Now and Then (PG-13)
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streaming sites: Amazon; iTunes
This came out in 1995. I first saw it in 1999. I watched it again in 2014 to write a review. Um... hmm. It's mostly set in 1970, when a group of four friends were 12 years old. So I could have put the review under "period pieces," but I think "coming of age" is a bit more apt. Anyway, I didn't actually remember anything at all about the plot, from the first time I saw it. Well, I knew it was set in two different time periods, but I wasn't sure if it flashed back and forth between the two, or what. As it turns out, it's mostly set in the the past. It opens in 1970, then we see the present (Wikipedia says 1991, but I have no idea how they know the specific year), then almost the whole move is in 1970, then at the very end we see the present again. Aside from the fact that it's set in two time periods, I knew it several actors with whom I was familiar, but the only one I really remembered was Christina Ricci. Learning anew who the other actors were didn't exactly surprise me, with the exception of Ashleigh Moore, of whom I was a fan from The Odyssey, but I didn't remember having seen her in anything other than that (in which she was billed as Ashley Rogers). So it's kind of weird to realize I had seen her in this. Another thing that's weird is that when I was checking links to use in my review, I discovered that the movie was not well-received. I mean, I didn't have any recollection of what critics had thought of it, but watching it I felt like it was the kind of thing that critics would like more than I did- and I thought it was kind of good. But apparently I liked it better than critics did. And apparently it's been compared unfavorably to Stand by Me. But it's kind of hard for me to see the point in comparing this movie specifically to that one. Sure, they're both the same kind of movie, but it's not exactly an uncrowded genre.
In any event, the movie is narrated as an adult by a novelist named Samantha (Demi Moore; played as a kid by Gaby Hoffmann). She returns to her home town after many years away, because of a pact she and her three friends had made to always be there for each other whenever one of them needed the others. Also returning is a famous actress named Tina (or "Teeny," played as an adult by Melanie Griffith and as a kid by Thora Birch). The reason they're returning is that their friend Chrissy (Ashleigh Moore as a kid, Rita Wilson as an adult) is having a baby. The fourth friend, Roberta (Ricci as a kid, Rosie O'Donnell as an adult) is a doctor; both she and Chrissy still live in their home town. And... I find it sufficiently believable that the characters' 12-year-old selves have all grown up into these adult characters.
So, um... Chrissy is (and was) kind of a prude, which we can easily blame on her mother (played in a very brief scene by Bonnie Hunt). Roberta was a tomboy who was upset that her breasts were growing. But more importantly she was upset about her mother having died, years ago, when Roberta was too young to remember her. Teeny always wanted to be an actress. And Samantha... was coping with the separation of her parents (after many years of hearing them argue, and lying to her friends about how close her parents were). And... I kind of feel the need to mention that there are points in the movie where it becomes clear that Chrissy and Roberta are best friends, while Samantha and Teeny are best friends. But most of the time it just seems like the four of them are equally best friends.
Um... so anyway, in 1970, they were saving up to buy this big treehouse together. And one night they perform a seance in a graveyard, which leads to them thinking they'd resurrected the spirit of a boy their age who had died decades earlier. And they have a rivalry with a group of brothers named Wormer. And there's a medium played Janeane Garofalo. And Hank Azaria plays a guy who, in one brief scene, dates Sam's mom after her dad leaves. And Cloris Leachman plays Sam's grandmother. And there's an old guy called Crazy Pete (played by Walter Sparrow, whom I know from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but who reminds me more of the old guy from "Home Alone," though that was a different actor). And at one point the girls meet a drifter who apparently had been a soldier in Vietnam (played by an uncredited Brendan Fraser). So... there's lots of random stuff going on with the plot, but hey... that's life. Especially in the summer. When you're a kid. In nostalgic flashback-type movies. I can't really begin to explain the plot, honestly. Because it's so random. And yet, in a way, it all sort of adds up to or leads to... whatever.
You know... I think it's mainly about Sam learning something in 1970 that she didn't fully understand until the present. But that really doesn't make sense to me. Because she'd have to be kind of stupid not to have understood it back then, let alone at any point over the next twenty years, and yet it's clear that she was a smart kid. And... I was left with the sense that she did understand it in 1970, in spite of what she said in the present. Okay, I said that I believed all the characters in the present were the same people as in the past. That's true, but in some ways, I feel like the different time periods were part of two different movies. Or rather, it's like how on TV shows, characters learn important lessons at the end of one episode, and in the next episode it's as if they hadn't learned anything at all. This movie seems to want us to just accept that a kid learned something important and simultaneously believe that she didn't learn it. At least, that's how I see it. So that's kind of annoying. But other than that, I basically thought it was a decent movie, with good characters, and... stuff. I dunno, it's never really a great movie, but it's good. Basically.