Rumble Fish ★★★½

We associate the term “young adult” now with supernatural romances and a high stakes post-apocalyptic world, but S.E. Hinton is one of the original young adult novelists and her young adult worlds focused on ragtag bunches of dreamers who don’t wanna go to school but still wanna belong to a group. The Outsiders, published in 1967, is her most famous work. It sold 14 million copies. Yet it wasn’t scooped up for a Hollywood adaptation until Francis Ford Coppola adapted it in 1983 (and thereby launched the careers of Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez). And for a period, Hollywood was buying YA books before they’re even published or have fervent audience. After The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, and Twilight Hollywood is overdue in listening to Hinton’s basic 19 year-old statement: “teenagers are for real.” The indie circuit has heard us and given Eighth Grade, Lady Bird, Waves and Edge of Seventeen, etc. But studios still are tossing young adults into the world-saving mix and not engaging with their actual lives as real people.

To me, Hinton's adaptations are the best Young Adult movies because Coppola treats the source material as tattoo-worthy, in particular, how so many teens can't envision a future and each and every day feels entirely dramatic. Shot in black and white (with the exception of giving tropical fish their proper color) and featuring a jazzy score and brooding youngsters Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, and Diane Lane, Rumble Fish is all flash and outbursts of big emotion. It might not be totally in tune with 80s teenagers, but it does capture the teen spirit of drama, rebellion, and how goddamn BIG an older sibling’s legacy feels. When it was made Coppola called it an “art film for teenagers” and in that regard it succeeds, because it has a surface coolness, a daydream sexiness, and while he understands that teens might not have the most life experience, Coppola doesn’t patronize them for loosing their cool or overreacting.

Just read the synopsis and enjoy: “Rusty James (Dillon), an absent-minded street thug, struggles to live up to his older brother’s (Rourke) reputation, and longs for the days when gang warfare was going on.”

Brian liked these reviews