Exeter, Devon UK • May 23, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Screen Retrospective: Teenage Timeline

Retrospective: Teenage Timeline

Four contributors make their case for the best coming-of-age films over the last four decades.
5 mins read

Retrospective: Teenage Timeline

1980s – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off: 

Let’s face it, as teenagers, we’ve all bunked off school once or twice, or at least fancied it. The result? Waiting for your ma to go to work before sneaking back home and binging Gossip Girl for seven hours. Ferris presents us with the holy grail of days off, leading us through an unbelievable journey of Hot Dog Kings, nurse strip-o-grams, and written off Ferraris. Ferris, his girlfriend Sloane, and best friend Cameron, undertake this ultimate day off, all whilst their fears and worries of school and starting college swirl around inside. The three are having one last day of freedom before their lives change forever, even learning something on the way. Ferris accepts responsibility and Cameron loosens up, both crucial lessons to learn during the, often awkward, transition between child-teen and adult-teen.

“It’s clever, hilarious, and just shows that sometimes, very rarely, the best course of action is to drop everything just to have a good time”

Not only is Ferris Bueller’s Day Off superbly 80’s, including the famous ‘Twist n Shout’ parade scene, but it is genuinely funny. Ferris Bueller, you could say, is a right ‘lad’. We’re not forced to endure anymore ‘girl next door’ drones or ‘jocks’ and are even treated to a glimpse of Jennifer Grey, pre-Dirty Dancing fame, with a hint of a fledgling Charlie Sheen. What’s not to love really?
It’s clever, hilarious, and just shows that sometimes, very rarely, the best course of action is to drop everything just to have a good time. After all, as Ferris says, “life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” – Alicia Rees

1990s – Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit: 

Very few films are able to encapsulate a culture and an era. Even fewer films stand the test of time. That is no challenge for Sister Act 2. The 1993 film features a Las Vegas showgirl (played by Whoopi Goldberg) who goes to help a Catholic school which is faced with closure. However, the overriding narrative of the film centres around teenager Rita Watson (played by Lauryn Hill) finding her own voice. At the beginning of the film, the school pupils appear to have given up any musical ambition they may have previously had, and instead adopt a defeatist, yet nonchalant, guise. As well as facing socio-economic challenges, Rita also find herself restricted by her Mother’s vision of how her life should be.

“I love this film, not only because it allows me to experience 90’s Urban America, but also because of the lessons embedded in it”

Goldberg’s character, Sister Mary Clarence embraces the pupils’ individuality and exposes their true potential by instilling within them a mantra: ‘If you wanna be somebody. If you wanna go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention’. With the Help of Sister Mary Clarence, Rita embraces her musical talent and finds the strength to reject the limitations placed upon her by her strict mother.

I love this film, not only because it allows me to experience 90’s Urban America, but also because of the lessons embedded in it. Be persistent. Embrace difference. See your potential. As a black child, watching Sister Act 2 enabled me to finally see people who looked like me. It also taught me about the harsh realities that some endure, that fortunately I have been sheltered from. The film concludes with a whole cast rendition of a classic Diana Ross song which reinforces the central message of this 90s classic: Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Bryan Knight, Online Features Editor

2000s – Juno:

Open to cheery harmonica music over jauntily drawn buildings and trees. You have been transported back to the era of animated opening sequences. Life is good.

“With career-defining performances from both Ellen Page and Michael Cera, Juno’s heart and soul lies with its cast”

Few movies speak to me like 2007’s Juno. A decade on and it hasn’t aged a day. The film concerns 16-year-old Juno MacGuff, who is thrown in at the deep end of life, pregnancy test in hand and the bumps along the road in her sudden journey into adulthood. Even without its addressing of many difficult topics, including teen pregnancy and abortion, the film would still be treasured in the hearts of many. A heart-warming soundtrack and stellar performances carry the audience through the film equivalent of a ray of sunshine as Juno stumbles through life, dropping her armfuls of mid-2000s quirks along the way.

With career-defining performances from both Ellen Page and Michael Cera, Juno’s heart and soul lies with its cast. Juno is proof that audiences can tell when an actor really cares about a project, and it paid off with critics as well, earning a Best Actress Oscar nomination for Page, as well as world-renowned critic Roger Ebert describing it as the best performance of the year.

The impact on the world outside of hamburger phones and cactus collections, however, is where the movie really cemented itself into cinema history. Providing such a down to earth, comprehensive story about the storm of conflicting emotions that come from the decision to undergo an abortion: (“She told me the baby has fingernails. Fingernails!”). The film was praised by both pro-choice and pro-life advocates for its understanding stance on abortion.

In terms of my final thoughts on Juno, considering certain recent news stories, I think a few people could gain rather a lot from watching it – Sam Thomson, Print Screen Editor

2010s – Booksmart:

Watching Booksmart, I felt something that I’ve never felt in a film before; I felt like, after years without it, someone had finally made a film about me. There are plenty of characters in film who remind me of the worst and best qualities of myself, have been for decades, but suddenly, in these two girls on the verge of womanhood, I found kindred spirits. For a while, things like Superbad and The Inbetweeners were my touchstones for what it feels like to be a teenager today but suddenly, Booksmart clicked everything into place.

“Onto this foundation of utter empathy is lain a foundation of superb jokes and utterly sublime character dynamics…”

Despite every single thing that should have alienated me (the fact that the leads are a different gender to me, that the music they listen is not to my taste, that they have grown up on a totally different continent), everything I was seeing and feeling felt like a complete emotional truth. Onto this foundation of utter empathy is lain a foundation of superb jokes and utterly sublime character dynamics and that is another area where Booksmart is simply streets ahead.

Where Superbad may have great jokes but okay characters or Stand By Me have wonderful characters but little humour, Booksmart skimps on neither. One minute, a Lyft ride will have you bent double with laughter. The next, a pool scene is ripping you in half with sadness. Sure, we’re talking about an exceptionally new release, but I think Booksmart is going to become the film that defines teendom in our culture – Henry Jordan

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