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From the moment 8-year-old Juli Baker first spotted Bryce Loski moving into the house across the street, she was smitten. There was just something about his eyes that told her this skinny kid with the slicked-back blond hair was going to be the one who gave her her first kiss.
Bryce's view of that fateful moment, however, wasn't so full of hearts and puckered lips. In fact, when he saw her staring at him from the curb in front of her house, he was determined to keep as far away from that creepy girl as possible.
As time passes, the boy- and girl-next-door pair continue to see their run-ins from completely different perspectives. Then, seventh grade brings change. At her dad's prompting, Juli starts to look around with an artist's eye. She's discovering that the things of life can sometimes be more or less than the sum of their parts. And she begins to wonder if her longtime crush, Bryce, is maybe … less.
At the same time, Bryce's grandfather has been talking about that spunky girl across the street—who reminds him so much of his dear, departed wife. And Bryce starts thinking that Juli may not be just an oddball pest after all. Maybe, as he's heard his grandfather say, she's one of those people you meet only once in a lifetime.
Although Flipped primarily deals with the tug-and-pull relationship between Juli and Bryce, it also says quite a bit about the character-shaping strength of family and self-sacrifice.
The Bakers and the Loskis have their own sets of familial struggles and we see both families openly argue. However, whereas Bryce's dad drinks to cover his anger and their household begins to splinter because of it, Juli's parents apologize for their heated words and embrace their kids, thus growing their family stronger.
In spite of the financial hardship it imposes, Juli's family pays for the expensive care and boarding of her mentally impaired uncle. The kids (Juli and her two brothers) fully support the choice. And we see Juli make some sacrificial choices that reflect the principles her parents have instilled in her.
Juli openly states, "I was grateful to have the family I had." Her mom tells her that "of all our many blessings, you're the best."
Juli enjoys sitting with her dad while he relaxes and paints landscapes in their backyard. "Somehow the silence tended to connect us more than words ever could," she says. But Mr. Baker also uses these moments to help Juli with some of her personal problems. "You have to look at the whole landscape," he tells his daughter. "The painting is more than the sum of its parts." And with that, Mr. Baker encourages Juli to look more deeply into the world and people around her.
Bryce finds a family member willing to guide him, too. When Grandpa Chet first moves in, the two don't talk much. But Chet eventually takes the boy under his wing, encouraging him to make wise and honest choices. "One's character is set at an early age," the old man says. So he prods Bryce to open his eyes to the strengths of people around him: "Some of us get dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss. But sometimes you find someone who's iridescent."
When Bryce's dad complains about the state of the Bakers' property, Grandpa Chet is the only one who walks across the street to help out. Together, he and Juli transform the weed-covered lot into a green and healthy yard.
Grandpa Chet uses the phrase, "But for the grace of God," when talking about a potential problem with Bryce's birth.
Bryce's mom wears a low-cut dress. And his older sister, Lynetta, wears formfitting tops that are also low-cut. Bryce is seen shirtless in his bedroom. Lynetta bursts into his room at one point and thinks he's hiding a Playboy magazine. (He's not; it's a newspaper article about Juli.) She chides Bryce about giving Miss October "his best."
During a heated family argument, Bryce's dad slaps Lynetta across the face for swearing at him. A girl slaps Bryce when she learns that he's been holding her hand to get Juli's attention. Juli's uncle throws a fit in public and overturns a table.
Crude or Profane Language
Two s-words. "Freakin'" stands in for its harsher cousin. There are several misuses of God's name (once its mingled with "d‑‑n") and a few uses each of "a‑‑" and "h‑‑‑."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Alcohol factors heavily into Bryce's dad's behavior. He often has a glass in his hand, and on several occasions he's visibly inebriated during family arguments. When the Bakers and the Loskis get together for dinner, all the adults appear to drink either wine, beer or mixed drinks.
Other Negative Elements
Several people make snide comments about Juli's "retarded" uncle. Bryce's dad badmouths the Bakers on a couple of occasions, including once when he falsely supposes that the Bakers' sons stole their musical equipment. (It's obvious that Mr. Loski's judgmental attitudes impact Bryce's selfish choices.)
Telling an endearing tale set in the '60s about kids dealing with coming-of-age insecurities is really nothing new for director Rob Reiner. One of his earliest films, Stand by Me, walked that path to critical praise. So adapting a popular contemporary teen romance (written by Wendelin Van Draanen) to a similar time frame wasn't a huge leap.
"That was when I came of age," Reiner told Plugged In. "I mean, I was 12 going on 13 right during that period. … When I first read this book—even though it takes place in the current day—it reminded me of the feelings I had when I first fell in love, so I decided to put it in that time period."
It was a good call. Not only does that choice take modern day texting and tweeting distractions out of the mix, it also lends a feeling of innocence to Juli and Bryce's "falling in like" story. They learn solid lessons from their families about making wise choices and evaluating the sum of a person based on the content of his character. And those lessons are sweetened by the movie's cinematic device of jumping back and forth between each one's distinct point of view—seeing a moment through Juli's eyes and then rewinding to see Bryce's very boy perspective. And it all seems to fit that iconic time as neatly as summer bonfires and Norman Rockwell paintings.
But those wonderfully rose-colored glasses Reiner offers us don't completely obscure the seriousness of a dad's alcohol abuse, a teenage sister teasing her younger sibling about stashing a Playboy, and the completely unnecessary vulgarities. And what are we to do with a dad who slaps his daughter across the face? While the movie by no means excuses the drinking and the domestic violence, it's not so careful with the other things. And that makes this sweet story a little less than the sum of its parts.
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Madeline Carroll as Juli Baker; Callan McAuliffe as Bryce Loski; Rebecca De Mornay as Patsy Loski; Anthony Edwards as Steven Loski; John Mahoney as Chet Duncan; Penelope Ann Miller as Trina Baker; Aidan Quinn as Richard Baker
August 6, 2010
November 23, 2010