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Looking back at teen movies

Ahead of tomorrow’s release of Spring Breakers, a recap of some of the best films in the genre.

When Ferris Bueller spent a day off school in John Hughes eighties classic Ferris Bueller’s day off, the worst behaviour on display was the crashing of one of the parent’s sports cars. Ferris and his friends spent the day in Chicago and were content with a lunch in an expenisve restaurant and a visit to an art gallery to look at impressionist paintings, hardly riotous behaviour.

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) Poster

 

 

In many ways, Hughes’ films are romantic gloss, rarely bothering to go deep into the psyche of adolescent minds. Such superficiality reached its peak in other Hughes films Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. The Breakfast Club aimed to encapsulate the nerd, the jock, the princess, all the familiar characters you would expect to meet in an American High School, or a film set in one in the eighties. Hughes’s film was so successful, in no small part due to its music, and Judd Nelson’s triumphant raised arm at the end of the film. It was one of the first films to almost ignore the parents, but the note that Anthony Michael Hall writes at the end seems to hold them entirely responsible for their (mis)behaviour.The Breakfast Club (1985) Poster

Fast forward to 1996. Larry Clark’s debut film Kids opens to a firestorm of controversy and outrage in America. The film is authored by Harmony Korrine, and takes place in and around Manhattan on a single day. A few things to consider about the film: it has almost no plot. There are few sympathetic characters, we follow amoral HIV-positive Telly, seducer of virgins as he roams the streets, meeting his friends in Central Park, going to a party. About the only character who could have appeared in a Hughes film, Jennie, is HIV positive and tries to prevent other girls from meeting the same fate. Quite apart from its unabashed language, the film broke taboos in its showing of teenage sex, with a cast of very realistic-seeming teenagers. In many ways the film goes back to a cycle of fifties films, of which Rebel Without a Cause is the most  famous, serving as an expose of the dangers of teenage lives.

Nowhere (Greg Araki) 1997

Nowhere (1997) Poster

The flipside to Larry Clark’s wallowing in squalor, nowhere is artificial, brightly lit and full of soon to be stars (Ryan Phillipe, Mena Suvari, Rose McGowan, Heather Graham) taking drugs and engaging in pan-sexual activities. In many ways the film is impossible to take seriously, the way these teens speak is a parody of Valley girl-ese, and at the end of the film the main character turns into a giant bug. These teenagers are privileged and moneyed, even if they are going nowhere they are determined to have a good time going there. Such characters could have appeared in the eighties novels of Bret Easton Ellis, although no explicit link between Araki’s films and Ellis’s books has ever been made.

Rules of Attraction (Roger Avary)

The Rules of Attraction (2002) Poster

After Less Than zero and American Psycho, this was adapted as a film. It dropped the eighties setting but kept the characters and the most memorable parts of the book, which I have read several times. Interesting fact: the sped-up footage of Victor travelling in Europe was at one stage  going to be released as a film, or at the very least a DVD special feature, but so far has not been made available.

Not Another teen Movie

After American Pie (essentially Porkies for the nineties) came a tide of very poorly made campus comedies, often starring Jason Biggs and Mena Suvari. There were four American Pie films, and the inevitable spoof, Not Another Teen Movie.

Springbreakers (Harmony Korrine)

Spring Breakers (2012) Poster

finally, another film from Harmony Korrine. Springbreakers takes the stars of High school Musical (Vanessa Hudgens) and Wizards of Waverly Place (Selena Gomez) and puts them in Florida where they get drunk and then go on a robbing spree. Early reviews have been mostly strong. The film is a departure from movies where unfashionable young men attempt to have sex (Superbad, The Inbetweeners), and shows a good amount of female flesh in the process.

The Bling-Ring

I have to mention this, though not really a teen movie. Somewhere made me cry, I love what Sophia Coppola did with Elle Fanning and Stephen Dorff as father spending time re-connecting with his daughter, the film was lyrical, lovely and tender all at once. The Bling Ring looks at fame obsessed young women who trawl the internet to find the addresses of celebrities whose homes they rob. It comes out in June.

The Bling Ring (2013) Poster

The Bling Ring – photo from IMDB

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