Let it be known far and wide that I'm a huge fan of coming of age movies. It's one of my favorite sub-genres, but for me ranges from fun adventures like 'The Goonies' to deeper character studies like 'The Breakfast Club', or even just a deep look at friendships, like 'The Sandlot'. And they are still alive and well today, with great titles like 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower', 'Easy A', or if you want something from last year, 'Good Boys' was a lot of fun. But here's what happens when famed director Francis Ford Coppola gets his hands on the genre.
The main focus, Ponyboy (C. Thomas Howell) is a 14-year-old boy, orphaned, living in a rough situation on the wrong side of the tracks, with his two older brothers, Sodapop (Rob Lowe) and Darrel (Patrick Swayze). Darrel is constantly on Ponyboy's case, since becoming the primary caregiver of the household, while Sodapop gets caught between their opposing sides. They are all Greasers, a north side gang, often from broken homes. Among them, Two-Bit Matthews (Emilio Estevez), Steve Randall (Tom Cruise), and Ponyboy's best friend, Johnny (Ralph Macchio).
Ponyboy often worries that with their gang activities, the authorities will eventually split the family apart. This increases when the volatile Dallas (Matt Dillon), head of the Greasers, is released from prison, carrying his short fuse with him. Even though the other guys in the gang aren't nearly as bad, people generally see the whole gang as Dallas, with his nasty exterior. He's too often looking in the direction of their rivals, the Socials (or Socs), who are more or less the polar opposite; rich, entitled, see themselves above everyone else, and represent the south side of town.
A chance encounter between Ponyboy and a girl named Cherry Valance (Diane Lane), who happens to be a Soc named Bob's (Leif Garrett) girlfriend. This results in Ponyboy and Johnny getting into a brutal fight with some Socs, in which a real tragedy occurs, amping up the rival gangs, and amping up Ponyboy's concerns for his family and friends.
This one definitely lies more on the deep, dark side of things, focusing primarily on Ponyboy and Johnny, who are just teenagers, struggling to grow up in such rough conditions. We get sort of an inside look here with these two, and it's actually pretty scary. They are easily empathized with, because all they want is something better for themselves, as opposed to this gang life.
What more can I say? The long list of talented young actors, and the director kinda speak for themselves, saying "this is something you need to see", at least, if you're like me and enjoy these kinds of movies. Unfortunately, however, review-wise it doesn't usually tend to do great. It's fine, passable, but not necessarily great. If I have one criticism of my own, it's that it kinda gets melodramatic at points. But it was never enough to ruin it for me. Personally, I'd say it's one of the most interesting titles to look back on, if you haven't seen it yet. The main reason being that this was a lot of early career work for these actors, so in a way, it's a bit of a time capsule. Check it out if you have a couple of hours to kill. I actually really enjoyed it.