Sooner or Later [1979]

When 13-year-old Jessie (Denise Miller) goes to the Eddie Nova Guitar Institute, she's stunned to discover her teacher is Michael (Rex Smith), a 17-year-old aspiring local musician she'd just seen play with his rock band at the local shopping mall--and with whom she was instantly smitten. Through the grace of makeup, Jessie can pass for 16, and she tells Michael that's her age when he gives her a ride home from class one week. They start to flirt. When Michael invites her to a band rehearsal, they kiss for the first time; when he invites her to a drive-in movie, things start moving just a little too fast, and Jessie has to quickly decide whether or not to confess. Sooner or Later is full of 1970s schmaltz--Michael's songs sound like a cross between Electric Light Orchestra and the Starland Vocal Band--but it's also an extremely well written and deftly acted coming-of-age story. Both leads are excellent and the supporting cast is full of smart character actors: Judd Hirsch, Barbara Feldon (better known as "99" on Get Smart!), and Lynn Redgrave. What could be an overdone teen potboiler is given humor and realism; it treats young love seriously but with perspective, and without a trace of condescension. A truly charming and enjoyable film. --Bret Fetzer

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