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Strangely sweet movie that touches on adolescent angst
I remember seeing this on TV many years ago. Although it's not the type of subject matter that would appeal to many people it is nonetheless important. Roger Baxter is a teenage boy who has a personal problem causing him embarrassment and grief: His problem is a speech impediment where he has trouble pronouncing his R sound. Roger seems more tormented by this problem than others, but he manages to deal with it in a humorous and mature manner, constantly making references and jokes to put others at ease. But we soon learn his personal speech problem may be an underlying effect of his dysfunctional home life. After his parents divorce, he moves to an upscale flat in London with his cold and inattentive mother. They don't have a very supportive or warm relationship as they bicker and make personal barbs at each other. The movie offers us flashbacks of his previous home life when dad was around. The turmoil between the three of them was enough to put this family over the edge and split apart. Fortunately, Baxter is befriended by a warm and friendly couple, Chris ( a gorgeous model) and her boyfriend, Roger (a reputable chef and author of cookbooks). They take little Baxter on a trip and a heartwarming friendship trio ensues. We get a glimpse of Roger's school life where he seems awkward and out of place among the bigger kids his age. The British teacher is a pompous ass who gets satisfaction out of humiliating Roger. After being ridiculed for his baby-talk he is sent to consult the services of the school Speech therapist (Mrs. Clemm). Their initial meeting is informal as she addresses him in a genuine and cool manner. But they hit it off and another friendship ensues. We don't see them interacting so much in speech therapy, but rather she becomes more of a confidant and personal counselor. Baxter also is befriended by a British girl (Nemo) where he learns about her carefree behavior and permissive parental relations.
We are seeing several key factors in this movie: an American boy whose character seems to jar against the European people's character, dysfunctional and abusive parental relations, a boy's inability to cope with his problems and the tragedy of losing a dear friend. This movie does touch upon some very poignant issues and some of the scenes are underlined in progressing the overall pathos of his situation. Baxter is certainly not dealing with anything extraordinary or even insurmountable. These problems are pretty common among families and youth of today. But what makes this movie so special is how it presents them and treats them with compassion. It's rare, if not nonexistent, in movies today. The manner in which this couple befriend and show love for this boy will truly warm your heart. And Britt Eckland was definitely a sight to behold. Patricia Neal is convincing and correctly dominant in her role to protect this young man from his mother and put him under her care and supervision. The climactic ending has a physical confrontation with the boy's mother and his Mrs. Clemm as Mrs. Clemm fights the boy's abusive mother over gaining rights to have him hospitalized due to his acute anxiety that has stricken him. a series of disappointing events including the death of his model friend, Chris, is what has put him over the brink of mental breakdown.
This movie is quite dated with its production values. The director uses echoing sound effects during Baxter's moments of fear and psychosis as we have extreme zoom in and out close ups of adults talking at him. This is supposed to magnify how often people are unable to connect with those who are under severe mental breakdowns. There's also a couple of charming scenes where (Chris) strikes fashionable modeling poses while Baxter mimes camera shooting, and another where Baxter and (French Roger) prepare a Lobster feast for his girlfriend. We don't see this type of bittersweet drama anymore and perhaps it may not be marketable in today's pop-culture. I also doubt that this obscure film will resurface in any way except for nostalgic people who have a faint memory of Baxter! and find this on youtube. But Baxter is something that remains in the recesses of my mind.
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