Roberta, Teeny, Samantha, and Chrissy are just a bunch of best pals living it up in small town America. They are navigating the pitfalls of growing up in 1970. Boys, parents, treehouses, ghost kids. You know, the classics. Can they figure out the mystery of the ghost kid and forge a friendship for both now and then… before it’s too late? Find out in… Now and Then.
How?! Samantha and Teeny return to their small town for the birth of their friend Chrissy’s first child. Cue flashback. It’s 1970 and boy howdy… it’s… quaint. Roberta, Teeny, Samantha, and Chrissy are standing by each other in small town Indiana just growing up and learning to live and love. While they begin to grapple with grown-up concepts like divorce, they also hold on to one last summer of childhood with games of Red Rover, treehouses, and séances in the graveyard. During one such séance they are convinced that they resurrect the spirit of Dear Johnny, a child who died mysteriously. In fact, no matter how hard they try they can’t seem to figure out how he died and begin to suspect that finding out that information is what will finally put his spirit to rest. Amongst a series of hijinks and teenage angst, they find that the story has been ripped from the newspaper archives. The grownups in their lives also refuse to talk about the grisly death. Finally they figure out that Johnny was killed during a home invasion and are on the lookout for his killer. Late one night, while upset over the fact that her mother has started dating again, Samantha goes out with Teeny to hash it out. On their way back home they lose a bracelet in a rainstorm and Samantha almost drowns trying to retrieve it, only to be rescued by the creepy hermit of the town. Feeling like they have to put Johnny to rest once and for all, they return to the graveyard, but are confronted by a gravedigger who chastises them for playing around in there. On their way out, Samantha notices the old man and finally realizes that he’s Johnny’s dad and… you know… life and shit. Anyway, we flashforward to current day where Chrissy has her baby and everyone is like “word, friendship.” THE END.
Why?! This film is obviously not really about the kids solving the mystery of Dear Johnny. It’s really about how certain moments change and mold you even if they ultimately are fleeting. That summer forged an inseparable bond for the four girls even though in reality they began to drift away at that point. So I guess the motivation is friendship… and growing up… and solving ghost mysteries.
Who?! I do like that I’ve collected together a nice roster of possible entries for the Why section. This film had one of the more solid uncredited roles that we’ve seen in a while. Brendan Fraser shows up as a disillusioned Vietnam War veteren turned hippie who doses the kinds with some cynicism on their journey into adulthood. Sometimes I speculate on why it might be, but he was also uncredited in GI Joe… so maybe he just did that on occasion if the film was made by someone he knew or something.
What?! What’s a period piece without some Coca-Cola (here in the form of a black cow) and I might have left it at that. Except that the whole flashback is centered around the summer where the girls were trying to save up enough money to buy a Sears treehouse. So that’s front and center and even plays a pivotal role in the film… well maybe not pivotal. They don’t even really show us when they reached their goal and actually bought the thing.
Where?! Really nice Indiana film. From start to finish it’s all about the Hoosier State and I guess you could even say that it’s fundamental to the plot, since it’s about a bunch of girls from Anonymous Small Town, USA and what’s more anonymous than Indiana… except *gasp* Delaware. What a missed opportunity! BWhen?! I believe it’s made pretty clear that it’s the summer of 1970. Nice choice since the world is making a transition from the 60’s into the 70’s and all that brought. Just like the girls are growing up. So even though maybe it was set then just to be consistent with the ages of the characters, I think there is a possibility that that specific year was vital to the plot. A-.
When?! I believe it’s made pretty clear that it’s the summer of 1970. Nice choice since the world is making a transition from the 60’s into the 70’s and all that brought. Just like the girls are growing up. So even though maybe it was set then just to be consistent with the ages of the characters, I think there is a possibility that that specific year was vital to the plot. A-.
This movie actually does seem to have a necessary place in film. It’s not every day that they are releasing a major motion picture about four girls growing up in a small town. You get to see them as successful women (in a variety of different ways and lifestyles). It’s all very sweet and winning. Could I have done without the Dear Johnny storyline? Probably. Or at least veer a bit more away from it being a ghost story. It’s like Safe Haven, where you’re like “this can’t possibly actually be a ghost story.” And then it is! This time it isn’t, but it carries on the charade long enough to have you wondering whether they want you to actually believe it. It seemed a bit on the nose with ‘the body’ aspect of Stand By Me, except that was real and ultimately disturbing. Here it just seemed a bit extra. I can only say that I enjoyed the film despite its faults and am actually a little surprised the reviews were quite so negative. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! We’re diving deep into the mysteries of Dear Johnny in the supernatural thriller Now and Then! Wait … no, in the heartfelt teen drama Now and Then? Oh … that’s not as fun. Let’s go!
P’s View on the Preview – Hearing the film was kind of considered a Stand By Me for young women in the early 90s was intriguing. As was the fact that Amanda Dobbins on The Big Picture podcast put it in her top five summertime films. Basically, it seemed like it was going to be cloyingly sweet, but otherwise a fine film that got dunked on more for the context in which it was released, than for the quality of the film itself. What were my expectations? A sweet and fairly entertaining film. And with that I would be somewhat perplexed that it qualified at all, but pleased that I didn’t have to watch something boring.
The Good – As a very sweet film about four friends coming together and reliving the One Big Summer of their youths, it serves its purpose well. Christina Ricci in particular is quite good for someone of her age. And while the Dear Johnny storyline wasn’t entirely my cup of tea, I have to admit I was shocking up a bit at the final (although inevitable) reveal. The film is completely manipulative, but if you’re willing to go along for the ride it ultimately is pretty satisfying. I can completely understand why women of a certain age would fondly remember this film. Best Bit: Stand-By-Me-esque nostalgia.
The Bad – The rest of the kid actors are somewhere between serviceable (Gaby Hoffman) to terrible (Ashliegh Moore). The Dear Johnny storyline is so weird, bouncing between a magical realism of “wait … is this a ghost story or what?” and the manipulative redemption arc for Crazy Pete. And it was entirely too true: the adult storyline is a complete nothing and could have (and should have) been discarded. It would have been pretty easy to handwave the entire thing away like in Stand By Me, Demi Moore’s character is even a famous author like Wil Wheaton’s character! It would have been so easy. Instead there is just a forced reunion bookending the whole thing. Fatal Flaw: Boring present day bookend.
The BMT – This was one of the first films where I can say I kind of liked the film, but also kind of understood that it wasn’t for me and that the critics had a pretty solid point. This is a film for a certain generation of young women to fondly think back on (while never watching as an adult). At least it wasn’t a downer like the film I schooled myself with. Did it meet my expectations? It wasn’t boring. Honest to god, if someone asked if I would watch this film again in about two months I would shrug and probably watch it. It is the definition of “Hey this movie is on TNT randomly … I wonder if Brendan Fraser’s part has happened yet …” rewatchability.
Roast-radamus – This film has an unbelievable Product Placement (What?) in which an entire plotline of the film is focused on the girls getting a Sears tree house using the money they earned over the summer. They barely resolve it too, they just kind of have it in the end. Decent Setting as a Character (Where?) and Period Piece (When?) for taking place in the summer of 1970 in Shelby, Indiana. I think there is a good case for Worst Twist (How?) with the “revelation” that Crazy Pete is the father of Dear Johnny. That was inevitable. Superlative category: Good.
StreetCreditReport.com – I would like to point out that we’ve seen five of the films listed here. Pretty impressive, although naturally Now and Then is nowhere in sight. As I mentioned in the preview and this recap this film was mentioned on The Big Picture podcast as one of their best summer movies ever. So that is something indeed. Possibly on some list of worst coming of age films set in the 70s? That is juuuuuust narrow enough that it would have to make it right?
You Just Got Schooled – I’ve been on a good roll with these recently. Based on Ebert’s shoutout to the superior The Man in the Moon which was Reese Witherspoon’s debut film, I decided to watch that. Pretty good! She’s incredible in it, and so is Sam Waterson as her father. About farm life in small town Louisiana in the 50s, Witherspoon is a precocious 14-year-old who falls in love with her 16-year-old next door neighbor Jason London, who in turn falls in love with Witherspoon’s 18-year-old sister. I mostly agree with other critics who complain that the melodramatic ending subtracts from what is otherwise a very well-made film. But Witherspoon is so good it ends up being worthwhile regardless. I also tend to agree with Ebert, the earnestness in which they approach a story of youth on the verge of growing up is something that you find in Stand By Me, but is sorely lacking in Now and Then which ends up being mostly silly. But that seems intentional, and I can’t say I much enjoyed The Man in the Moon‘s downer of a story. Still A-, totally worthwhile just because of a stellar performance by a young Reese Witherspoon.