The teenage protagonists in both films are trapped in warbling desperation, flailing under physical and emotional burdens. Although surrounded by some of the most adult-acting (and looking) adults on film, they can’t seem to recognize that adolescence is a state they’ll eventually pass through, rather than a permanent condition.
Steel yourself for a fair amount of trembly-lipped, face-clutching melodrama…but there are enough great moments in both movies to repay your tolerance. The last scene of “Splendor in the Grass,” especially, is a restrained stunner.
For a marathon: More recent depictions of American teenagers provide a stark contrast to these two classics. To the protagonists of “Juno” and “Election,” adults are merely thicker-waisted peers (and occasional romantic partners,) rather than members of an enemy tribe.
Juno MacGuff faces circumstances arguably more challenging than the ones making Wood and her co-stars hyperventilate – and does so with a maturity and aplomb that any adult would envy.
“Election”‘s Tracy Flick conceives of adolescence as a backward extension of her adult career, and negotiates it accordingly.
Both make it clear that the generation of their elders doesn’t have much more of a handle on life’s challenges than they do.
(Creative Commons licensed original images courtesy of “taylorkydd” and “Aaron Landry” at Flickr)