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Beautifully crafted, but relies totally on subplots. **1/2 (out of four)
NOW AND THEN / (1995) **1/2 (out of four)
Lesli Linka Glatter's touching drama "Now and Then" is a misguided tale that beautifully captures the many painful and joyful ups and downs of four best friends growing up in the 1970's. Best compared to "Stand By Me" and "Man in the Moon," this tender movie gently touches base with the delicate time period when young girls experience the confusions and emotions that are present in the process of puberty.
The plots happens over the eventful summer of 1970. The film details the lives of four best friends, Samantha (Gaby Hoffmann), Teeny (Thora Birch), Roberta (Christina Ricci), and Chrissy (Ashleigh Aston Moore). During this summer, the girls find it necessary to ware bras for the first time in their lives, a factor in which they have varied feelings. This is also the summer where they discover their town's horrifying secret about a young boy who mysteriously died thirty years ago. Pursuing the girls are the neighbor boys named the Wormers.
The film is told in the present through the girls who are now adults. The adult actresses, including Rosie O'Donnell, Rita Wilson, Demi Moore, and Melanie Griffith, appear only as wraparound bookends to fill the audience's desire to see whom the girls turn out to be. However, they are not examined in enough detail to fulfill these desires.
"Now and Then" filmmakers describe the characters descriptively and vividly with believable character traits like curiosity and lively spirit. They are very well cast by some of Hollywood's biggest names, who perform with a sweet, gentle, fitting attitude. The movie's actors are willing to give more than the script allows.
The problem lies not within character, however, but in plot. The film seems unclear of what it is about, whether it wants to detail the lives of four adolescent girls, discovering the death of Dear Johnny, childhood mischief: the story is so easily distracted. The film persistently adds in unnecessary clichés and predictable character formality involving relationship conflicts and novice romances. Yet at the same time the plot is executed artistically with an enjoyable sense of style and an effective mood along with a soundtrack that is true to the 70's era.
"Now and Then" is the kind of movie that relies entirely on subplots to propel its distracted story line along. I compare the film's structure to that of a deformed tree, where there are plenty of narrative roots and the story branches off in many directions, but it does not have a thick trunk for support.
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