Film

CinemaDope: Making Memories

The delicate art of growing up

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Thursday, July 28, 2011
Dean Rogers/The Weinstein Company Photo
Craig Roberts in Submarine

Nobody said growing up was easy. Or maybe somebody said it, but nobody really believed it. Even the most fortunate of us have had our rougher moments, and be they mental (we put my childhood dog down on the opening day of Little League, and I stood weeping in my tiny uniform) or physical (that winter, I face-planted into a coal pile by the skating pond and had a very noticeable chunk of it embedded in my upper lip for a full school year), they make us what we are.

But even in the toughest times, there are stories. One might even say that most especially in the toughest times, there are stories—the piles of books stacked against the leg of a sick-room couch, to be paged through while being smothered with blankets and cocoa. Or those who give a lonely kid a window on a wider world, and maybe even the courage to go out and find one of his own.

These are the stories that we remember without realizing it, and that help nudge us along the road to adulthood. Every generation finds its own classics; this week two of them—one a beloved old favorite, one still in its teens—appear on area screens.

First up is Winnie The Pooh, based on the beloved characters—Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore, et al.—introduced by A. A. Milne in a book series that began in 1926. Based on the imagined adventures of his son's stuffed toys (the boy, Christopher Robin Milne, would also lend his name to the series' human protagonist), the stories not only cemented Milne's reputation as Best Father Ever but provided the rest of us with a childhood touchstone that, almost a century later, still has the power to win us over with the warmth, charm, and essential gentleness of its storytelling.

I could tell you that the film is based on a trio of the original stories, but the truth is that it matters little what the film is about. What matters is how it's done, and, thankfully, here it's done quite well. Animated in an older style that recalls the book illustrations, it feels as soft and comforting as an old pair of footed pajamas. An added bonus is that, as directed by Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall, the film incorporates the text itself, making the entire screen feel like an open book. Characters are free to bump into (and occasionally demolish, if only by accident) their own story. If you've been waiting to take your child to a movie, wait no more. It's time to introduce Pooh to the next generation.

Also out now, if only a children's story in name at this point, is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2. The final installment in a game-changing series of books and films—and, like it or not, the boy wizard really did cast some kind of spell—the capper to it all finds the three friends at the story's heart trying to vanquish their longtime foe Voldemort once and for all.

Time will tell if the Potter stories will hold up as well as Pooh. But even if they don't—and in the end, my gut reaction is that they probably won't—that doesn't diminish their impact in the here and now, and for the youngster (or parent) who sees Pooh in the rear view mirror, Potter's climactic battle will be the story more readily remembered.

*

Also this week: Amherst Cinema brings in Submarine, a fresh new bit of English coming-of-age comedy. Craig Roberts stars as the egoist Oliver Tate, a teenage know-it-all who makes sure to inform us that the film of his life is "an important film. Watch it," he says, "with respect."

Oliver's journey to manhood resembles that of Max Fischer, the egoistic teenager at the center of the Wes Anderson classic Rushmore. Unaccountably cocksure, somewhat outside of himself, and convinced he knows better than his elders (Oliver's mom is played by the wonderful English actress Sally Hawkins, who made such an impression in Happy Go Lucky), Oliver—whether trying to ignite an awkward romance with schoolmate Jordana or prevent an affair between his mother and the New Age nut next door—is continually over his head. Weren't we all, once?

Jack Brown can be reached at cinemadope@gmail.com.

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