Shout [1991]

Director: Jeffrey Hornaday
Stars: John Travolta, Jamie Walters, Heather Graham, Richard Jordan, Linda Fiorentino
Genre: Drama, Music, Romance
Rating: PG-13 (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 89 minutes

In the timeless genre of coming-of-age dramas, Twist and Shout and Zappa are enduring classics with universal appeal. Danish writer-director Bille August had made only one film before Zappa in 1983, but demonstrated a master's skill with his plain, unobtrusive camera style and impeccable guidance of a well-chosen cast. Zappa takes place in or about 1959 and introduces us to Bjorn, a typical 13-year-old with raging hormones and a healthy suspicion of Sten, his friend, leader of their clubhouse "gang," and a bullying rebel whose bad influence will lead, ultimately, to Bjorn's violent act of defiance. Taking its title from the name of Sten's voracious pet fish, Zappa addresses the fact that 13-year-olds are themselves little monsters, one way or another, assuming their place in the social food chain while testing the waters of their own tenuous independence. Filmed less than a year later but reflecting rapid growth among its recurring cast and characters, Twist and Shout unfolds at the height of European Beatlemania in the early '60s, and this time Bjorn is 17 and verging on uneasy adulthood, falling in love, losing his virginity, and showing unexpected compassion for a troubled friend with a sickly mother and domineering father. In both films, August presents a teenage world that anyone could recognize, full of humor, awkwardness, and exploration of moral boundaries as the harshness of adulthood interrupts the fading innocence of youth. The performances are so natural that they don't seem like performances at all; August's directorial touch is so light and graceful that he seems directly tapped into his own teenage memories. Watching both of these films together is a rare treat, entertaining, substantial, and honest to the joy and pain of teenagers around the world. --Jeff Shannon

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