The Outsiders * * *


Director: Francis Ford Coppola.
Screenplay: Kathleen Rowell, Francis Ford Coppola.
Starring: C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Patrick Swayze, Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, Leif Garrett, Darren Dalton, Glenn Withrow, Gailard Sartain, William Smith, Sofia Coppola, S.E. Hinton, Tom Waits.

After “One From The Heart” in 1982 and his subsequent bankruptcy following that film’s spiralling production costs, director Francis Ford Coppola turned his hand to a couple of adaptations of ‘teen-novels’ by S.E. Hinton. This was the first (followed by “Rumble Fish“) and although it doesn’t quite hold up today, it still shows how Coppola had an eye for acting ensembles.

In 1960’s Oklahoma, 14 year old Ponyboy Curtis (C. Thomas Howell) is part of a gang known as “The Greasers”. At heart though, he has an interest in poetry and “Gone With The Wind” and believes in a better life. However, one evening him and his friend Johnny Cade (Ralph Macchio) are attacked by rival gang “The Socs”. In defence, Johnny is forced to kill one of them and with the help of Dallas Winston (Matt Dillon), they go on the run. While away though, the tension mounts between the two rival gangs.

I remember reading S.E. Hinton’s book in school when I was about 13 years old and as much as I loved it then, it is ultimately a sentimental and romanticised view of adolescence. Upon reflection, there are several cringe-worthy moments and Coppola approaches the material with such a melodramatic and unashamed style. In fairness though, he sticks very closely to Hinton’s novel (which she wrote when she was 15) and I don’t suppose it was meant to appeal to anyone other than those harbouring their teenage angst. It’s just a shame, that with such potential, the director of “The Godfather” couldn’t have dropped some of the self-indulgent innocence and added a little more bite. However, it doesn’t proclaim to be anything other than what it is and it’s target audience should still find plenty to enjoy. I know I did – 20 years ago. A lot of scenes still retain a certain power and the music score by Carmine Coppola compliments it well. As does, the use of Stevie Wonder’s marvellous song “Stay Gold“. The most impressive thing about it though, is the ensemble of young actors that Coppola managed to assemble. A lot of them went on to bigger and better things while some crashed and burned but at the very least, it was a cast of familiar faces that were at the forefront of many successful movies of the 80’s and 90’s. Coppola released a director’s cut in 2005 that restored almost half an hour of footage. I haven’t seen that cut and whether or not it improves the film remains to be seen but I would be interested in viewing it nonetheless.

As a big fan of the novel in my youth, this is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me. Coppola portrays the characters and sets the scenes with admiration but now that time has passed and my critical faculties have developed, there’s no doubt that youth and idealism played a part in my, more favourable, opinion back then.

Mark Walker


13 Responses to “The Outsiders * * *”

  1. Oh man, I haven’t seen this movie in ages. I used to have a crush on practically every guy in this cast, well except Ralph Macchio, ahah. It’s really one of the best movies about teenage angst. This reminds me to finish my Outsider-related post that’s been sitting in my draft folder forever. Thanks Mark!


    • You never had a crush on The Karate Kid? Macchio’s are people too ye know? πŸ˜‰ Yeah, this was a real gem for me when I was younger Ruth. It’s still decent but a tad childish.


      • Ahah, well maybe a teeny bit. But seriously, Ralph is just sooo pretty. As you know I like ’em manly and rugged like Gerry Butler. Plus he isn’t a Scot πŸ˜‰


      • Haha! You really are a bit crazy for the ‘skirt’ wearing Scots Ruth. Are you also partial to the stereotypical groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons? πŸ˜‰


  2. I haven’t seen this one in a long time. In school we read the book and then watched this. I’d really like to give the book and the film another shot, I think I’d appreciate it a bit more.


    • I was the same Andy. I remember reading the book in school and then being introduced to the film. If I didn’t have such a fondness for it, I might have rated it slightly less but this is probably the first film that I ever reviewed and dissected in a critical way. It was the only one I ever got in school but I really hope school’s now, still stick by that. Film is the new art form and youngsters should be taught how to be critical in their views (as well as reading books of course).


      • Completely agree with you, Mark. I was lucky enough to take a few film classes as well as a critical writing class in high school but I’m not sure if the average curriculum is moving away from such things.


      • I’ve had no education in film studies or writing whatsoever (it probably shows) but I have an interest and a passion. That’s what keeps me going and i’d bet my bottom dollar that loads of young ones are the same. They just need direction and if they receive these delights at school then there is no end to where they’ll go. It seems as if you have similar school standards in the U.S. but here in Scotland I feel it very important to encourage that side in kids. It doesn’t happen very often – despite a reasonably good selection of successful scots actors around just now. I must admit though, I’m surprised at that.


  3. Very good review, Mark! You’re right about FFC picking a great cast!


    • It’s amateurish Coppola but interesting nonetheless. It seems to be a favourite amongst a lot of people in school. It was part of the curriculum when I was young and probably the first film I ever dissected critically. Who would have known that years later, I would be doing that very thing on my own spare time?


  4. Thanks for letting me camp out in your blog for a little while. I had a great time and tried to leave my campsite as clean as when I arrived. I’ll be back!


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