Elvis may be dead for twenty years, but the music still lives on. Another rites-
of-passage film is exactly what we were missing in this day and age. (I can
hardly wait for everyone to finally grow up.) This time around we find
ourselves in the 1950's and becoming involved with the rich Abbotts and the
poor Holts. Of course, when rich and poor are neighbors, you can bet that
we're dealing with the "class struggle - American style". For those who were
not yet around to experience the 50's (which is usually the case with the
group attracted nowadays by rites-of-passage films) it may come as a
surprise that sex was an issue even before they were born.
Director Pat O'Connor says, "This film is about issues that continue in every
generation -- all of the fundamental relationships of life. It's about a boy from
one family and a girl from another. It's about the brothers, it's about a mother
and her sons, a father and his daughters. It's also about how the past
impinges on the present and how misunderstanding the past can damage a
person." Yep, folks, it's a rites-of-passage film.
The Abbotts are raising their luxurious tent for another party as we enter the
scene. Pamela Abbott (Liv Tyler) gives us the biggest hint about her family
when she reveals that "Alice (Joanna Going) is the good one, Eleanor
(Jennifer Connelly) is the bad one, and I'm the one who gets off the hook."
This is the biggest hint we are to receive about familial inter-relationships
until a secret is revealed later in the film. Most sympathetic male child in the
Holt camp (and close friend of Pamela) is Doug (Joaquin Phoenix). His
brother Jacey (Billy Cruddup) suffers from the envy and jealousy of the
undeserving poor, heightened by the inability to get the girl of his greedy
dreams. Jacey is also motivated by the belief that Mr. Abbott (Will Patton)
has, in the past, practically stolen the patent from his mother (Kathy Baker)
that created his fortune.
As films in this genre go, this one is superior in quality. Intelligent acting by a
talented cast, with notable performances by Tyler, Phoenix, Crudup, and
Baker, with a period set by production designer Gary Frutkoff, costumes by
Aggie Guerard Rodgers, and images neatly framed by DP Kenneth MacMillan
help create a believable atmosphere.
Although producer Janet Meyens likes to draw parallels to films such as
"Splendor in the Grass," "Rebel Without a Cause," and "The Last Picture
Show," and "Carnal Knowledge(?)," this film seems to lack the impact
necessary to create a classic. Not to worry, Janet, the target audience
probably hasn't seen any of the above, anyway.
© 1994-2006 The Green Hartnett