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  Old Enough Girl Friends
Year: 1984
Director: Marisa Silver
Stars: Sarah Boyd, Rainbow Harvest, Neill Barry, Alyssa Milano, Danny Aiello, Susan Kingsley, Roxanne Hart, Fran Brill, Gerry Bamman, Anne Pitoniak, Charlie Willenger, Michael Monetti, Manny Jacobs, Gina Battist, Paul Butler, Judith Drake, Al Israel
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lonnie (Sarah Boyd) is a twelve-year-old New Yorker who is growing tired of her life in a well-to-do family, it seems her parents just want to control her when she wants to live her own way, from what she wears to who she sees, even how she styles her hair. One morning, after a minor squabble with her parents over her dress sense prompts her to go in the huff, she goes outside into the busy street and catches sight of a dark-haired girl she learns is called Karen (Rainbow Harvest) who she decides she would like to know better. The boys are acting up as usual, playing a somewhat perilous game of "jump off the fence", but when Lonnie gets familiar with Karen, she finds a bad influence...

And yes, Rainbow Harvest was her real name. This was probably her best-remembered film in her short career, possibly because Winona Ryder came along with exactly the same look and managed to outperform her in the success stakes, but the fans of this minor cult item look back and believe she nailed her performance as a teenage bad girl who may not be as bad as she thinks, or indeed would like. Her counterpart, Sarah Boyd, stayed in the industry though she too gave up acting; it was as a much in demand editor of film and television that she proved most valuable, and she tried her hand to directing television episodes as well. Harvest meanwhile settled for the normal life.

The director here was the daughter of the more celebrated Joan Micklin Silver, Marisa Silver, and she had a movie career as brief as one of her leading ladies here, though she left a small number of heartfelt dramas behind that never made the impact that perhaps she would have preferred. Most notable about that state of affairs was Old Enough snared the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance in its year, which would seem to have indicated she was destined for great, or at least pretty good, things, yet it never played out that way, and she is largely forgotten aside from those movie buffs who take notice of who wins what, or more likely with this item, caught it at the right age for it to affect them.

Coming of age dramas are plentiful in the indie market, and this was assuredly one of those, so much so that it epitomised what would fast become a cliché of what a first time director wanted to choose as their subject. But Silver was keen to show not some candy-coloured nostalgia piece, it was more a realistic example of what your average pubescent girl would have to face up to in the eighties, which here included anything from peer pressure to being leered at by uncouth boys, both of which happen to Lonnie when she wanders from the nest to set off on her own, not going as far as running away from home, but using Karen's behaviour as an excuse to toy with her own bad behaviour. This meant neither of the two leads were entirely sympathetic unless you had been through a similar experience yourself.

If you had made it out the other side unscathed, then you could look back on those days via Old Enough with some affection and not a little relief, as while nothing really awful afflicts Lonnie and Karen, the idea that they may not be mature enough to deal with the adult world that fast approaches was what provided the engine of the plot. Karen encourages her new pal to skip school, to shoplift, even (gasp!) to try on makeup, all to attempt a path into womanhood that suggests they are not canny enough to understand where they are going wrong: this was not one of those indie efforts where the kids were wise beyond their years and spoke with witty dialogue. We were conscious of watching the girls from the perspective of perceiving their missteps, which can make for a frustrating view when there's nobody guiding them to act appropriately and be aware of the damage they are setting themselves up for; the glimpses of their parents we see illustrates both what affects them and what they rebel against. It was a slight affair, but lightly perceptive and was not about to punish its characters for naivety. Plinky-plonky music by Julian Marshall.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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