Welcome to the second part of my Youth-Led Film Double Feature! This review will contain spoilers and here are the links to the double feature’s introduction and the first part:
1. In your double feature’s introduction, you mentioned the fact both Rich Kids and Over the Edge were released in 1979. Is there anything from this time period that could have influenced these films?
At the beginning of the movie, a series of text appeared on the screen. This text stated that Over the Edge was based on true events. According to this part of the film, 110,000 youth under the age of 18 were arrested for crimes of vandalism in 1978. Also, the text revealed that one growing suburban community had young people under the age of 15 represent about a third of its population. Because of this, neighborhood planners/developers were having difficulty finding a way to deal with the situation. These true events not only influenced the film’s creation, but also gave it a reason to exist.
2. In this introduction, you also said you “had never heard of Over the Edge before” you saw Siskel and Ebert’s review. Why do you think this film has gotten very little recognition compared to other films from the ‘70s?
From the way I see it, cinema in the 1970s was about telling stories and doing things on film that had never been done before. Take, for instance, Star Wars: A New Hope and Jaws. Both of those films tested the limits of technology, through the use of animatronics and special effects. The contributions to cinema that were made through these two films helped them become products to remember and stand the test of time. Over the Edge, on the other hand, doesn’t really seem to break any new ground. Movies about youth were not a newer concept at this time. Also, this film had a story that was more grounded in reality. This is different from the previous two films I mentioned, Star Wars: A New Hope and Jaws, that focused on spectacle and creating a sense of escapism for their audience.
3. Do the socio-economics of each film’s world affect the characters or the story?
When it comes to Over the Edge, no. It doesn’t. Honestly, money and economic status are barely brought up in this film. Similar to Rich Kids, the primary focus was placed on the characters and how they reacted to and dealt with their problems. Giving these characters a sense of realism was more important to this creative team than talking about dollars and cents.
4. Do you agree or disagree with Siskel and/or Ebert’s views on these films? Why?
There are a few points both Siskel and Ebert make in their review of Over the Edge that I disagree with. When talking about this film, Ebert shared his disappointment over the movie’s “Hollywood ending” which involves “a big, explosive climax” where the kids of the neighborhood lock the adults inside of their school while they cause a night of chaos. I disagree with Ebert’s view on this third act because, to me, it didn’t feel like an ending you’d find in most blockbusters. While explosions made those scenes look visually interesting, I believe the purpose of those scenes are meant to show how bad a situation can get when the discovery of a solution is prolonged.
Once again, Siskel calls the parents in Over the Edge “a bunch of boobs”. And, once again, I would go so far as to say that these parents are uninvolved in the lives of their children. Throughout the story, they are so wrapped up in their own issues, that they don’t take the time to listen to and understand their children. Sure, there’s one scene where Richie White has a conversation with his mom during a car ride home. But this scene is brief and the conversation is short. In this review, Siskel also makes the argument that the film’s central message is how the country needs more recreational facilities. My counter-argument is how the film’s message is almost the same as the one in Rich Kids: if young people don’t receive guidance from a parent, guardian, or mentor figure, they are going to find it elsewhere.
5. When it comes to both films, Siskel and Ebert agreed on their views of the adult characters in each story. Did these characters have any significance within their respective movie?
Like I said in my Rich Kids review, the lack of involvement from the parents shows just how much they’re needed in their children’s lives. During the film’s third act, at a meeting in the neighborhood’s school, the adults are trying to figure out the reason behind the recent crimes. Teachers, parents, and even the teen center counselor are blamed for Richie White’s death as well as the poor choices of the youth. What this scene does is highlight my point perfectly. It also shows how they all could have done more to help the youth in their community.
6. Besides having young actors as the leads, do these films share any similarities?
One major aspect of this story was how the young characters stuck together and found more trust in each other than in the adults. In Rich Kids, Franny and Jamie were able to help each other deal with their parents’ divorce. For Over the Edge, these characters faced more than one issue, from the death of one of their peers to the changes in their neighborhood. Like Jamie and Franny, the young characters in Over the Edge try the best they can to figure everything out. They do this by talking to each other about their problems and creating their own ideas of “fun”.
7. Did you develop any thoughts and/or questions while watching this film?
While I came up with several thoughts and questions while watching Over the Edge, I’ll share just one question and one thought in this review. As I said in answer number four, the children lock the adults inside their school. The room where the adults are in, the auditorium, is located near the main entrance. This main entrance features double doors that have glass windows. Why didn’t anyone think of trying to break the windows in order to escape? To me, this decision not to was baffling, especially since there was a police officer among the group of adults.
Speaking of when the children lock the adults in the school, I saw something among those scenes that made me think about a potential plot twist. While the children are causing chaos, one boy is seen riding Richie’s bicycle. For a moment, I thought the script would pull off a plot twist where Richie ended up being alive and had just escaped police custody. However, that’s not the direction the story chose to take.
8. Is there anything about this movie that you liked or didn’t like?
Similar to Rich Kids, I thought the acting was one of the strongest parts of this film! Since the majority of this cast was made up of young actors and actresses, they proved they had what it took, talent wise, to carry a movie. One of the standout performances came from Michael Kramer, who portrayed Carl Willat. A memorable scene was when Carl was on the phone with one of his friends, curious about what happened to Richie. When he discovers that Richie died, Carl’s face quickly changes from genuine curiosity to being on the verge of tears.
Even though I liked the acting in this film, I think the character development could have been stronger. While I got to know the characters, I feel like I could’ve gotten to know them better. There was always this invisible distance between the characters and the audience. Things they said or did left me with unanswered questions. In the end, this aspect of the movie left more to be desired.
9. Is there any aspect of either film that could be seen as relevant today?
Throughout the film, the idea of actions leading to consequences was an overarching part of this story. One example is when Richie and Carl decide to run away. They steal Richie’s mom’s car and drive without a license or permit. They also carry a gun with them. As a result of these actions, Carl develops a juvenile record and Richie is killed in self-defense. The idea that I just mentioned reminds the audience of the importance of thinking before acting and accountability.
10. After watching Over the Edge, is there anything you can take away from your movie viewing experience?
In my opinion, a documentary about the events that inspired this movie would have been more interesting than the movie ended up being. It would be fascinating to hear from multiple perspectives and discover how their lives have changed since then. As for Over the Edge, it seems like the creative team tried to make an elaborate speech out of a simple message. While it can be thought-provoking to a certain extent, it doesn’t really try to do anything new. Over the Edge had so much going on, but at the same time had nothing happening at all.
Have fun at the movies!