why Cranky is in pain
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Now and Then
Starring nobody (but some stars in cameo)


OK film students, the word for today is "focus". No, not the kind the cameraman has to worry about to make sure that all the pictures are clear and properly shot. We're talking about scriptwriting here. "Focus" means what is this story about? What happens to the characters to put that story in motion? To drive it along? To bring it to a conclusion?

Now and Then is sorely lacking in all departments. Then again, I'm a guy. And the only thing in this movie aimed at an old fogey like me is the music. In which case, Now and Then is a great soundtrack sorely in need of a coherent, fulfilling story. We'll talk continuity in a bit. First, the story.

Four grown women come together, fulfilling a pact made when they were 12-year-old girls, to "be there for each other" in a time of need. Which in this case is the birth of a child to the most sexually naive of the group, who happens to be the only happily married one in the bunch.

Oh, and there's a passing reference to a pre-fab tree house in the backyard, which is where the flashback kicks in. To the summer when the girls had to work real hard to raise the $130 to buy the house. How do they do this? Heck if I know. The summer seems to be spent feuding with four brothers and researching the death of a resident of the local cemetery.

"Why?" I hear you ask? It has something to do with holding a seance in the graveyard. Of a storm kicking up and destroying the tombstone of the one they were trying to contact. Of feeling guilty for disturbing the spirit and having to find out why he died so they can put it to rest.

Which, given the naivete of a twelve-year-old, could lead to an interesting story. But not when these twelve year olds of 1970 speak like twelve year olds of 1995.

Trust me. I was 13 in 1970. We had not even *imagined* phrases like "get over it" way back then.

And if you make it this far, you won't have a problem with wondering how the treehouse shows up when the girls were ten bucks short of having enough to buy it. Nor with the preposterous way they manage to "solve" the mystery. Or with the completely implausible explanation for the destruction of the tombstone. Or with the "crazy old man who isn't so old and crazy" bit ripped off from Home Alone.

Finally, for those adults out there. Do you know *anyone* who, in terms of their behavior, is exactly the same as they were when they were twelve? Do you know *anyone* who, in terms of their hopes dreams and ambitions, got *exactly* what they were preparing for when they were twelve? If you know one, do you know four?

"Oh, get over it!" said my date. "Does everything have to make complete sense to you? Can't you just sit back and enjoy the fantasy of the movie?"

"Oh I would love to. But a story should have a point. And a fantasy should be enjoyable."

"You're just an old fart!" she said, and blew a raspberry at me and stalked off into the New York night.

Which left me even more cranky than usual. But I'll ignore that, and be completely fair minded, dollar-wise.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price for Now and Then, he would have paid . . .

$2.00

Which is what I spent on the soda, which was OK. Laura bought the popcorn, and she rated Now and Then at $4.00 -- the cost of an expensive rental.


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