Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Puberty Blues

1981, Australia, directed by Bruce Beresford

On the surface a fairly straightforward teen flick, there's a little more going on here than just adolescent antics -- even if there's perhaps not quite as much going on as the filmmakers think. Beresford's general aim is to create a sense of nascent female empowerment in a very male world -- in this case the teenage surfers of Cronulla -- though in order to get to that point we have to watch a movie in which the girls are for the most part subjected to all manner of humiliations, at best (I've no idea what the balance was in the source novel, written by two young women from the surfer milieu). Despite the focus on gender dynamics, and the presence of a genuinely appealing heroine in Nell Schofield (even with the obvious emotional manipulation, her final triumph is quite affecting), in some respects the film is better on class relations, quite acutely commenting on Australia's sense of itself as a classless society that is, of course, anything but. The film is strikingly even-handed in its dissection of class behaviour, too; neither the working class boys nor their largely middle-class girlfriends (and their middle-class families) are let off the hook, and there's an amusing sequence where the two worlds collide over an uncomfortable cup of tea.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States