Thursday, October 27, 2016

Past and Present

Now and Then
Director: Lesli Linka Glatter
Cast: Gaby Hoffmann, Christina Ricci, Thora Birch, Ashleigh Aston Moore, Demi Moore, Rosie O'Donnell, Melanie Griffith, Rita Wilson
Released: October 20, 1995

When I reviewed Stand By Me a month ago, I mentioned that Now and Then was the female equivalent to that movie and I remembered not liking it, but I should probably give it a another chance to see if my opinion had changed. Well, I watched it again and while I don't despise it as much as I remember hating it when I was younger, I definitely didn't love it. (Okay, maybe I still despise it a little!) Like I mentioned in my Stand By Me review, by all rights I should love this movie because it's a coming of age story about adolescent girls and all these actresses were in my age range and while I was a couple years older than the characters they played, this movie was really targeted at me, but I just never really connected with it.

The movie follows four friends: Samantha (Gaby Hoffmann and Demi Moore), Roberta (Christina Ricci and Rosie O'Donnell), Teeny (Thora Birch and Melanie Griffith), and Chrissy (Ashleigh Aston Moore and Rita Wilson) in "present day" 1995 (NOW!) and in 1970 when they were 12 (THEN!) Get it? Cuz it's called Now and Then! Although, I read on the IMDb trivia section that the "Now" section takes place in 1991, but that can't be right because "Now" Samantha listens to a cassette (yes, a tape cassette, didn't they have effing CD players in cars in the early '90s? I guess not!) of "As I Lay Me Down" by Sophie B. Hawkins and that song was released in 1994, so therefore the "Now" part can't take place earlier than then. Oh, sure, you could just do some quick math in your head because you know they were 12 in 1970, but they never tell you how old they are in their "Now" roles. There is really no clue to when the "Now" part takes place except for that song, so I have no idea why that trivia said the "Now" parts take place in 1991.

Even though the movie is called Now and Then, it mostly takes place during the "Then" time. The "Now" portions are only at the beginning and the end of the film. You think the movie would weave back and forth between the two time periods, but it doesn't. Honestly, I'm okay with that because I prefer the "Then" (the majority of the film) to the "Now". I never bought the older versions the younger versions grew up to be...something just didn't click with the casting. The casting of the younger girls was great, but when they casted their older versions, they just seemed more worried about getting "big" names (well, for the '90s!). I did not buy that any of these girls would still be friends with each other when they were in their early thirties or however old they're suppose to be. I can tell you right now that I am not still friends with anyone I knew when I was 12! Facebook friends, maybe, but I don't hang out with any of them because a) we went our separate ways and b) we have separate lives. And the friends I have now? I didn't know any of them when I was 12. Maybe if you were still living in the same town and never moved away from each other, then yeah, I can see that.

"Now" Chrissy still lives in the same town they grew up in - Shelby, Indiana. She obviously doesn't know how to dress as you can see in that awful pink atrocity she's wearing in the photo to your right. Seriously, what the hell is that? She's about to have her first baby and wants her childhood friends to be there for her. I think Roberta also still lives in the same town where she works as a doctor, so it makes sense she was there and that she and Chrissy are still friends. I did like that the movie mentioned that they hadn't seen Samantha and Teeny (I hope to God she was at least going by Tina as an adult, but I never caught that) in several years so it wasn't like they were always keeping in touch with each other. I'm not sure where Sam was living, but it's mentioned she's a science fiction writer, so probably New York. Just like Roberta being a doctor came out of left field, so did Samantha being a writer. At least with Roberta, you could say she wanted to help people since her mom died when she was young? But there was never any scenes to tell us that young Sam wanted to grow up to be a writer, and why a sci-fi writer? She was into seances and talking to the dead, but wouldn't that be a mystery writer? Obviously they were trying to copy Stand By Me as Sam is the Gordie of this group since she's the main character and Demi Moore provides us with these awful and flat voiceovers. Teeny has become an actress in Hollywood and has won People Choice Awards and has been on the cover of TV Guide. She has dreamed of being an actress since she was a little girl and of course she becomes one because everyone who dreams of becoming famous becomes famous! Seriously, this woman is famous and she's taking a limo back to her small town she grew up in to visit her childhood friends? Puh-leeze, that would never happen! So the beginning of this movie is total BS! 

While the four women are reminiscing, we cut to the summer of 1970 when they were childhood friends and are on a trek to find a dead body. I'm just joking - the movie doesn't blatantly steal everything from Stand By Me! No, they are trying to raise money to buy a treehouse from a catalogue. Um, I have never heard of being able to BUY a TREEHOUSE from a catalogue. Don't you BUILD those? I know you can buy the play sets that have the clubhouses, but that doesn't make any sense that you can buy a treehouse because how would you put it in the tree? You obviously have to build around the tree to make sure it fits. Why am I even worried about this? You think this is going to be a major part of the movie, but it's not. We just see them talking about it and counting how much money they have from time to time, then all of a sudden they have a treehouse in a tree in Chrissy's backyard (in fact, it's still there when they're adults) and we never have an explanation of them saying they had enough money for the treehouse or how the hell it got in the tree! Oh! And we see they have the treehouse, but yet they're still worried about making money for it because Roberta tells them her dad will pay them ten dollars if they paint the garage, but maybe they were just trying to get more money for something else? IDK! 

The movie quickly turns to being about the four girls wanting to find out how a 12-year-old boy was killed twenty-five years ago. Well, it may not be them finding a dead body, but the fact that they're trying to find out how a young boy died is close enough to the plot of Stand By Me! He goes by the name "Dear Johnny" and they decide to have a seance to talk to him. Now I remember being a girl around this age and while I don't think I ever participated in a seance (eh, I may have but I just forgot about it since nothing probably happened!), but I do remember all those other "spooky" activities like the Ouija board; Bloody Mary; Stiff as a Board, Light as a Feather (LOL, who didn't play that at camp or sleepovers, am I right?) and scary stories that you swore were true because it happened to a friend of a friend! And everyone knows whenever you participated in one of those, someone was always moving the little cursor on the Ouija board or swore they saw Bloody Mary or, in the case of this movie, was pretending to be possessed by the spirit of Dear Johnny which is what Chrissy does to fool the other girls since they're all so gullible. Right after she tells them nothing ever happens when they have these seances, a bolt of lightning strikes near them and it starts pouring and all the girls scream, Chrissy the loudest. This probably happened around midnight and the girls return to their homes. Well, no sooner than a few short hours later, Samantha thinks the spirit of Dear Johnny has come into her room (because it was windy outside and she left her window open) so she decides the girls need to meet again in the graveyard so she can tell them. Seriously, she couldn't wait until the next morning to tell them this? They only do this so they can show the clever way they get each other's attention because apparently they do this all the time in the middle of the night. Sam lives near Roberta and she pulls on a rope with a bell on it that wakes up Roberta, who in turn shines a flashlight into Teeny's room, and Teeny gets on her Walkie-Talkie to call Chrissy. (Maybe they should invest in more Walkie-Talkies!) When they return to the graveyard, they discover Dear Johnny's tomb has been knocked over so therefore he must be haunting them and they need to know how he died.  

That's pretty much the premise of the story: doing some research to figure out how this twelve-year-old boy died in 1945. Each girl has their own identity they bring to the movie. Of course, all of these are stereotypes. As I mentioned earlier, Samantha is the main character of the four girls (even though the Roberta character is credited first, but I suppose that's because Rosie O'Donnell / Christina Ricci were the most well known names in their respective age groups?). Sam's parents get divorced, well, actually her dad just leaves one night after having a fight with her mother without saying goodbye to her and her little sister, Angela (played by a very young Rumer Willis). Real nice guy, there. Seriously, if your parents were fighting all the time like hers did, wouldn't you WANT them to get divorced so you wouldn't have to deal with that anymore? But Demi Moore tells us in her flat voiceover that she found the fights to be soothing because she was used to them. Since divorce wasn't common back then, Sam doesn't tell her friends what happened and they all think her parents get along because she also never told them that they always fought. She eventually does tell Teeny, her closest friend from the group and eventually tells the others as well. After she tells Teeny (God, I can't get over how STUPID her name is!), Teeny in reply tells her that she read a statistic that in ten years half the population will be divorced. Har-har, movie! You're so clever and funny! Sam's mom starts dressing a little more provocatively...short shorts and tall boots and even brings home a man for dinner (played by Hank Azaria) where he can meet Sam and Angela on their first date....which is so weird. Needless to say, it doesn't go so well.

When Sam confesses to Teeny what happened, Teeny (seriously, why does she have such a stupid name?) breaks her favorite bead necklace in half and makes them into two bracelets so they can each have one and be BFFs! When Sam gasps, "You love that necklace!", I was thinking, Uh, it's just beads and a thread....she can make another one, you idiot. It does make sense that Sam told Teeny first about her parents since Teeny doesn't have a very good relationship with her parents and would probably understand the most out of the other girls, but they also make it as though Sam and Teeny are the closest from the group, and therefore, by default, Roberta and Chrissy are each other's best friends. None of these girls seemed to be as close of friends as Gordie and Chris were in Stand By Me; it felt more forced to me. I could see the four of them hanging out, but I never saw the close knit bond of any two of them. Once Sam has her new friendship bracelet, which she promises she'll never lose, she and Teeny are riding their bikes in the dark and rain, and Sam loses her bracelet! Good job, you idiot! Even though it's just a stupid piece of string with beads strung on it, she has to find it NOW! Even Teeny is like, Eff it, let's get out of the rain and look for it tomorrow. That girl may have a stupid name, but at least she has some brains! Sam sees the bracelet in the sewer and decides to hop on down there to get it. Honey, I'm sure Teeny can make you another bracelet if you just ask her. So she's down there and gets the bracelet, but the rain is pouring in and both girls are freaking out because she can't get out and she's going to drown, although I'm pretty sure sewers don't fill up with water and if she just stopped panicking for a damn second, she could probably get out just fine. But it's sooooo overdramatic and Teeny is crying for help and who should appear, but Crazy Pete, this old scary man who rides on a creaky bide in the graveyard during the night. Crazy Pete must be Old Man Marley's older brother because both are cut from the same cloth. They're both scary old men characters, but in the end they turn out to be sweet old men who save children. Crazy Pete rescues Samantha and in a serious and somber voiceover, Demi Moore says, "Teeny and I both know what would have happened if Crazy Pete wasn't there that night." OMG, shut up! You would not have died! And why are you still referring to him as Crazy Pete as an adult when by then you know he was just a misunderstood old man (just like Old Man Marley!) and WASN'T crazy!

Teeny is the boy crazy one of the group (well, with a name like that!) Her parents are never around and are always having swingers' parties while she imagines herself winning Academy Awards. One of the few times the movie made me genuinely laugh is when she's pretending to give an interview after she has "won" an "award" and takes out her retainer in the middle of it. She's the one who reads Cosmos and makes her friends take those stupid quizzes and stuffs her bra with water balloons filled with (vanilla) pudding and is the resident "expert" on sex. She craves attention and even as as adult she's still vapid and annoying, bragging her boob job was worth every penny. Teeny may have been best friends with Sam, but she was pretty horrible to Chrissy, even flat out telling the poor girl she's fat. The girls play Truth and Dare all the time and they ALWAYS choose Truth, no matter what. It's like, girls, just ask each other the damn questions without the whole Truth or Dare charade. On the day it's just her and Sam, she asks Sam who she would eat out of the four friends if they were ever in such a dire situation and Sam says she would choose Chrissy because she would feed more people and both girls snicker. You know what? Samantha and Teeny are stuck up little beeyotches so it's no wonder they clicked the most with each other! 

As you may have already guessed, Chrissy is the "fat" one of the group. She's not fat, per se, just chubby. They make such a big deal out of it and as I mentioned earlier, the other girls are pretty horrible to her about it except for Roberta. Chrissy is no doubt the Vern of this group, although when the boys in Stand By Me gave Vern a hard time, they never called him "fat" or "chubby" - that was Vern who would bring it up ("Great, spit at the fat kid!") and I always felt they gave him a hard time out of love and respect, while Sam and Teeny give Chrissy a hard time just to be mean and catty little beeyotches. There is plenty to give Chrissy crap about without it being about her weight because the girl is so prissy and whiny! She hates being dirty and has a hissy fit when Roberta splashes on her. She also freaks out when a bird poops and it lands in one of her pigtails and the other girls are laughing at her. While I did feel for her, I also thought it was a little funny. Her mom is played by Bonnie Hunt in one scene and she gives her daughter a very weird and awkward talk about sex in which she tells her every woman has a garden and it needs a hose ("big or small!") to water and fertilize it. Of course the girl that's the most confused about sex is the one who is pregnant when they're adults! We see where Prissy Chrissy (seriously, why did the other girls never give her that nickname?) gets her cleanliness phobia from as her mother tells her to keep the lid on her record player closed to keep it from being dusty and how to keep the canopy on her bed just so. 

I had no idea about this until just a couple months ago, but did you know that the actress who played young Chrissy, Ashleigh Aston Moore, died at the age of 26 in 2007? That was nearly ten years ago and I just found that out this year! I suppose it was because this was one of the very few roles she did and she stopped acting a couple years after this movie (which I think was her first one), so she was never a big name unlike the other young actresses who I knew from other things they were in. That just shocked me when I found out. Apparently she died of pneumonia. This part was offered to Kirsten Dunst, but she didn't want to gain weight for the role, according to the trivia section at IMDb.

If I had to chose a favorite out of the four girls, it would probably have to be Roberta. She's the tomboy of the group and has the best scenes out of all the other girls. She's the type of girl who will slug the boy at the baseball field when he announces that girls can't play baseball. The only thing Roberta does that is truly awful is pretend to kill herself when the girls are splashing around in a lake and she climbs up a tree and dives into the water despite the girls telling her it's too shallow. They see her floating, lifeless and the girls naturally freak out and swim over to her. That's a pretty f***ked up thing to do, pretend to have killed yourself, but she says it was just a joke and a test to see who her real friends were as Chrissy was the only one willing to give her mouth-to-mouth. In another one of her flat voiceovers, Demi Moore tells us this wasn't the first time Roberta had pretended to kill herself, that she had jumped off a roof before and pretended to have broken her neck. Chrissy punches Roberta in the face which she deserved. We learn that ever since Roberta's mom died when she was four, she's had an obsession with death and that was her own sick way of dealing with it. When the girls go to the library to see if they can find any information about Dear Johnny, Roberta is doing her own digging about her mother's death. She seems very surprised that her mother died in a car accident and it was a pretty brutal death. I'm not sure if her dad told her that her mom had died another, more peaceful way or she thought she was instantly killed in the car crash, but either way, Roberta was under the impression that the death had been quick and painless, but, in fact it wasn't, which upsets her greatly, naturally. When the girls sneak into Sam's grandmother's (Cloris Leachman) attic where they know there's information about Dear Johnny, Roberta is at first upset when they find out Dear Johnny and his mother were shot by an intruder robbing their house, then turns her agitation into being upset about her mother and breaks a mirror and I'm thinking, That's her friend's grandmother's mirror she just destroyed there! This scene was like the one in Stand By Me where Gordie says "Why did he have to die?" referring to his brother right after they found the dead body of the kid their age. One thing I never understood about this scene is why didn't Sam just sneak into the attic, then let the other girls in? Duh!

The four girls have an ongoing feud with the four Wormer brothers. Why? I'm not really sure. At first I thought "Wormer" was a derogatory term they called them, but no, that's their last name. The oldest brother, Scott, is played by Devon Sawa, who, if you were a preteen or teen girl in the '90s, you probably had a crush on. To be honest, I was never on the Devon Sawa train, though I will admit he was VERY cute. I only saw him in this movie and Casper (the OTHER 1995 movie in which he "makes out" with Christina Ricci) and his roles in those movies aren't very big. I never saw his other movies in the late '90s/early '00s when he became a little more popular. He was like a second rate Leonardo DiCaprio of that time, haha. Of course the reason he gives the girls such a hard time is because he has a crush on Roberta and there is a very cute scene where they're playing basketball together and he compliments her on her skills, saying she's good, "not just for a girl, but for a guy." (Hmm, that comment seems a little bit sexist, but I know he meant it as a compliment!) Roberta invites him to have a soda with her and while they're on the porch swing he mumbles, "Can I kiss you?" and of course she doesn't understand him so he has to ask again to which she says, "Sure" and he eagerly scoots closer to her and she goes, "Now?" Uh, what did she expect? His eagerness just made me laugh. They share a kiss and Scott's like, "That was great!" and Roberta says, "It was okay." After an awkward pause, I thought Roberta was going to attack him and start making out with him (hey, it's been awhile since I saw the movie last!), but instead she threatens that she'll beat the s**t out of him if he tells anyone. I guess that was more in character for her. While she never tells her friends about it as a kid, I'm surprised she never brought it up when they were adults. Teeny would have been jealous because she had a crush on Scott too (I mean, who wouldn't?) because wasn't that Devon Sawa she's giving the flirty eye to at the beginning of the movie when they're playing Red Rover?

Speaking of guys the girls flirt with, when they're riding their bikes back to Shelby after visiting the library a couple towns over, they run into a young veteran who just got back from the Vietnam War and is a traveling hobo hippie. He is played by Brendan Fraser who I had no idea was in this movie. It felt like this scene was thrown in at the last minute because they felt they needed something about the Vietnam War because of the time period the "Then" part is set during. The guy offers them cigarettes and gives them some sound advice about their parents not always knowing what they're talking about. When the girls are saying goodbye to him, Teeny is flirting with him, which is understandable, but flirting with him even more is Sam. It was a little creepy that a twelve-year-old was hardcore flirting with a guy in his early twenties. I thought it would have been hilarious if grown up Sam had ended up with him and we saw Brendan Fraser in the "Now" portion with old age make up, although that wouldn't have made any sense as he told the girls he doesn't stick around the same place for very long, so they probably never saw each other again. Also, "Now" Sam can't hold onto a relationship very long because she's afraid of getting hurt because she's still affected by her parents' divorce so she's bitter and single and dresses all in black and is a chain smoker. Just another cliche, you know.

All of these girls are really stupid. Why? Well, when Samantha is reading the article about how Dear Johnny and his mother died, she mentions the father/husband who found their bodies and his name is Peter Sims. My first reaction was "Crazy Pete is Dear Johnny's dad!" But none of these girls caught on. In fact, later, when Sam sees Crazy Pete at the cemetery in front of Dear Johnny's grave, she puts two and two together and says, "You're Johnny's dad!" And it isn't until several years later, during the "Now" portion when they're all adults when she reveals this to the other women and they're all SHOCKED! Seriously!??!?! You didn't know that???? That would have been the first thing out of my mouth had I been there in that attic in 1970 when Samantha read that article...I would have said, "Oh my God, you guys, Crazy Pete is Dear Johnny's dad!" And the other girls would have been like, "You're so smart!" And I would have replied with, "Well, any idiot could have figured that out!"

Can I just say how stupid the promotion poster for this movie is? It doesn't make any sense! As you see on the left, it's the "Now" actresses in the same shot as the "Then" actresses and they have their arms slung around them. This doesn't make any sense because how the hell can you touch an older/younger version of yourself. Now if this movie was a time travel movie, then sure, but it's not! What they should have done is divided the poster into two horizontal halves and have the "Now" portion on the top and then "Then" portion on the bottom. Because this just confuses everyone!

If you want to see a good coming of age movie, then watch Stand By Me!  

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