Saturday 18 November 2017

10 of our favourite coming-of-age films

James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.
James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.
The Goonies
Lindsay Lohan in Mean Girls.
A scene from Stand By Me.

Tanya Sweeney

If you recall the comedic greatness of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, it may be time |to look at buying a bath chair: the film is 27 years old this month, writes Tanya Sweeney. Ferris would be in his 50s by now (Matthew Broderick, who played the sickie-pulling student, is 52), but he remains one of cinema’s greatest adolescent triumphs.

And proving that the teenage wasteland is fertile ground for storytelling, Lukas Moodysson has released arguably his best film since Lilya 4 Ever.

We Are The Best! focuses on three teenagers in 1980s Stockholm who decide to form a punk band, despite having little in the way of either skill or actual musical instruments.

Of course, cinema boasts a long and rich history of fantastic coming-of-age films. Here are just some |of the very best.

Dead Poets Society (1989)

On the surface, it was a pedestrian enough premise for a film: an English teacher inspires his private college students through his impassioned teaching of poetry. Yet Dead Poets Society crackles with an energy all of |its own, thanks to great performances from Robin Williams, Robert Sean Leonard and neophyte Ethan Hawke. Handling subjects such as class, privilege, suicide and young |love with sensitivity and elan, director Peter Weir crafted an inspiring and emotional coming-of-age tale.

The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)

Proving that the theme hasn’t died down |at all over the years, teenage angst is front and centre in Stephen Chbosky’s adaptation |of his own young adult novel. Logan Lerman stars as the character that’s stock-in-trade for the teenage film: an insecure outsider looking for his place in the world. This teenager, however, also has to battle depression and other personal demons on top of the usual adolescent woes. Ezra Miller and Emma Watson put in a star turn as the loner’s bubbly and irrepressible friends.

Juno (2007)

Juno’s whip-smart script — thanks to Oscar winner Diablo Cody — was stitched together primarily with teenage wisecracks and one-liners. Below the fizzy dialogue, however, |lies an intricate plot: pregnant teenager Juno McGuff (Ellen Page) seeks out a family to adopt her child, whereupon she encounters an affluent couple (played by Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner) seemingly desperate for a family of their own. Yet as the father-to-be voices his own doubts about giving up his teenage dreams, Juno learns plenty about affairs of the heart.

The Breakfast Club (1985)

John Hughes was the undisputed master of the coming-of-age tale, and The Breakfast Club is the arguable pinnacle in his illustrious career. Hughes had a particular sensitivity towards teenagers searching for an identity and their place in the world, and it shows in this film. Five high-school students — a goth, a jock, an outcast, a nerd and a princess — all find themselves in detention one Saturday morning. What is supposed to be a simple morning turns out to be a monumental and life-changing day for everyone involved.

A welcome departure from the sex ‘n’ drugs teen stories that preceded it, The Breakfast Club is as relevant today as it has ever been.

Stand By Me (1986)

By turns heart-warming and unflinching, Stand By Me is a paean to carefree summer holidays and the relative simplicity of boyhood and friendship. Four youngsters busying themselves during their school break may not sound like a core-shaker, but Rob Reiner’s dramatically tense tale, as well as performances from Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman and Jerry O’Connell, made this a stone-cold classic.

Clueless (1995)

It’s the film that launched a lexicon of its own: Clueless wasn’t just a common tale about a pampered princess living the high and very fashionable life in Beverly Hills, but also a retelling of the Jane Austen classic Emma. The film featured friendship, the curious high-school ecosystem, yearning, crushes and tons of fashion moments, making Clueless timeless and peerless.

Mean Girls (2004)

Tina Fey’s Mean Girls (below) picked up the Clueless baton and ran into the 21st Century. Featuring a fresh-faced Lindsay Lohan in arguably been her finest hour, Mean Girls took the concept of high school as a wildlife park to another level. Home-schooled Cady Heron (Lohan) casts an Attenborough-style eye over her new school, only to fall promptly between two stools: the wryly cool outsiders and the notorious mean girls of the school. Charming and chillingly familiar to all, Mean Girls proved Tina Fey was a comedic powerhouse.

The Goonies (1985)

If you were raised in the 80s, it’s almost impossible not to look back on The Goonies with sepia-tinted affection. Who didn’t fantasise about being part of the gang that literally got to swashbuckle on their epic adventuring? Amid all the high-octane goings-on, other coming-of-age tropes were present and correct: friendship, first crushes and brotherly love. Rather incredibly, a follow-up film is reportedly in the works.

The Outsiders (1983)

With half the Brat Pack involved (Tom Cruise, Emilio Estevez, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, Matt Dillon), The Outsiders was always going to burn with white-hot teenage angst. At the heart of the tale was the mounting tension between the Socs and the Greasers: two gangs from either side of the tracks. Noble deeds, all-out war and girls are all covered in this highly charged tale. Little-known fact: Coppola’s film was based on a novel written by SE Hinton, who was aged 16 when she wrote it in 1967.

Rebel Without A Cause (1955)

In 1955, the ‘teenager’ was a relatively new construct, and certainly one that hadn’t |been given much of a voice in Hollywood. Until 1955, that is, when James Dean’s Jim Stark runs into trouble as the new delinquent kid at a high school. Little wonder that the movie has been touted time and time again as the quintessential coming-of-age film; Dean’s portrayal of teenage angst became a blueprint at a time when America was experiencing great upheaval and the beatnik takeover was well and truly under way. The original is arguably the best.

We Are The Best! is released today

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