I will try to be brief this time. Yes, I know, contain your amazement if you can. The thing is, this is the first time I've seen The Outsiders. I feel like I haven't earned the right to fully appreciate it yet. I also feel terrible that it didn't enter my film vocabulary sooner. Especially considering who directed it, and who stars in it, but there we are.
The Outsiders takes place in the '60s, in a small town somewhere in America. We follow the Greasers - the guys from the wrong side of the track. Leather jackets. Torn jeans. Hair shaped to within an inch of its life by overzealous application of hair product. Their enemies? The Socs (as in the first part of the word "social"). Those are the kids from the right side of the tracks, and don't they know it. One fateful night a young Greaser accidentally kills one of the Socs, trying to defend his buddy. This is the drop. There will be a rumble. And it won't be pretty.
There's more to the story than this, obviously, but if you're familiar with the film or the book it was based on, you know that already, and if you're not, you should approach it knowing as little as I did.
The overall feel of the story will be familiar to most, at least parts of it. Think Romeo & Juliet, without the lovebirds. Think Grease, sans the singing, the humor and the doe-eyed leads. You will also know every single face in the little group of Greasers. Every single one of these actors went on to bigger and better things. Some of them didn't get that far. Some of them went too far, but you will know them.
There's C. Thomas Howell from Red Dawn and The Hitcher. Ralph Macchio, The Karate Kid himself. Matt Dillon, who never really found a proper place in film history, but who curiously pops up in Beautiful Girls, playing a part that could have been his The Outsiders character 10 years later. There's Rob Lowe, from the Brat Pack, who took a lot of wrong turns and a few right ones, and ended up in The West Wing. Patrick Swayze of Dirty Dancing fame, who left us too soon. His rumble against cancer ended less well than the one against the Socs. We wont forget Emilio Estevez, whose legendary turns in legendary movies The Breakfast Club and St. Elmo's Fire are truly the stuff of legends. And last, but not least, Tom Cruise shows his face in a few scenes, complete with baby fat in his cheeks. He would next make Risky Business, and the rest is history. I also need to mention one of the Socs: The girl named Cherry, played by an impossibly young and adorable Diane Lane. There's nothing more to say about her. No words could do her justice.
It boggles the mind to look at these talents and think that they were once in the same movie. Imagine stepping onto the set of this movie, looking up and finding these hungry faces, waiting to challenge anything you say!
I'll admit, some of the performances are rough. Sometimes too rough. But they're not rough, like a reality star trying to capitalize on undeserved fame, or a singer taking "the next natural step" into a movie career. They are rough, because these actors are unpolished diamonds. They are young, hungry, and one-hundred percent honest. That's what the fame-whores of today will never understand. You just can't fake this kind of honesty. The camera simply reveals too much. It will look deep into your heart and reveal the color of your soul. Unfortunately too many people these days have gone color-blind, incapable of spotting the fakes.
Francis Ford Coppola directed this film after the nightmare that was Apocalypse Now and the utter failure that was One from the Heart. I hope he truly treasures the making of this film. The Outsiders is a giant piece from the cherry pie of nostalgia. It so perfectly captures the period that only the familiar faces - and a bit of math - prevents you from thinking this was actually shot in the '60s. It makes me long for a time I haven't even experienced!
If I was really cheeky I might say: It makes me an offer I can't possibly refuse.
The quality of the transfer on this Blu-ray from Studio Canal in England is stunning. The images are perfect, the colors are brilliant. This simply looks like a new film. The almost flawless images lead me to believe that some Digital Noise Reduction has been employed, simply because there's not a grain in sight anywhere. Maybe that's something some people will complain about, but how can I complain, when the movie looks THIS good? I could not imagine a better way to see The Outsiders for the first time.
The Blu-ray features the full director's cut version of the film, adding some 22 minutes to the original theatrical version. I can't report intelligently on the differences, since the extended cut is the only one I've been exposed to.
I need to watch this film a few more times, before I dig into the extras, but let me just quickly sum them up: Two audio commentaries - one with Coppola, one with the cast - a 26 minute making of program, plus several small items, including: A news segment, cast members reading the original novel, deleted scenes and something about the casting. The high point here will undoubtedly be the audio commentaries, but this is still a very nice package.
I absolutely treasure a limited selection of Francis Ford Coppola's films. You really do have to word any appreciation for this maverick director as carefully as that. Coppola is not an easy director to be a fan of. For every Godfather, there's a Peggy Sue Got Married, and for every Apocalypse Now there's a Jack.
The Outsiders reminds us why we must love him anyway, despite his countless flaws.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThanks to StudioCanal and Edith Chappey for making this review possible.