In 1986 Rob Reiner made one of the all time great movies about being a kid. “Stand By Me” was an exercise in dark edged nostalgia. Twenty years later he’s revisiting the Eisenhower and Kennedy years but leaves the dark stuff behind. “Flipped” is coming-of-age “Rashômon” filtered through “Leave it to Beaver” with a dash of “The Wonder Years” thrown in for good measure.
Set in 1960 the story begins when Bryce and his upwardly mobile family move in across the street from the Bakers and their daughter Juli (Madeline Carroll). It’s love at first sight for six-year-old Julie, who flips for Bryce’s “dazzling eyes.” Of course Bryce wants nothing to do with her; she is, after all, a girl. Juli won’t give up, however, pursuing—some might say stalking—him straight through till grade seven. Bryce does everything he can to dissuade her, until she finally gets the hint, and then, of course he develops a big time crush on her.
Told in a he-said-she-said structure, Juli and Bryce detail the day-to-day developments in their lives from their very different points of view. Much of the film’s humor comes from the discrepancies in the way each of them perceive the way their relationship is going. The back-and-forth is a trick that should get old but somehow, because of the writing but more than that, because of the charm of the young cast.
Reiner has cast extremely well, particularly in the case of Madeline Carroll who plays Juli. It’s a tough role, one that requires the audience to believe that she is wise and articulate beyond her years. We’ve all seen precocious kids on screen before, but the thing that separates her performance from other annoying kid’s performances is the work she does behind her eyes. You can see her working through the complexities of life, trying to figure out relationships and the way the world works. It’s a remarkable and endearing performance that carries much of the movie.
The rest of the cast—Anthony Edwards, Penelope Ann Miller, John Mahoney, Aidan Quinn and Rebecca De Mornay—are effective but none feel irreplaceable in the way that Carroll does.
The he-said-she-said format won’t be for everyone, but the characters, the gentle humor of the script, the performances and the soft nostalgic glow that Reiner dabs on every frame is very appealing.