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Both main characters experience discrimination, including in Thandie Newton's case, racial discrimination both overt and implied - e.g. an Australian lad says to her "Your English is very good", to which she responds "So is yours"!
On the surface it's just a coming-of-age school story, but the film continually rises above this to greater heights of poignancy and subtlety.
Nicole Kidman is brilliant in the difficult role of the head of school who apparently has it all until, in one of the most moving moments of the film, her true self is revealed.
The screenplay has excellent depth and is uproariously funny in parts, enraging, tender and even tear-jerking. It even has an underlying theme with incisive international political insights into events in Africa during the Sixties. Agree with the politics or not, it has a lot to say -- really a thinking man's film.
Some guys may dismiss it as a chick flick, but if so, it's one of the best I've seen. What may surprise many is that it even has one of the best boxing scenes I have witnessed on celluloid. Yes, the story is Kafkaesque in a way, but it is also terribly sweet. Taylor's lead role (Danny) is one of the most original I've seen on film -- the school nerd who is really a poet with more character than the rest of the school combined (including the staff). The entire film is his recollection of events, much of it narrated by him as though he'd written the screenplay.
When I saw it a couple of years ago, I wondered where it had been all my life. This is a must- see hidden jewel like Denzel Washington's "Mississippi Masala." It may not be as hot as MM, but it comes damned close in parts.
Don't let the title fool you. Although this is one of the sweetest movies you'll ever see, it is no beach blanket bingo for bimbos. This is an Aussie story of teen love set in 1965, heroic as only teens can play it. It is fun to watch, authentic and original at the same time, a coming of age flick in the English boarding school tradition of "Dead Poet's Society" (1989) and "A Separate Peace" (the novel, not the so-so movie). Noah Taylor stars as Danny Embling, an outsider who reads Sartre and Camus while satirizing the school's empty traditions. Across the lake is the girl's school where Thandiwe Adjewa (Thandie Newton), daughter of the Ugandan ambassador, is learning to meld with the Aussie pale faces, including a gifted pre-Hollywood Nicole Kidman.
Thandie Newton and Noah Taylor, as beautifully directed by John Duigan, are the reasons this film is so good. She has a fearless integrity about her that overcomes the prejudices of her school mates. He is wise and brave at a hundred and twenty pounds. She too is ultra sophisticated. She even met Sartre. This is a story about the love between two outsiders who, with their strength of character win over not only their classmates, but the audience as well. Imagine teenagers as witty and poised as say Eartha Kitt and Gore Vidal, and you get a hint of how it's played.
Nicole Kidman as the snobby Nicola Radcliffe (the name says it all) manages a subtle supporting role with a diamond-in-the-rough kind of charm and just the right touch of on-screen growth. The scene where she shares her stash of vodka (or perhaps a clear fruit liquor) with Thandiwe Adjewa is beautifully turned by Director John Duigan. Also excellent is the hotel scene where the adults are revealed as intrusive in the extreme. I like Danny Embling's line as he deadpans to a re-robing Thandiwe, "They're all funny, aren't they?" Yes, those adults are a little peculiar.
This is not unflawed, however. The ending, despite the rousing music, seemed a bland washout, leaving us with a sense of disappointment. And I thought the first love scene with the two "touching" was a little unreal. I mean he might have kissed her! There's a limit to how great a coming of age, boarding school movie can be, especially when the adults have only scarecrow parts. Nonetheless "Flirting" is a confectioner's delight, and one of the best coming of age movies I've ever seen.
Noah Taylor and Thandie Newton are truly exceptional and highly intelligent actors and watching both their bodies of work like "Shine", "Max", "Beseiged" and "Crash has truly been a pleasure. I do hope the best is yet to come from these fine actors and I'm sure their futures are bright.
Much has been made of Nicole Kidman in this film but really she's only a secondary character as well as the young Naomi Watts. I wish Hollywood would stop looking at this film as a Nicole Kidman vehicle when truly Taylor and Newton deserve the attention for this early work.
This movie is also beautifully shot, especially the scenes when Danny rows his boat over the river by moonlight or watching the two of them skim rocks over the water surface or Danny at the end, reading Thandie's letter on the windy rocks and the sky suddenly clearing up on him. At the very end Danny come to the very mature realization on the transcendent nature of true love, something which I don't think he understood in "The Year My Voice Broke".
I actually went out and got this film on DVD and never tire of watching it from time to time, a sign of great film. It really reminds you of what it was once like when those first feelings of romantic love started to appear in your life, all the promise, the novelty and the authenticity as well as the insecurities. So it's not really just a "teen" movie, I think just about anyone who has had these experiences can appreciate this gem of a film.
Do yourself a favour and try finding a copy, you won't regret it.
The main stars of "Flirting" certainly show the talent that they would bring to their later roles. A very young Naomi Watts - several years before watching a killer video and getting carried around by a giant ape - also stars.
The plot is fairly straightforward and the message of the film is not deep. Nevertheless, it is an original film which is simply and cheaply made.
The first strength of the film lies in the exquisite performances from great cast of the then unknown actors, 3 of whom have gone on to great performances in many other films (Taylor, Newton and Kidman).
Secondly (assuming you are over 14 years old), the audience will have a strong feeling of resonation with the subject matter (growing up, alienation the school "norm", being allowed to behave differently etc). The fact that the film is by a British director about an Australian boarding school probably means that the film has a wider appeal to all anglo-saxon nations.
Finally, the humour is understated but engaging.
I loved this film on release. It has not lost any of its charm since, though you are slightly distracted by seeing well-known actors in their youth.
It does sound dull, but it's well done compared to its categorical peers. The acting is quite good on everyone's part. There is a sense of place and time, a feeling for the creaky faux-British boarding school and its faculty with their varying tempers. It captures well the awkwardness of adolescents at formal dances, and the eagerness as well. There is some frank talk about sex, including a brief but amusing exchange between the two lovers when they are embracing in a dark place and he cracks a -- what's the Aussie slang for that, again? The looks of the performers are about right too. He's a short ectomorph with oddball features, while she is sensitive looking and attractive, although not on the ethereal plane achieved by internationally famous African models. She's not drop-dead gorgeous, she's just pleasant to see, from some angles a bit like Cynda Williams, rather like a girl in a boarding school. By the end of the film, after their affair has evolved in its complicated way in this particular social world, we've gotten to know them and we like them.
We admire their classmates too. And this is where this coming-of-age movie differs from the typical Hollywood fare. Most American movies about adolescents -- and there seem to have been thousands of them in the last decade or so -- are overdrawn in every way. In its American equivalent, the two lovers would look different: he would have the face and the teeth of that nerdy emoticon on Yahoo! She would look like Halli Berrie or Molly Ringwald. And both of these kids would be 30 year-old actors. The sex would be graphic instead of delicate. Instead of a funny scene involving a glimpse of the girls in their whalebone undergarments, the heroine would be seen emerging from a pool in slow motion and opening her top, rather like Phoebe Cates. When the couple made love, instead of seeing the two side by side in the ever-dwindling onscreen image of a bed, she would jump his bones, rather like Kim Cattrall. There would be a terrific goofball, kind of like Sean Penn, providing easy guffaws. And the classmates and faculty would be clearly divided into good and evil. She's black so she'd be subject to all sorts of racial taunts, kind of like the girl in "The Craft." The racists would get their comeupance in the end, when they would be punished and made to suffer. The athletic student who gets into a ring with the nerd and beats him unconscious would look and consistently act brutal, and he would also be humbled and made to suffer.
This movie meets none of those tedious expectations. The kids all seem to be played by kids. Some of the guys are funnier than others but none is entirely on his own planet. (The laughs come from subtler sources.) The athlete who pounds the hero to a pulp is not a bad kid; he saves the hero's bacon towards the end, and not for selfish motives. The tall snooty beauty played by Kidman has been standoffish during most of the film but when she catches the Ugandan sneaking in after an illegally late tryst, instead of squealing on her she invites her into the parlor for a drink, during which she confesses her own variety of desire. When the nerd and the Ugandan split up for what appears to be the last time, neither of them weeps. And they don't fall into a hot feverish final embrace either. They shake hands and part quietly. When the nerd reads his letter at the close, we wind up really hoping that the gods will allow them to be brought together again.
Can you see what I'm getting at? This isn't a great movie. It's too quiet, it lacks the ambition, it deals with small problems. And yet it represents a monumental improvement over the crap that we've been subjected to since the 1980s. The dumb cliches are for the most part refreshingly absent. It's a story in which there are no artistic breakthroughs, no penetrating insights into human nature, no social critique, only a story that catches your interest and hangs on to it gently, the way these two kids might hold hands.
When one sees the "innocence" of a "star-in-the-making" like her performance in "Flirting," one hopes that she will display the same wonderful qualities throughout her career, and not become "Hollywood-ized." Hopefully some modicum of her beautiful innocence will remain, always.
I have given this film a 9-star rating because of her!
Everything in the country seems set up to produce performing artists, even talented writers that understand acting, where Brazil produces soccer players and the US lawyers.
Here you have three of our actresses in essentially their first roles. Thandie Newton already at the peak of her screen charm, and Nicole Kidman and buddy Naomi Watts. Set in Australia, written and directed by an Australian, using what I have come to think of as the simple end of an Australian character spectrum.
This is a simple "coming of age" story. So simple, you begin with some trepidation. How many of these does one have to slog through to find something new? Well, there's nothing new here, but it turns adult rather quickly toward the end and allows us to leave it without feeling cheap.
And isn't that part of the skill of these things, to allow us to visit the insecurities of youth (which we probably still have) and to do so safely and finally to recall the experience fondly (so we will tell our friends to see this movie).
Nicole and Naomi aren't any reason to see this. They're simply standard props and rather far from the skills they'd develop. No, it is just the simple arc of the thing. No particular folding (as in "Sirens"), no cheap titillation, just honest, innocent yearning in a hostile world. Hostile large and small.
Concerning the titillation, a key plot device revolves around our hero interceding to prevent a compromising photo from being taken. So, a negative fold, if you will, a deliberate statement of flatness. This is accentuated by frequent references to booknames that would be familiar to youngsters as "adult" (Sartre, Camus, Marx) and Sartre's appearance at the boxing match where our hero gets pummeled.
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
I was pleasantly surprised at the flow and depth of this movie. The characters were quite 3-dimensional and avoided the obvious stereotypes. I was particularly satisfied with the character that Nicole Kidman played.
At first, I was a little put off by the attempts of these prep school kids to be philosophically "deep", but not coming close. Then it occurred to me that I was that way when I was their age 25 years ago.
In all a very fine coming-of-age movie. I recommend that you rent this for an enjoyable plot and wonderful characters.
A difficult young student at a strict boy's boarding school in
1960's Australlia has trouble dealing with his abusive and unsympatic
headmaster and his patronizing instructor.
"Danny Embling"(played here with a quiet idea of tough rebellion
by Noah Taylor)hates being a student in this hideious place.
Until he meets a beautiful but tough young black girl named"Thahagwe"(played by Thannie Newton).Who becomes his friend and eventually his soul mate.
As they pair try to cope with the strict derigours of the Brittish school system and fall in love.Which bothers the classmates of the duo and which the cruel headmasters finally break up towards the end of the picture.
The atmosphere of the film is bleak and there is very little
interaction between the other actors and the two leads.Since they're
used for atmosphere and lend very little to the plot.
Despite these flaws..The rapport between Ms.Newton and Mr.Taylor make this film worth watching.
Also..Look for an appearance by Ms.Nichole Kidman(Then an unknown actress).Who plays a classmate of Ms.Newton's.
Flirting is a lyrical snapshot of the inelegant but lilting time in which innocence washes away and is replaced with uncomfortable, yet exciting, verisimilitude. It's a high school movie, but it can hardly be compared to the wispy transparency of its many clichéd rivals. It's not a one- note Weird Science pile or a sassy Mean Girls; it's more akin to The Breakfast Club, considering the thoughts and decisions of young adults and finding the beauty in their successes, in their flaws. Some teenagers are one-track-minded and beastly, but more are attentive. Flirting casts the immature rascals aside and puts a spotlight on the youths that contemplate the outcome of each and every decision. In that respect, the film is better because, for once, the youngsters once characterized by Anthony Michael Hall and Shirley Temple suddenly become introspective humans, not cartoons.
Danny Embling (Noah Taylor) is a gangly 17-year-old with a stutter to get over. His head is too big for his body, his body is too small for his head, and the words that come out of his mouth don't sound as sophisticated as he would like. But he is a rebel, knowing that real- life mistakes aren't followed by an authoritative whipping and that math doesn't really matter in the long run. He idolizes Satre not only for his work but also for his poise, and he longs to break free from St. Albans so he can fully realize his many potentials.
Thadiwe Adjewa (Thandie Newton), the exotic Ugandan-Kenyan-British daughter of a diplomat, has just arrived on the grounds, inadvertently inviting unwanted scrutiny from her female classmates. She is remarkably intelligent and effortlessly beautiful perhaps she intimates the opposite sex, fuels the jealousy of her gawky roommates. When Danny and Thandiwe lock eyes at a rugby game one day, a spark ignites. His perceptive aura matches her cerebral wit infatuation thrives. It doesn't take long before a mutual adoration erupts. They've never felt love like this before, and they're going to make it count for the few months they have together.
The majority of teen movies believe they have to be self-deprecatingly funny or overly simple to be successful, completely unaware that purity is ultimately more winning than materialistic quotability. Teenagers are fascinating creatures, phenomenons of emotion, but films tend to liken them as a target of satire. A shame. A movie like Flirting vibrates with poignancy; in the process, I connected with its sensitive characters and, eventually, built enough of a relationship with them to a point where I felt the need to compare their hesitations and choices to my very own life. Duigan watches them move and applies their burgeoning ideals to even the hardest of moments; scenes, like the closing one (in which Danny and Thandiwe spend their last night together in a local hotel in order to properly say goodbye), defy expectations through their mannered receptiveness.
A film like Flirting is easy to hold close to the heart because its conflicts have been felt by all. It's touching, it's romantic, it's witty it ripples with pensive quiet. It doesn't just flirt with brilliance; it is brilliant, whether it knows it or not. (It also made stars out of Newton and Nicole Kidman, and kickstarted the careers of Taylor and Naomi Watts.)
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