The Outsiders (1983)
Is the movie version ever better than the book it’s based on? Hard to compete with your imagination. I like to think of each as their own specimen of craft and let the chips fall where they may. My way of watching movies is usually accompanied by a high tolerance for unrealistic story lines and a large dose of suspension of belief, something, I admit, I don’t do with quite the equal amount of rigour when reading. If I deem a book ‘bad’ then I don’t finish it, or I speed read through the drivel to find out that yes, I was right, it was not a ‘good’ book. With movies I seem to embrace the badness. To a point anyway. I mean, I stopped watching Steven Seagal movies YEARS ago.
In The Outsiders, Ponyboy Curtis is the story’s fourteen-year-old protagonist. He has two brothers (Darry and Sodapop), and no parents (they died in a car accident). He is a Greaser. Ponyboy struggles with social norms, morality, and finding his way in a world where he feels like an outsider. It’s a classic coming-of-age story that translates (in this version) very well to the big screen.
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton is a book that most of us read as part of our high-school English curriculum (and if you haven’t, go read it now!)—about the rivalry between Greasers and Socials. Did you wear khaki’s in high-school? Then you were a Soc (pronounced like roach). Did you slick back your hair with Brylcreem in high-school? Then you were a Greaser (sorry, no cool shortened form for that name).
Khakis = rich kids
Brylcreem = poor kids
Adeptly directed by Francis Ford Coppola the film features a cast that makes this a must-watch if only to relive the youthful vigour of Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, and Patrick Swayze in all their pretty-boy glory. The rest of the cast is pretty okay too. Diane Lane, as Sherri “call me Cherry” Valance doesn’t get the best of lines. However.
I. Cannot. Take. My. Eyes. Off. Of. Her. I guess that’s the point.
This is one movie that, despite the awful opening credit music (thanks a lot Stevie Wonder), I think, is as ‘good’ as the book it was based on. Coppola pulls some interesting camera angles and does a pretty good job at capturing the poignant moments without seeming overly solicitous and gaggy. I can get into the drama—I’m a little more forgiving watching a movie made in the ’80s that takes place in the ’60s from the comfortable distance of 2015.
There are a few misses: Ponyboy at one point goes on the lam with Johnny (Ralph Macchio) and bleaches his hair blond to avoid detection by the police. In some scenes it’s clearly a wig and in others it’s his own hair. Very distracting. Also, Tom Cruise. Yikes. He has only a few minutes on screen and he over emotes every second. It’s embarrassing.
Despite the small gaffs, Ralph Macchio is stunningly good, and C. Thomas Howell doesn’t do too bad a job either. I would put this one somewhere in the ‘watch this on a rainy afternoon’ category with the caveat that you don’t fall asleep halfway through. In other words, watch this NOW! -ish.