Now & Then (1995)

Posted by on Jan 2, 2012 in No Boys Allowed | 0 comments


Disclaimer: Consistent filthy language and sexual topics of conversation. How unladylike.

When Now & Then came out, ads touted it as the female version of Stand By Me. I understand the comparison, with realistic pre-teen conversation and the quest to find the story of a deceased young boy, but a more accurate analogy would be the female version of The Sandlot.

The film follows four women who were once childhood BFFs and have now reunited in their hometown of Shelby, Indiana because they made a pact when they were 12 years old to get back together when someone was in need. In this case, one of them is going to give birth.

The film points most of its attention to successful writer and habitual smoker Samantha (Demi Moore), simply because she narrates the film. The other characters are tomboy-turned-doctor Roberta (Rosie O’Donnell), thrice married actress Teeny (Melanie Griffith), and the sheltered, inhibited, and overbearing Chrissy (Rita Wilson).

After they all get together and relax by Chrissy’s treehouse, Samantha reminisces about the summer of 1970, when they were all 12. For nearly the remainder of the film, we follow the child versions of these characters (Christina Ricci, Thora Birch, Gaby Hoffmann, and Ashleigh Aston Moore) as they encounter boys, battle bullies, talk about sex, and take part in several fractured adventures over the course of one summer.

The appeal of this film comes NowThen3from the nostalgia of being young (for the older viewers) and imparting life lesson gems (for the tween viewers) through common childhood landmarks (family problems, sex, bullies, development, etc.) dealt with in a surprisingly mature fashion. Plus, it has a wicked-sweet soundtrack. One of the many shared laughs for mom-and-daughter viewers is when Chrissy’s mom (Bonnie Hunt) explains sex with the analogy of a flower garden and a hose, and little Chrissy is horrified. The movie astutely realizes that most tweens already know the birds and the bees, and tosses it out there even though it’s not exactly “PC.”

The only conventional plot line to tie the story together is a late-night séance in which the girls think they exorcise a deceased boy named Dear Johnny from the local cemetery. This plot unfolds routinely, while the more interesting material comes and goes, as do some of the funniest characters (played by Janeane Garafalo, Cloris Leachman, Hank Azaria, and Brendan Fraser).

Sadly, the film ultimately presents a bleak look at family life as it dictates what stereotype each girl will grow into. The divorced couple yields a smoker who fears relationships and likely reads spiritual guides; the overbearing mother yields an inhibited phobic who likely only reads food wrappers; the motherless family yields a tomboy-turned-lesbian (we get the impression) who likely reads Sports Illustrated; and the uncaring family yields a compulsive liar actress who reads Cosmopolitan.

“There are no perfect families,” Teeny tells Samantha. “It’s normal for things to be shitty.”

There may be no perfect families, but the film could have taken a progressive stance and shown the girls overcome their misfortunes to become strong individuals instead of unstable stereotypes. On the other hand, it’s refreshing to see an “I-am-woman-hear-me-roar” movie, when it clearly sets up for a typical tear-jerker.

As veteran and well known as the older actresses are, their story isn’t interesting or even necessary. In fact, it’s the young actresses (especially Ricci, Birch, and Hoffmann) that carry the film with natural poise.

While it may be flawed and even cliché at times, Now & Then comes as a refreshing change of pace from the thousands of coming-of-age tales from a male perspective. Young, hormonal girls can clearly identify with this flick and perhaps it would be best for mothers to be in the room as well, since it will likely teach them the surprising lesson that they actually have something they can talk about with each other. Like sex. I know, I know. Not “PC.”

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