Molly Ringwald’s Baby Blues in “For Keeps”?

In the late 1980’s, there were a crop of “baby pictures” released, which entailed the main characters looking after an infant. These included “Three Men and a Baby” (1987), “Baby Boom” (1987) ,”Look Who’s Talking” (1989) and today’s topic, “For Keeps”? (1988). It is notable for starring 80’s favourite, Molly Ringwald, in her last leading role. Famous for her collaborations  with director – writer John Hughes in the “Brat Pack” movies, she eventually decided to sever ties with Hughes out of fear of becoming typecast, and wishing to pursue more adult film roles.

Ringwald plays Darcy, a high school senior who dreams of becoming a journalist. She is very much in love with her boyfriend, Stan (Randall Batinkoff). That gets tested when a weekend of sex leads to Darcy becoming pregnant. This prompts Darcy and Stan to have to face the consequences of their actions, and grow up beyond their years. Both of them face pressures from their parents regarding what to do about the baby. Darcy’s single mother Donna (Miriam Flynn) wants Darcy to get an abortion, while Stan’s devoutly Catholic parents (Kenneth Mars and Conchata Ferrell) urge them to go through with adopting the baby.

Ultimately, the young couple decide to keep their baby, and so drop out of high school and get married, but find that the responsibilities of young parenthood clash strongly with their ambitions for their future. Will they manage to tackle their newfound roles, or will they crumble under the pressure?

“For Keeps” had the best of intentions, but the production of this movie ultimately proved to be quite a troubled one. Ringwald mentioned that she originally signed on for the project to alert teenage girls about the realities of becoming parents at an early age. She would later go on to star in the ABC Family (now Freeform) series “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”, where she portrayed the mother of a pregnant teenager (Shailene Woodley), for much the same reason.

They also wished to showcase a successful instance of teenage  marriages, and that not all of them end badly. The film’s director, John G. Avildsen, who was known for directing such classics as “Rocky” (1976) and “The Karate Kid” (1984)clashed with Ringwald . Ringwald and Avildsen had differing perspectives on how to address the issue of teen pregnancy, and the script reportedly had to be altered numerous times. Ringwald envisioned the project as a “funny, cautionary tale, whereas Avilsden had “an engaging love story” in mind.

To the movie’s credit, it did address some of the drawbacks of pregnancy, such as financial difficulties and postpartum depression, as Darcy and Stan move to a small apartment, and Darcy struggles to give daughter Thea (short for Theodosia!) the support and care she requires. However, this is presented in an over the top, melodramatic manner, that it can be tricky to care about their problems when they are constantly fighting in an overzealous fashion. It has been acknowledged that Ringwald hoped that this movie would pave the way for more mature projects, and judging from her overacting in some scenes, it is rather apparent. That being addressed, her scenes with Batinkoff come off as touching and emotive. Batinkoff didn’t go on to any major roles after “For Keeps”, but he gives a mature, nuanced performance for the most part.

While “For Keeps” didn’t exactly catapult the careers of anyone involved, it is notable for having an up and coming Pauly Shore in a minor role as one of Stan’s friends. The ending ends on a positive note, but it seemed like everything was tied up a little too hastily and tidily.

I’d recommend this movie if you’re a fan of Ringwald and her earlier work, or enjoy coming of age stories. Although I wasn’t a huge fan of “For Keeps”, I didn’t despise it, either, as there were some moments that were done well, yet some others (such as a toppling Christmas tree) seemed to be thrown in just to illicit some slapstick and laughs into the gravitas. In summation, “For Keeps” earns 3 out of 5 stars.

 

Living on the Edge of Seventeen

First of all, let me just say “Happy 2017”! I apologise for putting this blog on hiatus for the past number of weeks. Surprising perhaps no one,I have spent most of that break watching plenty of 80’s movies to be the subjects of my future reviews of all things 80’s. My latest post is a little different, however, as it is based in the recently released movie, “The Edge of Seventeen” (2016), which is the directorial debut from screenwriter Kelly Fremon Craig. I was especially anticipating this movie because the leading role was played by Hailee Steinfeld, who I’ve admired as an actress since I saw her Oscar Nominated turn in the Coen Brothers’ 2010 remake of the classic 1969 western movie, “True Grit” at the tender age of 13.

The plot concerns Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld), an awkward, moody 17 year old girl who is trying to cope after the tragic  loss of her father just a few years prior. She feels overlooked by her frazzled mother Mona (Kyra Sedgwick) in favour of her “golden boy” brother, Darian (Blake Jenner).  She seeks solace in her best (not to mention, only) friend Krista (Haley Lu Richardson). At least until Darian and Krista hit it off and start dating, which instigates in Nadine abruptly putting an end to their friendship.

Feeling adrift and as alienated as ever, Nadine regularly vents her woes to her perpetually disgruntled teacher, Mr. Bruner (an always excellent Woody Harrelson), who is almost always reliable to respond to Nadine’s theatrics with some deadpan remarks of his own. On the romance front, Nadine harbours a crush on hunky bad boy Nick (Alexander Calvert), and tries to pluck up the courage to actually, you know, talk to him. Meanwhile, she strikes up a friendship with cute film nerd, Erwin (Hayden Szeto), who just might be able to show her that things are not nearly as bad as she makes them appear…

First things first, I really adored this movie. It manages to take a genre that would otherwise seem tired and overdone (in this case, high school), and breath a new lease of life into it. Being only a few years removed from high school myself, all of the teenage characters behaved and acted as real people their age would, and not simply a scriptwriter’s “idea” of how they “should” act.

This is most prominently shown with Nadine herself. On the outset, she’s a tough protagonist to root for. Yes, she’s a drama queen, overly impulsive, and extremely rude at some points to the people she’s supposedly close to, such as her family, her best friend and her teacher. But she’s a teenager, and many of her reactions at that age are understandable. It helps to make her feel more authentic as a result.

The supporting cast are also commendable in their roles. I had only ever seen Blake Jenner portray the “nice guy jock” in “Glee” prior to watching this movie. As a result, I found myself to be pleasantly surprised by the depths that Darian’s character took throughout the course of the movie. Because Nadine’s the protagonist, and the majority of the film is from her perspective, we’re not privy to other characters’ viewpoints until Nadine herself is made aware of them. Darian isn’t merely a smug jerk, nor is Krista being selfish by putting her boyfriend ahead of her best friend. They all have more going on with them than it initially appeared.

The highlight of the movie for me was any scene with Erwin. I always love nerdy characters in movies, and Erwin is no exception. He’s a sweet, well-adjusted guy, and is refreshingly not a stereotype , but much like Nadine, a real character. I was pretty surprised when I looked Hayden Szeto up online, and discovered that he’s 31 years old, yet Erwin can’t be no more than 16 or 17. However, this does does not take away from his otherwise solid performance.

In summation, I rate “The Edge of Seventeen” four and a half out of five stars. It’s one of the best high school movies that I’ve had the chance of viewing in quite a while, and I highly recommend watching it. Even though Nadine can be quite grating at times, once you get past that slight, the film works very well. It’s also topped off with a satisfying conclusion, which nicely ties up Nadine’s story arc.

I hope that you enjoyed this non  80’s movie review. As always, please feel free to suggest some more “Flix of the 80’s” .

Standing by a Classic Coming of Age Flick

Greeting, everyone! I’m back from my brief hiatus, and I’m ready to share with you the most memorable movies of the 80’s.

Everyone remembers the first friends you had when you were a youngster. Chances are, that friend meant the world to you. However, it’s just as plausible that after a while, you gradually went your separate ways, only to bump into each other once in a blue moon at social gatherings or other similar events. Your dynamic isn’t quite what it used to be.

This brings us to today’s picture, Rob Reiner’s 1986 coming of age tale, “Stand by Me”. Based on the novella “The Body”, penned by Stephen King, this flick concerns four 12 year old boys who set off in pursuit of the dead body of a recently deceased boy of their own age, Ray Brower. They are especially curious as none of them have ever glimpsed a corpse before.

The gang consists of our hero, Gordie LaChance (Wil Wheaton), an aspiring writer who is still grieving over the loss of his favoured older brother, Denny (John Cusack), his close friend, Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), whose entire family are notorious for being aimless slackers, the cocky and talkative Teddy DeChamp (Corey Feldman), who suffers abuse at the hands of his father, and amicable Vern Tessio (Jerry O’Connell), who always finds himself the butt of every joke.

Their trek brings them closer together, but ultimately it strives to tear them apart, as they each learn several essential life lessons. They also have to deal with local jerk Ace Merill (Keifer Sutherland), who is determined to reach the body before the boys do…

“Stand by Me” is the first film I remember watching as a youngster that actually resonated with me, and I felt for the boys’ respective home problems, especially Gordie’s. He still harbours his grief from his brother’s death, and feels as though his parents wanted him to die instead. One of my favourite scenes in the movie comes about when Chris comforts Gordie over this confession. River Phoenix’s acting at this point almost always managed to make me empathize with both boys, who are struggling with growing up in their own unique ways.

The movie is my second favourite adaption of a King novel (after “Shawshank Redemption”, of course), and the actors all perform credibly in their roles. Wil Wheaton excels as a nice guy, in stark contrast to his roles in “Star Trek” and “The Big Bang Theory”. Jerry O’Connell is hilarious as bumbling oaf Vern, while Corey Feldman employs his usual mouthy schtick for the portrayal of the obnoxious, but ultimately sympathetic Teddy.

The real stand out actor to me was River Phoenix, as his character attempts to make a better life for himself regardless of people’s perceptions of his family. It’s hard to believe, while watching his movies, that he died at such a tender age, do that the world will never get a glimpse of what his career could have been.

Richard Dreyfuss brings a nostalgic tint to the story as the adult Gordie reflecting on his childhood pals. He acknowledges that “friends come in and out of your life like busboys in a restaurant”. This sum up of childhood friendships is bound to strike a chord with anyone in the audience who fondly looks back on their childhood and general innocence.

“Stand by Me” rates as a 4 out of 5 star rating in my book, as it blends coming of age with adulthood successfully. I reckon that mature adolescents would enjoy this flick. It’s additionally worth watching for the title song by Ben E. King. All together now- “When the night is young”…