Rob Reiner’s Flipped is the most perfectly beautiful movie I’ve seen in a long time. It’s warm and feel-good in the very best way. It’s a movie that I was sad to see end and that ended so sweetly it left me wiping away a tear. Movies have so seldom done that to me, nowadays or ever.
Its evocation of the 1950s is bouncy and doo-wop filled and infectious. It runs along at a quick pace while always knowing when to take a breath, allowing us to climb a tree and enjoy a ravishing sunset. The climb is filled with humor, observation, and just the right touch of sentiment without ever getting our hands stuck in sap.
The story is told by Bryce and Juli, two teenagers who first met as young kids. Their relationship is up and down and all around and filled with understandings and far more misunderstandings. The story is narrated in alternating fashion, first him, then her, then him, then her, and so on.
We follow Bryce as he observes Juli’s strange – to him – infatuation with a great old sycamore tree. Then the story rewinds and flips over to follow Juli during the same days – and we learn why she loves the tree so deeply and how hurt she was by Bryce’s indifference.
By the end of this passage, I was as in love with that sycamore as Juli and also felt her heartbreak over its fate. That’s the beauty of the movie’s novelistic approach of always keeping us deeply in touch with the characters’ thoughts and feelings.
Just as endearing – and funny – are their differing perspectives on her science fair project – hatching chicks – and his embarrassing stint as a basket boy. I’m glad I never experienced that. Boys line up in front of the student body, each holding a basket filled with sandwiches, and girls bid on the boy, and the lunch.
This constant rewinding and flipping back and forth between perspectives is a perfectly realized concept here. I’ve seen it used in many ways by many movies, but I’ve never seen it used in such a satisfying way before. I was always looking forward to the twists her perspective would provide, was always trying to guess ahead, and was always pleasantly surprised.
Reiner assembled a first-rate cast, as always. As a director, he’s a true talent magnet. And Flipped offers one of his finest ensembles ever.
Bryce’s parents are played by Anthony Edwards of E.R. and the under-utilized Rebecca De Mornay. His sage grandfather is played by the irrepressible John Mahoney (the dad on Frasier). Mahoney alone makes the movie worth seeing. Juli’s parents are played by Aidan Quinn (so good to see on screen again) and Penelope Ann Miller.
And I emphasize the parent and grandparent characters here because Flipped is so refreshingly a movie about teenagers that values the advice and experience of the adult characters – and has teenage characters who value their moms and dads and grandpas as well.
Of course, the movie would go nowhere without two appealing actors portraying Bryce and Juli. We are in their heads and following their travails every step of the way and the very appealing Callan McAuliffe and Madeline Carroll made it a pleasure to hear their thoughts.
My favorite heartwarming, socks-off charming scenes of all time are when Forrest first meets Jenny on the school bus in Forrest Gump and the scenes of dangling from trees that follow. Flipped, with its two winning young characters, gave me those same feelings all over again.