I really should have written this review two weeks ago when this book was still fresh in my mind, but life had other plans. Still, my overall impression remains the same – this was a fun and often funny read that was both a trip down memory lane but also a reminder that everyone experiences a decade and movies differently. As an early Gen X-er (who attended most of high school and all of her undergraduate years in the 80’s), some of my touchstone movies were different than Freeman’s but that didn’t make it any less interesting to hear her point of view and to be reminded of some movies I had really enjoyed at the time but had forgotten about.
Freeman gives each chapter a theme and a focal movie or actor but the discussion wanders conversationally, often combining Freeman’s initial experiences with a movie (memoir) with a bit of research (historical and social context) and then connecting the whole thing to larger issues she wants to explore. The discussion of how the international market has profoundly influenced what Hollywood puts out (and what it doesn’t) these days was both interesting and depressing. Since I finished the book, I’ve had to sit through the preview for Transformers: The Last Knight twice and I thought of Freeman’s argument about what translates more easily across cultures both times.
My two favorite chapters focus on movies that I didn’t see during the 80’s—Dirty Dancing and Steel Magnolias (which I still haven’t seen) and explore issues of women in film—then and now. The details about how both movies almost didn’t get made and were initially received were fascinating and again, it was depressing to see how Hollywood has regressed in so many ways since then.
Though I think one could argue with some of Freeman’s propositions, this book isn’t a scholarly treatise and so I was content to listen to her ideas and then think about how they worked and didn’t work from my own (slightly older) perspective. I appreciated learning more about the making of some of my favorite movies (Princess Bride, Pretty in Pink) and her stories about current connections to these and other films (in her role as a journalist) often made me chuckle.
I’ll end this review with two stories. First, my mom, who is the kindest and most lovely human being on the planet, once made me burst into tears when she said, “You know, Jenny. There aren’t really any Lloyd Doblers.” Though I didn’t want to hear it at the time, she hasn’t been proven wrong since, though I remain ever hopeful. Second, I noticed that my two favorite movies of the 1980’s did not get a mention: The Sure Thing (yes, I loved John Cusack before Say Anything) and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. I saw both movies so many times that I can still quote them and as a result, I came up with many alternative titles for this review.
Alt Title #1: Wherever You Go, There You Are
Alt Title #2: Make Them Two Scoops of Mouth-Watering Flesh and Have Them Defy Gravity
Alt Title #3: Did You Know Shakespeare Had Syphilis?
Alt Title #4: Then the French Fry Guy Died and They Offered Me the Job