Rob Reiner has given us a middle-school version of one of his most beloved films, “When Harry Met Sally….” with his latest movie, “Flipped,” based on the popular book by Wendelin Van Draanen. I talked to him about what all of his movies have in common, what men and women learn from one another, and the secret tribute to his father, Carl Reiner, hidden in this film.
I know for most people first love does not last….
I always believe that the two kids in the movie eventually got married. It does work out some times. My friend Billy Crystal married his high school sweetheart and they’ve only been with each other their whole lives.
This movie has some themes you have dealt with before.
I make the same movie over and over again. I always have it where the girl is much more emotionally developed and the boy can’t see beyond the end of his nose and it takes him a while to figure out that this girl in front of him is this great girl he should be with.
I think ultimately for men, they really do need a woman to help drag them into maturity. Girls, from an early age, have a much greater sense of their emotional make-up, they’re much more developed. Boys run around like idiots trying to figure stuff out and if they’re lucky they find a girl that can put up with them and help them grow up.
This is not just a love story; it is a story about two very different families and children gaining a deeper understanding of their families.
It was very important to show the difference in the two families, the values of the families, and how it affected the kids as they were growing up, laying the foundation. Juli’s mother loves her children and is so proud of them and you see that love and support. In Bryce’s family it’s more about material things. On the surface they have this idyllic post-war suburban lifestyle with the cars and the perfect house and everything but underneath they are lacking.
If Bryce’s grandfather hadn’t come to live with them, Bryce might have gone off on the wrong track. Bryce’s grandfather is the moral compass of the movie. He’s the one who points out what a great girl Juli is. The line he has: “Character is formed at a very early age. I’d hate to see you swim so far out you can’t swim back” — that to me is critical in the film because it starts putting Bryce on the right path.
It’s very difficult for a young kid. Up until those moments you look up to your father like a god in a way. You then start seeing that he’s human. But it’s very hard for a kid to go against his father.
Did you worry about confusing the audience by switching back and forth between two versions of the same incidents?
I was worried about being repetitive. It’s that way in the book but I wondered if audiences would sit through the same scene played over again. I kept going back to how the book affected me. Whenever I finished Bryce’s chapter I was dying to see what Juli’s take on it would be. It was always different. There was always new information. And so I said, “If this is keeping me engaged as a reader, it will work in the film, too.” You’re not really seeing the same thing. Girls and boys just see things differently. I think that’s true for our whole lives! I think it’s our job as men to try to understand the nature of women and women’s job to understand the nature of men. We go through our lives trying to do that.
The scene with Juli visiting her disabled uncle with her father is very touching.
That whole sequence with the uncle is really the most important sequence in the movie because it shows what’s important in the Baker family, the values that Juli is raised with. They don’t have some things because they have to take care of the uncle. Even though the mother has a momentary frustration, she tells Juli that these are the values that we cherish.
Madeline Carroll is really lovely in the part. How did you find her?
I saw her in “Swing Vote” and asked her to come in to read. We had about 30-40 girls but she was first. She was perfect! I said to the casting director, “That’s it. We’ve found Juli.” She’s adorable but not overtly beautiful in a flashy way. It’s just this incredible depth-full beauty that she has. She’s got this great spunky character and a little bit of a tomboy quality. And her acting craft is as developed as any adult actor I’ve ever worked with. It’s just uncanny. She was 13 when we made the film and it would floor me every time. And then with Callen McAuliffe [who plays Bryce], that was hard. You can’t find boys that age who are good actors. They’re usually running around playing sports. He was a soccer player who was injured and got into acting as a lark. Somebody sent us a tape and we looked at it and I was amazed. Here’s this kid with a thick Aussie accent and he can turn it on and off like a water faucet. He would actually spot before I did when he would go off and slip back into an Australian accent on a word.
If you’re smart you cast people who are right for the part and you’re 90 percent there. I told them to play it naturally and not to force it and if they went wrong I would tell them. But that hardly ever happened.
The name of the street the kids live on — is that from “The Dick Van Dyke Show” created by your father?
We lived at 48 Bonnie Meadow Road and my dad set “The Dick Van Dyke Show” at 148 Bonnie Meadow Road. The street in this movie is Bonnie Meadow Lane, which is my way of paying tribute to my youth and my dad’s show.