Rumble Fish ★★★★

State by State (46/50)

Oklahoma
Date admitted to the union: November 16, 1907
Origin of name: Based on the Choctaw Indian words "okla humma", meaning "red man"
Population as of 2020: Estimated to be 3,954,821 inhabitants
Cities of Note: Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman, Stillwater, Edmond, Lawton, Midwest City, Muskogee, Shawnee, Enid, Bartlesville, Ponca City, Guthrie
Official State Song: "Oklahoma"
Official State Dinosaur: Acrocanthosaurus atokensis
Notable LB User: JoshEliot

Where the wind comes sweepin' down the Plain is also where the economy comes growing with the grain, what with Oklahoma faring pretty well in the recession and having a low cost of living all things considered. Granted, road construction runs rampant throughout the state, weather's unpredictable as hell, and the 32 species of cicada make for lousy sleeping, but hey, it's all worth it considering that there's something going on everyday to jump in (parades, rodeos, art shows, rodeos, hundreds of small planes landing annually at the Will Rogers Birthplace Ranch, rodeos...them Okies sure like them bullriders, boy I tell you hwat). There's a beautiful sense of fast living here, not just because of the original settlers from further south trying to get to the land "sooner" everyone else (which naturally means every University of Oklahoma alumni is obligated to rally out the term in some proud fashion), but for the constant sense of innovation and being the best with what you're given, and with Rumble Fish, Francis Ford Coppola took the Oklahoma-esque dreamworld of The Outsiders into an impressionistic look of dangerous teen living that nearly equals its more successful counterpart.

Rusty James is dissatisfied with life, yet without knowing where to go or how to get there, and thus is stuck in a constant loop of handling his frustrated isolation as explosively as possible. If The Outsiders demonstrated what the last gasps of childlike innocence is like, then Rusty James' freewheelin' odyssey is what happens when innocence is long gone, yet the destination of "wising up" isn't in sight, as RJ angrily has to cope with the days of gangs and frequent rumbles being gone, as well as the jaded failure his alcoholic father has become. With Rusty James' brother, known only by the legendary mantle of the Motorcycle Boy, enters back into the slow life of Tulsa, able to see past the facade of the archetypal rebel that Rusty James lives in, the film shifts into learning more about what torments RJ, as he lives up to the image of the "teen hero" he thought he knew and tries to process that ideal slipping past time, all just as brutally honest and raw as Ponyboy's journey through life was.

If The Outsiders conveyed timelessness through a classical Hollywood lens, here Coppola adapts this "lost-in-time" sensation through a modern approach. Heavy emphasis is put on the passing of clocks and clouds, as if life panickedly reminds you that life is passing you by, something the rhythm-centric score by Stewart Copeland supports (using then-new tempo editing software completely in contrast with Carmine Coppola's elgant, string-heavy score for The Outsiders). The allusions to past movements like film noir or German Expressionism are there, especially with the B&W cinematography employed, but in practice the atmosphere becomes entirely dreamlike, fog and smoke inexplicably seeping from the floors as other metaphorical diversions in its plot, like Rusty James' fantasies at school of his girlfriend sensually inviting him away in an alcove or tall cabinet to show how distracted from productivity Rusty James is, that suggest surreal beauty as opposed to traditional beauty.

Absent of the glory of teen gangs and ruffians anyone raised on the depictions of the 50's/60's take on the subject matter, Rumble Fish is fully aware of the futility and pretentiousness of such a culture and demolishes the facade in order for the aimless, frustrated reflections of lonerism one commits to in becoming inherently violent. One could argue the film's very loose narrative structure and contemplative momentum is a detriment even at a brisk 90 minutes, the fact that it not only uses its bouts of stasis to differentiate it from Coppola's other S.E. Hinton as much as possible, but also for the purposes of being an arthouse character study in a way very little movies on teenage disillusionment have tried, gives that facet some considerable leeway. A helluva bleak movie with some hopeful wisdom to offer, it's something worth digging up even if history dictates it as "just another flop from Coppola".

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