“The first day I met Bryce Loski, I flipped” Juli Baker (Madeline Carroll) admits.  Though Juli came to this conclusion in second grade, Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) never got that memo and thus begins this coming of age tale of dealing and coming to terms with one’s feelings.  Juli comes at life from a different angle:  passionate about her special tree, raising her flock of chickens, and harboring the secret dream of one day receiving her first kiss from Bryce.

Unfortunately, Bryce doesn’t feel the same way.  As far as he’s concerned, she’s a little off.  So we have this tale of unrequited love that takes a turn in eighth grade.  Adapted from mystery author Wendelin Van Draanen book, Flipped is sort of a When Harry Met Sally meets The Wonder Years mash up.

“Why isn’t she your friend?” –Grandpa

Juli is by far the more interesting of the two, a fact Bryce’s grandfather (John Mahoney) recognizes immediately as she reminds him of his deceased wife.  Bryce comes across as largely vacant, a cute but empty shirt with little character/substance.  His beautiful “baby blue” eyes still leave him visually challenged as he goes on his journey to search for what true beauty looks like.

“A painting is more than the sum of its parts … you put them all together and it can be magic.” –Julie’s dad

Flipped examines the loss of innocence in our culture, pointed critiquing two of our lost values:  an appreciation for true beauty and the importance of intimacy.  The American culture has an unnatural predilection with beauty, usually missing the point of what true beauty is. We have reduced beauty to surface matters, not thinking twice about being retouched, computer enhanced, reimagined through surgery in order to achieve the makeover of our false selves. We’ve reduced beauty to that with is merely pretty, setting cruel standards (impossible thinness and youth), the endless pursuit of which changes us and our definitions of beauty.  There is truth and goodness in beauty, one that we recognize without having to be told (much less needing it plastered all over magazine covers). Beauty should touch a primal chord within us, captivate us, and spur us to adoration.  Recognizing true beauty moves truth from our heads to our hearts.

Similarly, there is no longer value placed on connection or true intimacy. There is no such thing as instant intimacy.  It takes time and effort and a willingness to be open.  Intimacy here can be defined as sharing of one’s self. Even physical intimacy is opening up one’s self on a basic level and it a reason why intimacy should be protected and treasured. Juli is willing to wait for her first kiss and wants it to matter.  Chastity is about the pursuit of purity.

“A girl like that doesn’t live next door to everyone.” –Grandpa

The people around us are “God encounters”, opportunities to love those in front of us.  We have the opportunity to learn about each other and learn from one another.  Figuring out the blessing, the gift, each person is and brings to the table.  The dreamers, the oddballs, the challenged, the movie is about digging deeper and learning how to see and appreciate people.  And we’re reminded that in chasing after a dream, it’s easy to miss the beauty and love in front of you.

Which is the irony:  honestly, the characters are largely annoying and unlikeable, not possessing enough charm to pull of the narrative voice of the film.  While Flipped yearns for a more innocent age, it comes across as bittersweet at best.  One gets the feeling the filmmakers wanted to relive/recall their youth, a time of authenticity, restraint, and simplicity. The film nicely captures the confusing back and forth of complex emotions, the precarious dance of complicated feelings.  Yet Flipped’s structure is fundamentally flawed, giving the storyline a turgid quality that robs it of dramatic tension.