Outsiders, The

Reviewed By Thom
Posted 04/18/00 09:31:15

"New American Cinema meets New American Novelist"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

S.E. Hinton's classic buddy novel about adolescence on the wrong side of the tracks is translated beautifully by Francis Ford Coppola in this early '80s film.

The Outsiders came out in 1983 when I was the same age as the protagonists (14) so I identified with it more than if I was any older or younger. At the time, I did live on the "other" side of town. And yes, when Pretty in Pink came out the next year, I was right there riding the "identify with protagonist" train on a first class ticket to paradise. But that was then.

Today I'm riding high on the dot com hog and weathering
astronomical dips in the stock market like a coconut in the South Pacific. Avast ye scurvy dogs, and all that one-eyed, peg-legged trap. I still, however, have this little soft spot, very very little, in my heart for the lost and disaffected who started
out life with the odds stacked against them and still, little wildflowers that they are, find a way to root and grow.

The boyhood to manhood rite of passage thrust on Pony Boy (C. Thomas Howell) and Johnny (Ralph Macchio) is memorable and poignant. I know poignancy is an overused element of so many films and books featured on Oprah and starring Robin Williams, but in this case, it is good poignancy that doesn't feel manipulative because it emerges from the story as it unfolds rather than being pointed to like a cuecard at a live studio recording instructing the audience to: "Respond to Poignant Moment Now". If you ever wondered when childhood ends and adulthood begins, ask Pony. I look into the crystal ball, I see you staring at the sky and yelling, "Why, God, Why?"

The conflict is thus:

The Greasers live on one side of town. The side where
self-respecting people, ie, those with money to spend, don't go. The Socs (pronounced "So-Shiz") live on the other side of town. Somewhere in the middle these two rival groups meet to contest social boundaries with tragic results.

Think Capulets and Montagues, and whatever those two rival gangs in West Side Story were - the Whites and the Hispanics.

This begins a coming of age buddy tale about two young fugitives trying to understand themselves and their life and the mess they are in. Are they innocent victims of circumstance or are they inherently bad for being poor and subject to parents and living standards that require a hard edge and the ability to take a fall?

The most memorable moment for me is the end, when , after being engulfed in flames while trying to rescue his best friend, Pony Boy finally understands the meaning of the phrase "Thats golden".

The book was written for a teenager that wasn't quite ready
for the "fuck you and fuck all this crap" Catcher in the Rye, but rather the teenager who wants to be accepted for who he is.

The Legend of Billy Jean owes a big debt to this book, as much as S.E. Hinton owes a big debt to Shakespeare, and who knows who Shakespeare owes credit to, probably the Devil.

Watching this film now would be like revisiting the history of Tiger Beat for the past 30 years.

The Outsiders stars C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio (The Karate KId), Matt Dillon, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, (and I was all Emilioooooo..) as the Greasers. A hearthrob from the 70's, Leif Garrett, plays a Soc. The last of the beatniks, TOM WAITS (!) who also starred in another S.E Hinton adaptation, Rumble Fish, that same year, plays an adult friend of Darrel Curtis (Patrick Swayze). Darrel Curtis is the well-meaning rough-under-the- collar older brother who is left to raise his two brothers, Pony Boy and Soda Pop (a post-porn Rob Lowe) after their parents die in a car accident.

This movie had an unbelievable cast and direction for the time. And I would have to say that many of the cast could and still do throw their weight around. Hell, Tom Waits is a living legend.

Half of these actors were hot shit brat packers or other highly marketable names at the time. Matt Dillon was like Ben Affleck of the '80s. (Even though that guy in Sixteen Candles, Michael Schoeffling who kind of looked like Matt Dillon was sexier and fortunately for us, he showed up again as the hunk who makes it with Winona Ryder in Mermaids, a movie that should have been called "Barely Legal". That movie also starred Cher. Who seems to have traded all her talent for plastic features. She's a great actress. Even better at playing herself. Man, can you believe using Cher as a way to expose a young actress like Winona to the masses. And Mermaids was a good movie to boot.)

A word of caution to the feminists, who, I hope, is anyone under the age of 60 reading this.
You may be turned off by all the male bonding and "women as incidental to men, but gentle mothers of all men - literally men" but dammit if Patrick Swayze doesn't look good in tight jeans.

A word of joy and wonder to the budding homos.
Give your hormonal imbalance a depth charge and check this movie out! Besides all the young, muscular, macho studs in tight jeans that accentuate in all the right places, it shows the possibility of intimacy, understanding and an unbreakable bond between two teenage boys, just short of sex, but you can read that part into the story yourself.

Thanks the power of your imagination, in spite of the countless hours watching eMpTV drooling over Carson Dailey, you now have the ultimate teenage homo love story with a hidden object lesson that mirrors the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic. Someone needs to remake this film. You heard it here first. And then read Catcher in the Rye. You'll need to draw on Holden Caulfield to pull you through the depression after the shock of reality. Got any black turtlenecks?

This is a good movie that hits in all the right places and the script follows the original novel close enough so that you can choose your media and not miss anything.

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