The Lords of the Traveling Palindromes

A certain brand of conventional wisdom says you will always be -- to some extent or another -- who you were at 13. Dunno 'bout that for you, lovely reader, but such often holds true for StinkyLulu, as this weekend's excellent summer movie fare definitely suggests. The Stinkys saw both The Lords of Dogtown and The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants this weekend. Along with Palindromes, it made for quite the triptych of "coming of age" sagas.

The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants was far and away the most satisfying -- not intellectually, not aesthetically, not politically -- just satisfying in a pint-of-ben&jerrys kind of way. StinkyLu loves the teengirl books it's based on, largely for the way the books introduce you to characters you sorta really like & want to see what happens to. The movie's nicely done, necessarily but kindly pared of lotsa details from the novel. Each of the 2 "young love" stories & 2 "young loss" narratives are engagingly told, effectively interwoven to sustain distinct emotional arcs while somehow converging (as in the book) in a single story. (Entertainment Weekly's often-prickly Lisa Schwarzbaum said that she "cried freely and with great feeling for more than half the movie, and grinned like a dork for the remainder." That'd be about right, though StinkyLulu likes the weepy bits best so the "young loss" stories of Carmen/America Ferrera and Tibby/Amber Tamblyn were Lulu's faves. ) Ann Brashares' Traveling Pants series is the only young adult lit StinkyLulu's found since the Weetzie Bat books that really catches that marvelous/mysterious emotional thrill of terror/delight that comes with incipient adulthood. And the movie does a delicious job in translating the whole thing to film.

America Ferrera -- brilliant as Carmen in Traveling Pants -- is also great playing a character named "Thunder Monkey" in The Lords of Dogtown. Ferrera's character name in itself should suggest just how brazenly Dogtown wields its Y-chromosome. Also an adaptation, Dogtown goes basically point by point through the story told in Stacy Peralta's 2002 documentary Dogtown & Z-Boys. (Peralta penned the screenplay this time out -- doing a kind of docudrama recreation of the "skater's hagiography" from the earlier doc, rather than dramatic elaboration of the characters & stories.) And for cinematic satisfaction, the earlier doc is probably as cool and more compelling than this version. The thing to recommend The Lords of Dogtown is the cast, led by Emile Hirsch, John Robinson, Victor Rasuk & Michael Angarano. Heath Ledger, Johnny Knoxville & -- especially -- Rebecca DeMornay offer excellent cameos (& are getting more of the press for them); Alexis Arquette's "terror tranny" cameo is less excellent.
But truly it's the younger actors who anchor and -- when the film's overdetermined narrative & cinematic stylings permit -- occasionally elevate this flick into something significant. (Emile Hirsch is especially dazzling, as he always is: this kid is so good it's scary.) Dogtown is as much a showcase of younger actors as is Traveling Pants. They're all really pretty & fun to watch; the sad part is the girls got to play characters while the boys were stuck portraying icons.

Safe to say, StinkyLu's already a fan of all of these movies -- to different degrees & for totally different reasons. And, in a movie season where even the movies targeting adults are hardly "grown up," these three movies about teenagers are rich with the reasons StinkyLu so loves the movies. Now, if only Mysterious Skin would open at a theater anywhere near StinkyLu...

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