realize that the girl across the street is a keeper. The rest of the typically-talented cast aren’t as lucky with Anthony Edwards & Rebecca De Mornay as Bryce’s parents and Aidan Quinn & Penelope Ann Miller as Juli’s giving performances that I found much more annoying and frustrating than anything else. I hated everything about “Flipped” that wasn’t about Bryce, Juli, and Chet.

Luckily, that’s not much. The young stars are in nearly every scene in the film and they carry the affair. Their notably believable performances are the reason that I expect “Flipped” will find a loyal, devoted audience, even if most of them will admit to going just barely over halfway in love.

Perhaps the best thing about “Flipped” in the long term other than the incredible star potential of Madeline Carroll is that it shows that Rob Reiner hasn’t completely lost what made him one of the most interesting directors of the ’80s and early ’90s. By returning to themes and a time period that worked so well for him “Stand by Me,” Reiner seems much more comfortable than he was with junk like “The Bucket List” or “Rumor has It…” Maybe you can go home again.

“Flipped” stars Madeline Carroll, Callan McAuliffe, Rebecca De Mornay, Anthony Edwards, John Mahoney, Penelope Ann Miller, Aidan Quinn, and Kevin Weisman. It was written by Rob Reiner & Andrew Scheinman and directed by Rob Reiner. It is rated PG and opened on August 27th, 2010.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

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