Notes on “Over the Edge”

Fabrizio del Wrongo writes:

edge

“Over the Edge” is an example of a movie whose exploitation emphasis neutralizes its social message and clears the way for something approaching honesty. Director Jonathan Kaplan is often able to present its kids with a detachment that is almost ethnographic; he’s more interested in them as documentary subjects than as representatives of some theme. The most vivid sections of the picture show them lounging in their rooms listening to Cheap Trick or walking through unmown fields looking useless and mock furious. Had the movie been made under the studio system, it would have been a message movie — a new “Blackboard Jungle” (and there remains more than a hint of that in “Over the Edge”). Had it followed the pattern of teen movies made in the wake of “American Graffiti,” it would have leveraged nostalgia (there is none of that). Kaplan wants to shock rather than cajole. And though this results in a degree of phoniness, as the consciously shocking nearly always does, there’s real authenticity in the way these children talk and move and act wild. While it lacks the poetry of one of its models, “The 400 Blows,” and the dedication of one of its heirs, “Cold Water,” Kaplan, like Truffaut and Assayas, manages to capture the stupid purity of the half-developed conscience. He celebrates the purity without obliterating the stupidity. The stupidity is part of the purity. The movie is often compared to the teen movies released in the ’80s — to “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” especially. But I think the real connection to be made here is to the post-apocalyptic pictures made around the same time. Transplanted to the West and a “model community,” these kids are like a combination of cowboys and Indians — uncultured primitives in a new frontier. They’ve escaped from New York — but to what? The movie is filled with post-suburban anxiety. Perhaps this was generated out of the Boomers’ sense, only half formed, that the postwar world was crumbling, and that their kids were the inheritors of its wreckage.

About Fabrizio del Wrongo

Recovering liberal arts major. Unrepentant movie nut. Aspiring boozehound.
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