James’s review published on Letterboxd:
The first of two consecutive films based on novels by S. E. Hinton, The Outsiders sees Francis Ford Coppola tackle youthful insolence with an ensemble cast of energetic young Brat Pack actors and future stars such as Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze and Matt Dillon but unlike the more ambitious and abstract Rumble Fish ultimately proves unsatisfying, overly sentimental and difficult to connect with.
There's an underlying feeling of removal from the characters that despite strong directorial prowess from Coppola prevents any form of attachment with them. Whilst the subsequent film feels gritty and authentic despite being heavily metaphysical, this comes across as slightly mawkish and quite dated from a modern perspective. The uneven storytelling proves frustrating as the broad cast of characters are awkwardly mismanaged with insufficient time given to each cohort, there could easily be two movies going on here, independent of one another. It seems like Coppola may have played it too safe here, had he chosen to get to grips with the source material, a more compelling, less sugar-coated movie might have emerged.
There are enjoyable moments however, C. Thomas Howell as Ponyboy Curtis is the heart and soul of this coming-of-age story, the relationships with his strained family and friends the most captivating aspect that, given tighter focus could have made for a stronger film. The 50s drive-in inspired aesthetic and soundtrack by Carmine Coppola with various rock and roll hits is another strong point.