Now that most of America seems to live in soulless planned communities and gated subdivisions, it's fun to remember that 25 or so years ago, a wave of films -- think Poltergeist -- were suggesting that maybe this kind of lifestyle wasn't conducive to happy families and healthy communities.
It all began back in 1979 with Over the Edge, a tight teen melodrama that takes place in the godforsaken New Granada, a rapidly expanding subdivision on a treeless plain somewhere in the southwest (the film was shot in Aurora, Colorado). All these years later, the movie is notable for two things: its dead-on accurate depiction of late '70s teen style, and the riveting debut performance of young Matt Dillon, who has as much on-screen charisma at age 15 as experienced actors twice his age.
Dillon plays Richie, the local long-haired bad boy who, like, you know, feels like grown-ups just don't understand us kids. The leader of a motley pack of juvies that includes a kid named Mark (Vincent Spano, also making his debut), Richie spends his time making mischief, doing drugs, and stirring up trouble around the subdivision, his long feathered hair flowing behind him just so.
The heavy urban planning lesson around which the movie revolves is that New Granada's developers have included nothing in the master plan to keep teenagers entertained, so they have nothing to do except vandalize the place and maybe hang out at the truly dreary rec center that's been hurriedly built. The local cop casts a disapproving eye, and Richie stares right back.
Into the mix comes Carl (Michael Eric Cramer), a slightly younger teen, who starts crushing on Richie, platonically of course. Who wouldn't be attracted to Richie's nihilistic attitudes, his dangerous poses, his bad boy style? Unfortunately, drugs and guns make their way into New Granada, and with them come trouble and ultimately tragedy. Carl finds time for his first teen romance with the lovely Cory (Pamela Ludwig), but only when he's hiding out from the cops while his parents, who, like all the other parents in the movie, tend to show no interest in their kids whatsoever, finally get frantic.
In fact, when the parents all head to the school for a big meeting to figure out what to do about all the local delinquents, every rebel without a cause for miles around shows up to take their revenge on the older generation. It ain't pretty, but it's thrilling to watch.
If you were born around the same time as Matt Dillon, this period piece will amaze you with its attention to detail when it comes to wardrobe, transportation, and most of all music. The soundtrack stars Cheap Trick among others, and it will certainly take you back. One wonders where Richie and all of his delinquent cronies ended up by the age of 40. It's a safe bet that once they got of reform school they didn't return to good old New Granada, whose shoddily built cookie-cutter houses are probably all rotting by now. Anyone from Aurora care to comment?
The DVD includes a commentary track from a number of the principals.