Monday, July 09, 2018

The Outsiders

Based on the novel by S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders is the story of two young greasers who go on the run following a self-defense murder of a drunken rich kid in Tulsa as they deal with their roles in the world. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola and screenplay by Kathleen Rowell, the film is coming-of-age story involving teenage kids from poor/working class environments dealing with the prejudice of their world as well as seeing if there’s a good life outside of these restrictions. Starring C. Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Emilio Estevez, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Diane Lane, Leif Garrett, Darren Dalton, Glenn Withrow, Michelle Meyrink, and Tom Waits. The Outsiders is an enchanting and evocative film from Francis Ford Coppola.

Set in the early 1960s in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the film revolves around a rivalry between two different gangs from different parts of the town that represent the social divide in the city. From the south of Tulsa are a group of kids from the working class/poor section of the town known as the greasers who wear denim, leather, and have grease on their hair while the kids from the north of Tulsa are the Socs who are rich kids who have their life set by their parents, wear letterman jackets, and posh clothes. In the middle of this conflict are a couple of young greasers who sneak into a drive-in movie venue where they befriend a young woman as they would later have an ugly encounter with her drunken boyfriend that ended with one of them killing a Soc in self-defense. With the help of another greaser, the two young men leave Tulsa and hide out where they deal with their roles as greasers as well as wondering if there’s more to offer as they encounter heroism as well as tragedy.

The film’s screenplay by Kathleen Rowell (that was largely re-written by Francis Ford Coppola) focuses on three young greasers in Ponyboy Curtis (C. Thomas Howell), Johnny Cade (Ralph Macchio), and Dallas “Dally” Winston (Matt Dillon) who spend a lot of time bumming around Tulsa as Curtis is still reeling from the death of his parents some years ago as he lives with his older brothers Darrel (Patrick Swayze) and Sodapop (Rob Lowe) where there’s tension Ponyboy and Darrel. Johnny is also from a dysfunctional family home as his friendship with Ponyboy is very close where they end up having to fight off a gang of Socs led by Bob Sheldon (Leif Garrett) who is angry over the fact that his girlfriend Cherry Valance (Diane Lane) befriended Ponyboy and Johnny as they didn’t play up the stereotypes of the greasers. Much of the film’s second act is set outside of Tulsa where Johnny and Ponyboy hide in an abandoned church where they change their look and view on the world until they reunite with Dally who gives them news about what they did to Sheldon.

Much of the film’s second half isn’t just about the act of heroism from Johnny, Ponyboy, and a reluctant Dally but also the fallout of Sheldon’s murder leading to a climatic rumble between the greasers and Socs with fellow greasers Two-Bit Matthews (Emilio Estevez), Steve Randle (Tom Cruise), and Tim Shepard (Glenn Withrow) helping out the Curtis brothers and other greasers with a sudden appearance from Dally. Yet, it’s the aftermath of the rumble that would change things as it relate to the reality of the world and the sacrifice that Johnny made into his act of heroism.

Coppola’s direction is intoxicating for not just shooting the film on location in Tulsa, Oklahoma and nearby locations but also in emphasizing some elements of realism into the film. There are also elements of styles in the compositions as the film and ends with Ponyboy Curtis reflecting on a memory and writing it all down on paper as if a book is coming to life. The usage of the locations doesn’t just play into this life in a 1960s town in the Midwest where there isn’t much to do but there is also this air of social divide as Coppola doesn’t dwell into the environment that the Socs live in as he prefers to show some of the dirtier side of the city including drive-ins, local shops, and other places that greasers would hang out at. While he would use some wide shots to establish some of the locations including a crane shot of sorts for the scene where Ponyboy and Johnny are confronted by Bob and his friends at the greasers’ turf.

Coppola would also create some stylish shots in the compositions in the way characters interact with one another that would include scenes where Ponyboy is presented in the background and Johnny in the foreground in a medium shot during the film’s third act in a chilling yet somber scene. There are also these dreamy moments during a key scene in the second act where Coppola create this shot of Ponyboy talking to Johnny about some of the stuff he read and this idea of purity and innocence that is presented in a golden shot of sorts. It’s an innocence that Ponyboy would struggle to carry towards the third act as it also play into some of the fallacies of masculinity as it relates to Dally who always act tough and thinks he’s smarter than everyone. Yet, he is unprepared for not just this reality in loss but also the reality that he’s still young who is in need of growing up. Overall, Coppola creates a majestic yet touching film about a gang of teenage greasers dealing with growing pains and the realities of their environment including the social divide.

Cinematographer Stephen H. Burum does brilliant work with the film’s cinematography with its emphasis on low-key colors for some of the film’s daytime and nighttime exteriors as well as the usage of golden sunlight for a few key scenes as it play into Ponyboy’s innocence. Editor Anne Goursaud does excellent work with the editing as it help play into some the drama with some stylish dissolves and other cuts that also help play into some of the film’s energetic moments. Production designer Dean Tavoularis and set decorator Gary Fettis do fantastic work with the look of the abandoned church that Ponyboy and Johnny hide at outside of Tulsa as well as some of the interiors of the home where the Curtis brothers lived in.

The special visual effects work of Robert Swarthe is terrific for a lone sequence that relates to the assault of Ponyboy and Johnny by the Socs as it has an element of surrealism. Sound designer Richard Beggs does amazing work with the sound in creating sound textures for Ponyboy’s dream sequence as well as the natural atmosphere of some of the film’s locations. The film’s music by Carmine Coppola is wonderful for its rich and somber orchestral score that play into the dramatic elements of the film while the soundtrack features a couple of songs in the film from Them and a song by Stevie Wonder that was co-written with Carmine Coppola.

The casting by Janet Hirshenson is incredible for the ensemble that is created as it include some notable small roles and appearances from novelist S.E. Hinton as a nurse, William Smith as a store clerk Dally tries to threaten late in the film, Gailard Sartain as man that Ponyboy briefly talks to following the act of heroism, Sofia Coppola as a young girl asking for change, Tom Waits as a guardian of sorts for Dally in Buck Merrill, Glenn Withrow as a fellow greaser in Tim Shepard, Michelle Meyrink as Cherry’s friend Marcia, and Darren Dalton as a Soc named Randy Anderson who was Bob’s friend as he would have a conversation with Ponyboy during the third act stripping away the image of a Soc. Leif Garrett is terrific in his small role as the Soc Bob Sheldon who was Cherry’s boyfriend who berates her while being drunk as he has an immense disdain towards the greasers.

Diane Lane is fantastic as Cherry Valance as a mid-upper class girl who is part of the Socs though she dispels its stereotypes upon befriending Ponyboy and trying to help him over what happened. Tom Cruise and Emilio Estevez are excellent in their respective roles as Steve Randle and Two-Bit Matthews as a couple of greasers who are friends of the Curtis brothers with Randle as a tough kid who works with Sodapop while Matthews is a slacker of sorts who does watch over Ponyboy and Johnny during an encounter with the Socs. Rob Lowe is superb as Sodapop Curtis as the middle brother who works at a gas station with Randle as he is always trying to mediate between Darrel and Ponyboy. Patrick Swayze is brilliant as Darrel Curtis as the elder brother of Sodapop and Ponyboy who is trying to be responsible despite being too hard on Ponyboy.

Ralph Macchio is amazing as Johnny Cade as Ponyboy’s best friend who is a sensible person as he deals with what he had to do to save Ponyboy as well as pondering his own place in the world. C. Thomas Howell is marvelous as Ponyboy Curtis as a 14-year old greaser who is coping with loss as well as pondering a life outside of being a greaser as it’s a performance full of innocence and grace. Finally, there’s Matt Dillon in a phenomenal performance as Dally Winston as a young yet tough greaser who is cool but lacking in sensitivity as he is always tough where he tries to do whatever he can to protect Ponyboy and Johnny.

The Outsiders is a remarkable film from Francis Ford Coppola. Featuring an ensemble cast of future stars as well as gorgeous visuals, compelling themes of innocence and identity, and a lush musical score by Carmine Coppola. It’s a film that is engaging as well as displaying elements of realism and fantasy into the idea of growing pains in early 1960s Tulsa. In the end, The Outsiders is an incredible film from Francis Ford Coppola.

Francis Ford Coppola Films: (Tonight for Sure) – (The Bellboy and the Playgirls) – Dementia 13 - (You’re a Big Boy Now) – (Finian’s Rainbow) – (The Rain People) – The Godfather - The Conversation - The Godfather Pt. II - Apocalypse Now/Apocalypse Now Redux - One from the Heart - Rumble Fish - The Cotton Club - (Peggy Sue Got Married) – (Garden of Stone) – (Tucker: The Man & His Dreams) – New York Stories-Life Without Zoe - The Godfather Pt. III - Bram Stoker's Dracula - (Jack) – (The Rainmaker) – (Youth Without Youth) – Tetro - (Twixt)

© thevoid99 2018


Jay said...

We watched this in 8th grade after reading the novel and I cried so hard I turned purple and had to lock myself in a washroom stall until recess. Ah to be young and hormonal.

Unknown said...

Great review of a movie bursting with talent.

thevoid99 said...

@Jay-Wow, that must've been intense. I saw it as a teen and I wasn't emotionally enthralled by it but it is still a damn good movie. I'm interested in seeing the extended novel cut of the film.

@vinnie-Indeed, a lot of future film stars and greats.... and that aging dinosaur Tom Cruise.

J.D. said...

I was a HUGE fan of the book and all of S.E. Hinton's other novels. Read them religiously and when it was announced that a film version of THE OUTSIDERS was going to be made I couldn't believe it. Coppola managed to capture what I imagined when reading the novel. He really nailed it, creating a GONE FOR THE WIND for teenagers. His follow-up - RUMBLE FISH - was even better. Excellent review!

thevoid99 said...

@J.D. Lafrance-I still want to see the Novel Cut version of The Outsiders as I heard it is more faithful to the book and has a different music soundtrack. Still, I totally agree with you that Rumble Fish is the better film.

J.D. said...

I have mixed feelings about the Novel Cut. I love all the added footage and it makes it even closer to the novel but I hate that Coppola removed some of his father's amazing score in favor of period music - some of which is awkwardly shoe-horned into certain scenes.