The Outsiders: The BRWC Review. By Alif Majeed.
Greasers, as a subculture, have always been depicted in movies as cool, unflappable people or guys ready to pick up a fight at the drop of the hat. Starting with The Wild One, it is an unavoidable part of the depiction of the ’50s. Even though it reached its peak with Fonz from Happy Days and Grease. It seldom gets as tragic as it does here.
When you think about it, rarely are they depicted as scared little kids like they are here. A huge credit for that would also go to the original novel which Francis Ford Coppola had lovingly bought to the big screen.
There is little doubt that The Outsiders was an important movie in his filmography. Still reeling off the shocking failure of One from the Heart after a string of critical and commercial classics, he was desperate for a win. Thankfully, the movie turned out to be a decent success for him helping him survive, at least for a short while, the drubbing he got for his last film.
Watching the original novel version of The Outsiders was an interesting experience. The initial release version was lean and tight compared to the epic length of most of his movies had until that point. But the upgraded version might not be the same movie you remember, even if pretty much all the major beats were intact.
The movie never looked as sharper as it does here, with a superb overhauled soundtrack that is also pretty delightful, given the period it depicts. The often surreal look makes it stand out among the coming-of-age movies of that era. What is wonderful though is that, whatever version you choose to see, it had still lost none of its charms and remains as powerful and relevant as a coming-of-age movie as anyone you’ll ever see.
None of what is not what it got discussed for. This is a prime example of a movie which is notable for its star cast. The star cast was impressive back then and perhaps in retrospect, The Outsiders had one of the most impressive ensemble star cast who came together for a film. That most of them had prominent careers only adds validation to that fact. It does not have the inherent cuteness of the brat pack movies, but it definitely sparked off the brat pack era.
Among the cast, Tom Cruise and Emilio Estevez almost seem to showboat and were trying to one-up each other, but that is just a minor squabble issue I have with the cast. The remaining guys more than elevate the movie with their depiction of the confusion and angst that comes with being a teen. Not just in the era depicted, but in any other era.
Patrick Swayze looks like he was born to play the role of the older brother, holding all of them together and being the guy everyone wants to emulate. The central three runaways C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio are the bleeding heart and soul of the movie. You understand where he is coming from when Johnny, Ralph’s character, laments on the fact that their win against the Socs might be pointless, as no matter what the outcome, their lives would always remain the same. It is further amplified in the scene where Johnny takes about the things he ain’t done, seen, or experienced yet. His final plea to Ponyboy to “stay gold” is also enough to break our collective hearts.
My favorite moment of the movie would be when Ponyboy speaks to a Soc, Randy right before the brawl between the two groups, and they contemplate their place in society. That scene belongs to Darren Dalton, playing Randy, where you see regret and the pointlessness of it all. They clearly did not want to treat the Socs as generic villains who are up against the underdogs.
His subsequent SE Hinton adaptation, Rumble Fish just doesn’t seem as personal. In fact, this small film might be his most personal movie yet.
You get a feeling that maybe Coppola will come up with a final cut somewhere down the line like what he did with Apocalypse now. You understand the need for him to revisit and update the movie, but it honestly needs very little tinkering. As far as coming-of-age movies where the main characters learn heartbreaking life lessons, it has rarely got better than this one.
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