Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Do it for Johnny, man

Was kept up late by Rob Lowe’s memoir, Stories I Only Tell My Friends, a fascinating read full of celestial elbow-rubbing and incredible encounters, particularly engrossing for a film-loving Gen-Xer who grew up watching the Brat Pack. A favorite moment: Rob Lowe going over to his girlfriend Jennifer’s house to watch his first after-school special (“Schoolboy Father”) and ending up watching with his girlfriend’s father – Cary Grant.

And reading about The Outsiders – a film that launched the careers of pretty much everyone who starred, including a pre-Risky Business Tom Cruise and pre-Karate Kid Ralph Macchio. Lowe (who played the dashing Sodapop Curtis) was bitterly disappointed when his character’s key scenes were cut from the opening and close of the film; they were later restored in a new edition of the film. He was right – they made a good movie better and kept it truer to S.E. Hinton’s novel. Lowe’s book and rewatching The Outsiders resulted in a snowball of nostalgia and I’ve been rolling with it, absorbed in the new edition of the film and its special features (“Watch The Outsiders with the Greasers and a Soc!”). My Netflix list is crammed with 80s films – an ongoing obsession that seemed to kickstart while I was on retreat in Arkansas, diving into YA mode. I’m currently perusing the Matt Dillon repertoire, including a revisit of My Bodyguard, which also features a heartbreakingly adorable Joan Cusack.

Trying to remember when and under what circumstances I first read The Outsiders – I’m guessing Junior High English class. I’ve got a worn copy somewhere in my storage unit in California and I’m feeling lonely for it now. The film was pivotal and so was the book, offering a new definition of teen novels by venturing into territory usually reserved for gritty adult dramas. The book ends in hopefulness but not happiness. I’ve also rarely encountered another book that is so full of love – between the brothers, between Ponyboy and Johnny, between Johnny and Dallas – and that’s what made it so compelling for me. Rob Lowe got that about the story, about his character, and wrote in his book about developing those relationships on- and off-screen. It’s fascinating to read Lowe’s story from the perspective of a young man on the precipice of his future, something he shared with the characters of The Outsiders. Makes me wonder where they would have ended up, what twists and foibles they would have encountered. Lowe said in the film commentary that he asked S.E. Hinton what became of Sodapop, and she responded that Sodapop went to Vietnam and died there. The answer depressed me for the rest of the night. But it makes sense, and characters often dictate to authors what happens to them, not the other way around. I like that Lowe cared enough to ask, and that he shared his story about this transitional and significant moment in film history.

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