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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Now and Then, released in 1995, is an emotional and nostalgic look back at childhood through adult eyes. Four 12-year-old girlfriends watch boys skinny-dip, hold séances, live through the death of a loved one, and survive divorce. One of them has her first kiss. Mention of hard ons. A 12-year-old girl is seen looking in the mirror while wearing a bra. She thinks her breasts are too large and tapes them to make them smaller. A girl with small breasts sticks balloons filled with pudding in her shirt to make them appear bigger. As an adult she reveals she's had plastic surgery to make them bigger. A mother gives her preteen daughter misleading information about sex, using gardening analogies. Later, her friends set her straight. Years later the grown women gather to support one in need and find that their early bond remains strong. Language includes "s--t," "bitch," and "ass." Kids try smoking cigarettes. Adults smoke cigarettes. A girl jumps into a storm drain to grab the bracelet she's dropped there. A downpour floods the drain and she seems certain to drown until someone rescues her.
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What's the story?
The charms of NOW AND THEN start with its emphasis on how greatly childhood experiences affect adult life. As friends reunite decades later, the movie also suggests that even at 12, adult personalities are already fully formed. Tina (Thora Birch as a girl and Melanie Griffith as an adult) was always boy-obsessed and concerned with her looks so no one was surprised when she moved to California to become a TV star, with no less than four failed marriages to her name. Sam (Gaby Hoffmann, Demi Moore), a seeker damaged by her parents' divorce, becomes a never-married New York writer. Roberta (Christina Ricci, Rosie O'Donnell) was an athlete daredevil who stayed home and became a physician. Chrissy (Ashleigh Ashton Moore, Rita Wilson) was the whiny, hard-headed realist who loved small-town life and stayed. She married a dentist and summons the crew, separated for ten years, for support as she delivers her first child. (The healthy newborn is shown covered with blood.) Flashbacks to 1970 portray a safe suburban childhood with lessons that help the girls grow: If you hide in fear from the curveballs life will surely throw you, you'll miss the good stuff. And, grownups aren't always right. But old friends are true and there when you need them.
Is it any good?
This movie gets off to a slow start, giving the impression that it will dwell in easy clichés. But a solid script and directorial guidance by Lesli Linka Glatter helps the actors achieve surprising depth. Even smaller roles are cast well with Janeane Garafalo as a psychic waitress and Cloris Leachman as a self-obsessed grandmother. It's not surprising, since Glatter was also a producer and director of Homeland and other high-quality TV.
Suburbia here is not shielded from the horrors of the outside world. The girls meet a hitchhiking soldier who was wounded in Vietnam (Brendan Fraser), to whom they spout the cheerleading they've heard on TV about the war. He counters with news -- that this war has no winner and that everyone is lying about it. And while having a fun séance, the girls discover a dead child's headstone in the cemetery. This spurs a quest to discover how the boy died, including a long bike trip to a far-off library. A 1945 newspaper front page lays out his unsolved local murder, shaking their confidence in their illusion of safety at home. Bad things can happen anywhere, at any time. The girls are smart enough to start questioning authority and to wonder about the world beyond their town's comforting borders. The girls discover that their secret humiliations, in one case a girl's parents' divorce, are all part of normal life. And they realize that the supposed models of normality -- TV family sitcoms -- are filled with widowers raising children, while the heartbreaking reality of all those dead TV mothers is never discussed. "It's normal for things to be s--tty," one girl observes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the importance of friendship. What does Now and Then say about the value of knowing people for a long time?
How can loss also be an occasion for learning, sharing, and emotional maturation?
How do the friends in this movie support each other in difficult times?
Is this a "chick flick"? What does that term mean and is it derisive? Are you offended by the idea that a movie about women's lives and friendships would only appeal to other women?
- In theaters: October 20, 1995
- On DVD or streaming: November 15, 2005
- Cast: Gaby Hoffmann, Christina Ricci, Ashleigh Ashton Moore, Rita Wilson, Melanie Griffith, Demi Moore, Rosie O'Donnell
- Director: Lesli Linka Glatter
- Studio: New Line Home Video
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Empathy, Teamwork
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
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