Based on the true story of a Brazilian rubber tapper who leads his people in protest against government and developers, who want to cut down their part of the rainforest for a new road and ... See full summary »
Hal Ditmar is a clean-cut kid, the son of a wealthy movie producer. When an argument at a theatre turns into a fight between Hal and the theatre manager, Hal finds no one, not even his father, will believe his actions were justified as self-defense. The police are concerned that Hal is a juvenile delinquent in the making, but the real problem lies in Hal's father's inattention to his son. It's up to Hal's mother to try to bridge the gulf between father and son. Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
What often threatens to turn into a soppy and soft-headed drama about misunderstood middle-class youth ends up a surprisingly shaded and subdued movie by John Frankenheimer (his first, though he had started in television, directing among other things an earlier version of this script).
We are still in those semi-mythic 50s when teenagers drove jalopies and jeans were still dungarees. James MacArthur (adoptive son of playwright Charles and actress Helen Hayes, and later to enter pop culture as Hawaii 5-0's Danno) gets involved in a minor incident in a movie theater which escalates to his throwing a punch at the manager (Whit Bissell) and being booked down at the police station. His dad (James Daly), a big-shot movie producer gets the call, doesn't listen to his son's version of the story, and pulls strings to get him off.
But MacArthur keeps carrying a chip on his shoulder, which even his sympathetic mom (Kim Hunter) can't knock off. Things worsen in the Coldwater Canyon homestead until MacArthur, trying to vindicate himself, stages a reprise of the original incident....
The movie doesn't quite avoid the attitudes and cliches of its time, but presents them with considerable nuance: Every character gets an honorable hearing; every point of view has its merits (and reactions to the movie will depend on what viewers bring to it). There are flaws (the word `crummy,' a standard rebellious euphemism of the era, is used about 30 times too often) but they're outweighed by strengths. The movie benefits from a strong cast (most notable among them the excellent character actor James Gregory, as a police detective) and a resolutely non-exploitative way of telling its story. From a vantage point in the new millennium, the hot water MacArthur finds himself in may seem a little tepid, but The Young Stranger remains honest and honorable.
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